The recycling of American Can Preservation: The latest developer to take control of the Canton property has a vision for several of the buildings as it creates retail and office space on the grounds of the former factory.

Urban Landscape

April 17, 1997|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

WHEN FLORIDA developer Michael Swerdlow was negotiating to buy the American Can Co. property in Canton 10 years ago to build a retail center, Baltimore redevelopment officials said they would let him tear down everything on the site but the five-story "signature building" at Boston and Hudson streets.

The latest developer to gain control of the property, an associate of Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse, probably could have started with an equally clean slate. But it has chosen to take a much different approach.

The Can Co. LLC, the Struever Bros.' associate that has a contract to purchase the American Can property at 2400 Boston St., plans to recycle four other buildings from the complex in addition to the 1924 landmark Swerdlow was required to preserve.

That's not the same as preserving every structure on the site, which had more than a dozen buildings dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s. One of the largest and most prominent buildings, dating from 1902, was taken down last year because it was structurally unsound.

Still, the new plan is enough to give the $22 million development, tentatively called Canton Court, a strong link with the area's industrial past. Other buildings to be preserved from the old canning plant are the boiler house, an annex to the boiler house, a three-story factory building dating from 1913 and a three-story brick building dating from 1895.

"The cost of renovating the buildings is higher than it would have been if we tore them all down" and replaced them with new construction, said Mark Shapiro, vice president of Struever Bros. and a member of the development team. "That would be the simple thing to do, but that's not what we wanted to do."

Shapiro said the group plans to restore the buildings in accordance with standards set by the U.S. Department of the Interior, so it can receive tax credits for historic preservation. Those tax credits will be marketed to investors as part of the team's financing strategy, he explained. "We probably could not do the project without the tax credits."

Design Collective of Baltimore is the architect for the bulk of the conversion, which will result in the creation of 75,000 square feet of street-level retail space, 125,000 square feet of offices above, and more than 200 parking spaces. Alex Castro has been commissioned to design a building for one tenant, most likely a drug store. Struever Bros. will be the general contractor.

The 4.3-acre parcel is bounded by Boston and Hudson streets and the former bed of Lakewood Avenue. Retail tenants are expected to include a Bibelot book and music store and a Donna's Coffee Bar. Other prospective retailers include restaurants, a video store, a bakery and a deli.

Shapiro said the tenants will be a mixture of basic services for the immediate neighbors and businesses, such as Bibelot, that are intended to draw people from around the region. "We think people will travel to see the tenants and to see the renovation," he said.

The office space will be created on the upper floors of the 1924, 1913 and 1895 buildings. A 48,000-square-foot space on the third floor of the 1913 factory building has been reserved for an incubator for high-tech businesses that will be run by the Maryland Economic Development Corp.

Shapiro said the development team has had strong interest from both office and retail tenants.

"With the retail, I don't think it's much of a mystery because the area was underserved," he said. "And with Safeway opening nearby, it wasn't very hard to predict we would get interest from others."

The companies looking at office space "are not your typical tenants who need to be downtown, or in an office district," he said. "They want to be in a fun environment, an interesting building with character."

The group expects to complete its acquisition of the property by the end of May and start construction immediately afterward. Under that schedule, retail space will be ready for occupancy beginning late this year. Office space will be ready early next year.

Larry Reich memorial

A memorial to Larry Reich, director of Baltimore's planning department from 1966 to 1989, will be installed in the new headquarters of the Neighborhood Design Center when it opens this spring in the former Hollins Street library near Union Square.

Colleagues of the former planning director, who died in 1994, are raising funds to erect a bronze plaque inside the Design Center, which also has agreed to name its resource library after him.

Tax-deductible checks, made payable to the Neighborhood Design Center-Larry Reich Memorial, may be sent to the Larry Reich Memorial Committee, in care of A. B. Associates, 5 Light St., Suite 403, Baltimore 21202.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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