A pair of development companies are seeking passage of a Baltimore City Council ordinance that would allow them to build apartments and offices in the mostly vacant National and Gunther brewery plants east of Canton.
Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse and Obrecht Commercial Real Estate Inc. will need the ordinance in order to create a development with residential and commercial uses on what is now 30 acres of industrially zoned land at O'Donnell and Conkling streets.
First District City Council members Lois Garey and John L. Cain are sponsoring a "planned unit development" ordinance for Brewers Hill that is scheduled to come before the Planning Commission Nov. 16 for debate.
"I think a lot of people in the area would like to see the prosperity of Canton move into this area, which is kind of dark and foreboding now and has seen the loss of a lot of jobs," said Garey.
The two firms are exploring the financial feasibility of resurrecting the empty National Brewery building, a towering landmark that produced National Bohemian beer from 1885 until it closed in 1978.
They also are looking at renovating part of the adjacent Gunther Brewery at 3601 S. Conkling St., which made Hamms beer.
"These big old plants don't work for industry anymore, but they could work for high-tech offices or residential [space]," said C. William Struever, president of Struever Bros., which has a contract to buy the nine-story National Brewery factory from the Berg Group in Baltimore.
The project could spread the upscale housing boom of Canton's O'Donnell Square eastward into a run-down and gloomy stretch of empty factories.
The National Brewery, in its heyday in the 1960s, employed 900 people and sponsored broadcasts for Orioles games. The brewery churned out 1,000 cans a minute of National Bohemian, National Premium beer and Colt .45 malt liquor. Its well-known ads for "Natty Boh" gave the Chesapeake region its identity as the "land of pleasant living."
Immediately south of the National Brewery, Wells Obrecht, owner of Obrecht Commercial Real Estate, would like to to create 90,000 square feet of office space out of a portion of the Gunther Brewery at in the 3600 block of O'Donnell St.
"I'd like to see this whole area become a healthy campus of office and retail, a suburban setting in an urban area," said Obrecht.