Canton Gardens?


April 25, 2001|By Antero Pietila

CANTON IS no longer strictly a location; it is a state of mind.

Last year, a new Italian restaurant, Soprano's, took over Winterling's space after that 77-year-old Highlandtown standby went out of business. There was no change in address. But Soprano's wanted an upscale location. It announced it was in Canton.

Is Patterson Park next? Will it junk the name that honors a merchant prince and Revolutionary War blockade runner and become Canton Gardens?

"No way," promises community activist Ed Rutkowski.

But the real estate industry seems to have decided otherwise. "Canton Overlook," a cluster of nine "luxurious waterview townhouses" starting at about $280,000, is under construction two blocks south of the park. Never mind that they are in Highlandtown -- and a full six blocks away from the shoreline, according to an ADC map.

This real estate hype has its benefits.

For years, the Patterson Park Community Development Corp. tried to sell rehabilitated houses just north of the park. The strategy was to attract families. The Abell Foundation even underwrote an innovative experiment that promised to send homebuyers' children to area Catholic schools if they were unhappy about public education.

Despite these sweeteners, there were few takers. That changed about 18 months ago.

"Our buyers have become white females," says Jim Shetler, an architect who oversees renovations for the development corporation. "We can offer them a custom-designed rehab product for a lot less money than they would be spending in Canton." As a result, there is a waiting list for the rehabilitated $75,000-to-$95,000 rowhouses.

The blocks north of the park deteriorated over the past two decades. Buying there requires an open mind and a sense of adventure. Nevertheless, demand is so heavy "we are swamped, we are over capacity," reports Mr. Shetler.

Among those who have plunked down money are flight attendants from Southwest Airlines and a former Olympic luge athlete.

All because Patterson Park is becoming Canton Gardens.

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