Canton developers seek upscale retailers American Can site could become home to Bibelot, Donna's

July 24, 1996|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

Residents of Baltimore's Canton neighborhood might one day be able to browse through a local branch of the Bibelot book and music superstore chain and sip cappuccino at a Donna's Coffee Bar.

This is the sort of upscale retailer that local developers want to bring to a $10 million shopping and office complex that would take shape on the old American Can Co. property in Canton.

Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse Inc. of Baltimore has an option to buy a triangular property bounded by Boston and Hudson streets and Lakewood Avenue from the American National Can Co. of Chicago.

Struever wants to convert the 4.3-acre parcel to shops and offices by mid-1997. That would complete the redevelopment of the American Can property, which has been vacant for more than a decade. The eastern half of the cannery previously was sold to Safeway Corp,. which is opening a supermarket this summer.

C. William Struever, head of Struever Bros. and a Canton resident, told community representatives attending a project "kickoff" meeting last week that he believes the Boston Street property has terrific potential.

"American Can is a fabulous building," he said. "We're tremendously excited to be able to do something with it."

Bibelot is a locally owned business founded as an alternative to national retailers such as Borders and Barnes & Noble. The owners have one store on Reisterstown Road and plan to open others this year in Timonium and Bel Air. A Canton operation would be their first in Baltimore City.

Donna's is a network of nearly a dozen coffee bars and restaurants, including one in the Reisterstown Road Bibelot. It will have locations inside the other two planned Bibelot stores.

Struever and company Vice President Mark Shapiro said they did not have a firm commitment from Bibelot to open a store, but that its owners have expressed interest in being part of the Canton project.

"If we can get the caliber of tenant Bibelot represents, then we can go out after similar quality tenants," Shapiro said. "Our hope is to build off the character of Bibelot to create something special, because it's our belief that the city is underserved in terms of quality retail."

Shapiro said the company is just beginning to explore plans for the property but anticipates a development containing about 50,000 square feet of office space and 50,000 to 60,000 square feet of retail space.

He said Struever Bros. would like to attract high-tech companies, such as Osiris Therapeutics, that want to have offices near the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in East Baltimore. "Our hope is that there may be others that would like to be near Hopkins and would be charmed by being in an old factory building, on the waterfront," he said. "We're hoping to build on that."

Shapiro said the company will ask the City Council this fall to amend a previously approved "planned unit development" so it can move forward with its development. He said Struever Bros. aims to buy the property by the end of the year and start construction in early 1997. Design Collective is the architect.

Brian Weese, president of Bibelot, confirmed that he has expressed interest in the American Can development but declined to say more than that. Officials of Donna's could not be reached.

The American Can property consists of a half-dozen buildings, the oldest of which dates from 1895. Community residents have expressed concern about how many of the buildings would be saved and how many would be demolished to make way for new development there.

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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