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Questions meet proposal for 350-unit apartment complex in Canton

Rendering of proposed Canton apartment complex

Members of the city's design panel panned a proposal Thursday to build a roughly 350-unit apartment building between the Target and 1st Mariner Bank tower at Canton Crossing, calling the cookie-cutter design disappointing and questioning the viability of a residential structure on the site.

Developer Pollak Shores had hoped to start construction in the fall, but that timeline will be adjusted, said Jeff Price, a regional partner at the company. It would be the first Baltimore City project for the Georgia-based firm, which has the property under contract from owner Edwin F. Hale, the former CEO of First Mariner Bancorp.

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The site, for which environmental cleanup discussions are ongoing, was once part of a property owned by Exxon Mobil, which had a refinery and storage tanks there. An earlier master plan envisioned 500 residential units in high-rise towers.

Designs by Virginia-based Poole & Poole Architecture call for a seven-story structure with apartments above the ground floor, looking into two interior courtyards.

The plans include about 580 parking spaces, with a garage and 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail at the northern edge of the parcel, located between Highland Avenue and Bayliss Street behind Merritt Athletic Club.

The proposed height makes the building about the same size as the office parking garage next to it, limiting views. It also borders an industrial property used by Maryland Overpak Corp., an export packaging company.

Attorney John C. Murphy, representing Maryland Overpak and other businesses in the area, told panelists he is worried about conflict between new residents and the nearby industrial users — concerns later echoed by reviewers.

Panelist Richard Burns described the building as "plopped down in the middle of an industrial site between garages."

Price declined to say the project's cost, but he praised the property's potential for residential construction in an area undergoing transformation.

Corporate Office Properties Trust has discussed plans to redevelop its nearby waterfront parcels, and Merritt Properties this month put forward plans for an office building next door, designs which also met scrutiny from panelists.

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