Canton developers stirring again


June 17, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

Baltimore's Canton neighborhood, a blue-collar community reshaped as the city's Gold Coast in the 1980s, is about to experience another wave of development.

Over the next several months, decisions are likely to be made that will affect the look and character of up to 17 acres of valuable land on both sides of Boston Street.

Redevelopment plans aroused controversy in Canton throughout much of the 1980s as out-of-town developers proposed mega-projects that threatened to wall off the working-class neighborhood from its waterfront.

One plan also would have destroyed some of the last remnants of the area's heritage as Baltimore's Cannery Row -- historic buildings of the American Can Co. property.

When the recession came, many of the grand plans fell by the wayside. Canton has since become a patchwork quilt of development, with some blocks that have been thoroughly rebuilt, others that are derelict, and many in between.

The pending decisions involve the two largest parcels in Canton: the 8-acre Lighthouse Point development site in the 2700 block of Boston St., and the 9-acre American Can property in the 2400 block of Boston St.

Originally home of the J. S. Young Licorice Co. factory, the Lighthouse Point parcel was to become a $90 million community containing luxury condominiums and boater-oriented shops and restaurants. But the development team ran into difficulties, and Maryland National Bank bought back the land at auction for $1.15 million. A bank subsidiary, South Charles Realty Corp., has been seeking a buyer for the past year.

In late May, a mystery buyer known as "Light Point LLC" reached a preliminary agreement with South Charles to buy the Lighthouse Point property. South Charles Vice President Charles Weinstein declined to disclose the identity of the buyer, who has up to 120 days to decide whether to proceed. A key issue, he said, will be reaching agreement with state officials on plans for a large pier that juts into the water from Boston Street.

The American Can property, vacant since the company ceased operations there in the late 1980s, was supposed to become a $52 million shopping center. But developer Michael Swerdlow never moved ahead, forcing the American National Can Co. of Chicago to seek another buyer.

When it was shut down, the American Can site contained 16 buildings dating from 1895 to the 1950s. Community leaders identified four that they would like to see recycled rather than torn down: structures dating from 1895, 1902, 1913 and 1924, respectively.

A city-approved land use plan already requires that any new owner retain one of the buildings, the four-story, 1924 "signature" structure at the corner of Boston and Hudson streets. The other three are unprotected.

Earlier this year, the owner razed several 1950s-era warehouses on the eastern half of the site so city construction crews can build a new storm drain and widen Boston Street. The demolition work set off a new round of inquiries about the rest of the site.

City Council member John Cain, D-1st, said he met with American National Can representatives earlier this spring to reiterate the community's strong desire to see the four old buildings saved.

Wayne Wavrek, director of real estate for American National Can, said the company would like to raze all of the buildings to make the site more attractive to prospective developers. But he said the company has agreed, out of deference to the community, not to seek demolition permits for any more buildings on the site for now.

Mr. Wavrek added that his company recently hired C. B. Commercial to market the site and relaxed the sale terms in an effort to find a buyer.

Before this spring, American National wanted to sell the parcel as one piece, and its asking price was $6 million. Now, Mr. Wavrek said, it is willing to sell either the eastern parcel that has been cleared or the western part that still has buildings on it. The asking price for either side: $2.5 million.

Planner of the year

Ronald Kreitner, director of the Maryland Office of Planning, was named the 1993 Planner of the Year by the Maryland chapter of the American Planning Association. The award was given in recognition of his efforts on behalf of the growth management legislation passed last year.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.