As workers scurried last week to complete work on the newly renovated Independent Can Co. building in Canton, 67-year-old Marie Dietsch marveled at her new home.
"This is a godsend," she said of the old warehouse on South Lakewood Avenue, which has been transformed into a 45-unit apartment complex for the elderly, handicapped or disabled with moderate incomes.
Her doctor, she added, had told her that in about two years she would no longer be able to climb the stairs in her row house about a dozen blocks away. The new Indecco complex has elevators and other features tailored for the elderly.
The first tenants are moving in tomorrow.
Demand for apartments has been overwhelming -- every apartment was snapped up within 48 hours after the rental office opened last spring. Most of the tenants come from Canton and surrounding neighborhoods.
Yet the compact apartments of Indecco have also proven inconvenient for some new residents.
Wilma Say, 65, initially was ecstatic when she was given one of the apartments -- until she realized she had to fit eight rooms of belongings into three. "Lots of things have to go," she said.
But she added, "I live on three floors now. I always swore that I would live in a space where I could swing a mop and clean the whole place."
The exterior of the building, which was built in 1904 and used largely as a warehouse, retains much of its original appearance.
Large wood support beams run down the center of the corridors. street level the brick walls are a sturdy 22 inches thick. And on the first floor, the original boiler room of the can company was converted into a dining area where 22 people can eat meals they prepare themselves.
Indecco, at 934 S. Lakewood Ave., has compact units: 350-400 square feet for efficiencies and 400-460 square feet for one-bedroom units. Each apartment has a private kitchen and bath.
Several apartments are adapted for wheelchair use. And every apartment is wheelchair-adaptable, with wide doorways and hand railings next to the toilet and tub.
Monthly rents for the 33 one-bedroom units range from $254 to $310. Rent on the 12 efficiency apartments ranges from $210 to $265. The building has electric heating, and monthly electric bills will be about $40.
To qualify, residents must have incomes that do not exceed $16,500 a year for those living alone or $18,850 a year for two people.
Funding for the project came from state and city housing grants. The state Partnership Rental Housing Program under the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development provided $2.7 million for construction. The Housing Authority of Baltimore City provided $62,000 to buy the site and $12,000 to improve sidewalks, streets and grounds.
The city housing authority, owner and manager of the building, is a state chartered non-profit organization funded mostly by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and by rent from tenants.
Indecco is the first of four Baltimore projects funded by the state Partnership Rental Housing Program. Enacted last year, the program was designed to expand the supply of affordable housing through a partnership between state and local governments.
"Doing market-rate housing in the city is difficult unless you have government financing," said Ted Rouse, whose company, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, was the developer and builder for Indecco. The company also has developed the nearby upscale Canton Cove condominiums and Tindeco Wharf apartments.
"There are a lot of elderly people down here," he said. "There is a need for government-assisted housing."