Canton crafts own plans for American Can Community seeks to preserve site's historic buildings

November 15, 1990|By Edward Gunts

Afraid that a new developer will try to buy the American Can Co. property on Boston Street and build a project the Canton community doesn't want, area residents have come up with their own plans for the site.

Members of the Waterfront Coalition, a neighborhood group that monitors development in East Baltimore, unveiled plans last night that call for the former canning-factory property to be converted to a mixed-use project containing low-cost housing for the elderly, a supermarket, neighborhood-oriented shops and a public plaza.

The purpose of the 10-month planning process, coalition members say, is to show what the community would consider acceptable for the 9-acre parcel, one of the largest development sites in Canton, and possibly avert any plans that would be unacceptable to the community.

The plans were unveiled about a year after Florida developer Michael Swerdlow abandoned plans to build a $52 million ZTC shopping center that became the subject of considerable opposition from some Canton residents.

Part of the controversy related to the retail center resulted from the Swerdlow team's plan to raze all but one of the 16 buildings within the old canning complex. Many neighborhood residents expressed a desire to see more of the original buildings retained. The buildings were constructed between 1895 and 1924, and four of them have been deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

This is one of the first times a neighborhood group has come up with its own plan for a site rather than reacting to a developer's plan, said Lily Adlin, a member of the Waterfront Coalition.

"The project's goal is to develop financially sound alternatives for reuse of the American Can complex . . . that preserve historic buildings and the surrounding Canton neighborhoods."

The coalition is now looking for a developer who would be willing to carry out the kind of project the community envisions, Ms. Adlin said.

Southeast Development Inc., a non-profit community development organization, and the Neighborhood Design Center, a local group that volunteers its design expertise for groups that need it, helped create three alternative plans that the Waterfront Coalition presented to the Canton-Highlandtown Improvement Association last night.

Each plan calls for the adaptive reuse of four buildings judged to be historically significant and the construction of new buildings and public spaces on about 4.5 acres that aren't occupied by the historic structures. In the center, the designers have recommended a plaza that would link the older Canton neighborhood with the rejuvenated waterfront.

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