Parking woes pit Canton residents, businesses against each other
American Can Co. complex overflows with workers and visitors competing with residents for street parking
Vehicles parked along Hudson Street near the intersection with Glover in Canton. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun / July 16, 2012)
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2400 Boston St., Baltimore, MD 21224
"This permit parking has given us a hunting license to get parking in our area," Beczkowski said.
But for Paul Palmieri, the CEO of Millennial Media, the parking woes in Canton have never been worse. Each day, his 200 employees struggle to find places to park near Millennial's headquarters at the Can Company complex, a bustling center of offices and restaurants on Boston Street.
Parking is a long-simmering problem throughout Canton that in recent years has pitted area businesses against residents. How well Canton's business and residential communities can work together — and with city government — to ease everyone's parking woes remains to be seen. Much is at stake, from allaying residents' quality-of-life concerns to supporting businesses that create a vibrant commercial area in the Can Company complex.
It's such a critical issue, Palmieri said, that it's one of the factors he's considering in whether to move Millennial, a thriving Internet company that went public this year in a $1.8 billion offering, out of Canton when its lease expires next year.
Another company already has left the complex, in part because of parking. R2i, a digital marketing agency with 75 employees, left the Can Company last month and moved to offices overlooking the Inner Harbor.
Matt Goddard, R2i's CEO, cited parking as a significant problem that contributed to the company's move. R2i's employees park in a garage now.
"We need more space," Goddard said. "Everyone kept talking about the parking. It wasn't the only reason, but it was the thing that tipped me over."
Millennial may leave Baltimore altogether. Palmieri said the company is looking in the region, but also at spots in Northern Virginia and Washington.
"We're in the early stages of exploration of our long-term headquarters," Palmieri said. "We want that exploration to include Canton, but it's currently challenging, at best."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake recently visited Millennial to discuss the company's future in the city, and parking was one of the items on the agenda, the mayor's spokesman said.
Permit parking near the Can Company complex may just have shifted the problem. Residents outside the permit area now complain they often have to park several blocks from their homes when they arrive from work. The local city councilman, James B. Kraft, said he's working on a solution with city officials that will be unveiled this fall, likely involving more reverse-angle parking, space sharing and other remedies.
C. William Struever, the Can Company's developer and property manager, ticked off a raft of changes coming to the Can Company in the coming months, including better-managed parking for businesses, visitors and residents in the complex's garage, and more bike racks.
"We're working with the community trying to reduce the need for parking and reduce traffic congestion," Struever said. "We're trying to come up with a long-term solution for the parking that recognizes everybody's needs."
Resident Leroy Hartman recently gave in to the parking problems. Hartman, 71, who lives in the 800 block of S. Port St., said he had to quit his job at the port of Baltimore as a visitor escort two months ago because he grew tired of searching for parking for an hour in Canton each night when he returned from work.
"When I first moved here [in 1994], the Can Company was completely empty," Hartman said. "Now they have all these business open in the Can Company, but no off-street parking."
Part of the problem stems from the success of the complex, which was redeveloped in the late 1990s from a shuttered factory into a hub for businesses and commerce. Struever said the factory used to have about 250 workers.
Now the complex houses about 700 workers employed by dozens of small companies. Restaurants have moved into the complex, while a Safeway supermarket abuts the property.
The Can Company has become a destination for workers — and their cars — during the day, and an evening draw for people going to restaurants and bars. Neighborhood residents believe the city and the Can Company's owner and property manager should fix the parking problem that the business tenants and their customers helped create for residents.