Councilman, landlord eye plans for Canton Bibelot

One wants a library, the other a new bookstore

March 28, 2001|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Now that Canton is losing its Bibelot bookstore, Baltimore Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. would like to convert the space into a super library.

The landlord of the American Can Co. building, C. William Struever, says the idea is intriguing. But he has plans for the site: to get another bookstore to move in.

Bibelot, the Baltimore area's largest independent book and music seller, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month. It plans to move out of the Canton store and three other locations.

D'Adamo, who represents the southeast district, wants Struever to donate the bookstore site for a public library, possibly consolidating the Canton and Fells Point branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Struever has said he'd consider the proposal.

Library Director Carla Hayden has no plans to turn Bibelot into a library, said Judy Cooper, a spokeswoman for Hayden. "It's an interesting idea. But at this point it's a little premature to think about it," Cooper said.

The Enoch Pratt Free Library also announced this month that it would close five libraries in the city by year's end, and another five by 2006. Library officials said they will announce which of the 26 branches will close after they meet with community groups next month.

D'Adamo said he believes the Canton and Fells Point branches are in jeopardy of closing because of lack of parking and low usage, and he said both buildings need major repairs. A library would help morale in the neighborhood after losing the bookstore, he said.

"The secret is finding the right tenant, and Pratt is the right tenant," said D'Adamo. "I think this is a home run to keep libraries."

Baltimore's library system, owned by the city but operated as a nonprofit group by a private board, announced plans in 1997 to move toward a system of a few midsized regional branches, rather than many small neighborhood centers. A 45,000-square-foot library based on this model is planned in 2003 at Eastern Avenue and Conkling Street in Highlandtown.

D'Adamo's plan for a consolidated library would coexist with the proposed Eastern Avenue site, though the two are a few miles apart, he said.

Struever completed his $27 million renovation of the 1913 American Can Co. factory in 1998, transforming it into an office and retail complex. It has been heralded as a major factor in helping the neighborhood make a rebound.

Struever said he'd rather another bookstore move into the 17,000-square-foot space. "It's important not just to fill the space," he said. "We want to fill it with something that will contribute to the community."

Struever said he is talking to another bookstore and other retail outlets about taking over the space, but he wouldn't identify which ones.

Kim Stallwood, president of the Canton Improvement Association, said he would like to see another bookstore in the Bibelot space. "There's something uniquely important about a bookstore. It's not like losing a drugstore," said Stallwood.

Hannelies Tenner, program administrator at Hatton Senior Center in Canton, said she would also prefer another bookstore in the space. "I regret the demise of Bibelot," she said. "[I] hope another bookstore would pick it up."

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