When a former canning plant was transformed in the late 1990s into a commercial hub to anchor Canton's redevelopment, middle school students suggested its name reflect history: The Can Company.
The shopping center is about to get a new name — one that gives a nod to both the past and the future.
Mobile advertising company Millennial Media is planning a major expansion at its Southeast Baltimore headquarters, one that company leaders say will align its home base with its status as a public company competing internationally, and as a major local employer. With the growth comes a deal to dub the complex the Millennial Media Center at the Can Company.
What was once Ray Lewis' Full Moon Bar-B-Que restaurant has become a spacious meeting area for Millennial's nearly 300 local employees, many of whom soon will work nearby in the former Emerging Technology Center incubator where the ideas behind the company were hatched. Along with new signs rebranding the shopping center into a corporate campus, other elements of a 10-year lease Millennial recently signed include options for a more spacious roof deck and more parking spaces for employees.
"Millennial Media not that many years ago was a two-person startup at the ETC and is now this global company," said C. William Struever, whose former company, Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse, redeveloped the Can Company and who remains the property's landlord. "It's a great tribute to the city and the innovation economy."
Millennial is expanding into 96,000 square feet across both of the Can Company's buildings, known as the Signature and Factory buildings.
Competing against the likes of Facebook, Apple and Google in placing ads that appear on smartphone games and other applications, the company has grown gradually in the Signature building since graduating from the incubator.
Growth in use of smartphones and tablets helped drive the company to a $133 million initial public stock offering in March 2012.
With the Emerging Technology Center's departure for Highlandtown, Millennial is readying to take over its original space by the end of summer, said Michael Avon, Millennial's chief financial officer. This time, instead of a small office and shared conference rooms, Millennial is taking the entire 28,000-square-foot space the incubator occupied.
The new space will create more room in its existing space on the second, third and fourth floors of the Signature building, Avon said. As the company grew, it sacrificed kitchen areas and other communal spaces to make room for new employees.
The company employs just over 600 people, with a little fewer than half of them in Baltimore, Avon said, declining to provide precise numbers. Significant numbers work in Boston and New York, with some spread internationally as well, he said.
With little space left over for company meetings and parties, Millennial already took over the 16,000 square feet formerly occupied by Full Moon and most recently the Field House restaurant.
Millennial still is designing the look of new signs, Avon said, but its lease agreement allows it to replace Can Company signs by Oct. 1. That includes a vertical "The Can Company" sign on the corner of the Signature Building on Boston Street, as well as a red neon "American Can Company" sign on the building's front.
The lease also provides extra parking — an issue that had put the company at odds with residents and threatened the company's long-term viability in the neighborhood. The company now can use up to 110 parking spaces in the Can Company's garage, the adjacent Safeway supermarket parking lot, and a nearby city-owned parking lot.
Avon said he didn't know how many more parking spaces the expansion added on top of an arrangement the company reached last year with the city and with neighbors, but "we feel very comfortable for the parking situation for us over the long term."
The company expects to spend up to $10 million on the renovations and improvements, said Avon, calling the plans "what you'd expect for the headquarters of a major public company in Baltimore."
The expansion is a new chapter for the Can Company, which has housed many companies and shops since Struever converted it from warehouse space in the late 1990s. Millennial's growth was not expected to affect the shopping center's retailers or DAP Inc., the adhesive manufacturer that moved its corporate headquarters to the Can Company from Dayton, Ohio, in 1997.
The oldest portion dates to 1895, then the home of the Norton Tin Can and Plate Co., which later became the American Can Co., according to the Can Company's website. By 1913, the Factory Building and other structures were added, and the Signature Building came in 1924.
The American Can Co. employed as many as 800 workers at its peak, but the jobs were lost in the late 1980s when the company merged with the National Can Co. and the factory closed.
Millennial's growth on the same site shows how far the city's economy has come, said Laurie Schwartz, president of the Waterfont Partnership of Baltimore
"It's their headquarters. I'm certainly delighted to see their branding of that," Schwartz said. "It shows in one name the connection between the old industry and our new industries."
twitter.com/ssdanceCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun