A community-sponsored plan to build a neighborhood shopping center on part of the old American Can Co. property in Canton has received a strong boost in the form of a $500,000 federal grant.
Southeast Development Inc., a nonprofit group working to revitalize parts of East Baltimore, has been notified that its grant application has been approved by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Sandy McCollum, a Southeast representative, said the group is about to enter into a new phase of negotiations with the owners of the vacant American Can parcel, the American National Can Co. of Chicago. It has put a $5 million price tag on the 9-acre parcel at Boston and O'Donnell streets.
Southeast Development representatives have been working to bring a grocery store and other neighborhood-oriented merchants to the triangular parcel ever since a Florida developer abandoned plans to construct a $52 million regional shopping center there in the late 1980s.
They have said the $500,000 grant could be used as seed money to begin planning the retail center but that any project there would need additional financial support to move ahead. They also have indicated they would be willing to work with an experienced shopping center developer.
Other parties in the plan to build a community-oriented retail center are the Waterfront Coalition and the Canton Highlandtown Community Association.
They fought the previous plan by developer Michael Swerdlow on the grounds that it was too much development for the site, would result in unwanted congestion for the area and would result in the demolition of four architecturally significant buildings.
James Leanos, vice president of C. B. Commercial, the sales agent for the vacant cannery, said the owners are willing to sell either the 4.3-acre western half, which has a number of historic buildings on it, or the 5-acre eastern half, which is mostly free of buildings, for $2.5 million. The retail center would likely be built on the eastern half.
Mr. Leanos said C.B. is working closely with a prospective buyer for the eastern portion. He added that he knows about the community's strong interest in the property and that its goals are consistent with the seller's.
"We are delighted to know about it," Mr. Leanos said of the grant award. "We're quite sure it's going to help bring about a positive result. We're working as hard as we can to meet their objectives and see that the site is redeveloped in a manner that is amenable to the community."
As for the side of the property with historic cannery buildings on it, "we've had a number of offers, but nothing has been quite right," Mr. Leanos said. "We're still trying."