Hale move linked to Canton development

He agrees to swap harbor front land for nearby upscale site

November 30, 2001|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

Businessman Edwin F. Hale Sr. expects to move his trucking companies out of industrial Canton by the end of the year as part of a nascent plan to redevelop the waterfront area with more upscale offices and shops.

Hale, chairman of First Mariner Bank, owner of the Baltimore Blast of the National Professional Soccer League and head of trucking and transportation companies, said he has space under contract. He plans to move 150 to 250 workers and his trucks to a warehouse on 24 acres last used by Thompson Steel Co. in Sparrows Point.

Left behind will be harbor front land on Clinton Street in Canton that Hale officially agreed this week to swap with Rukert Terminals Corp. for property the shipping company owns up the street. The land is closer to Canton's established high-end homes and shops. Hale's previously announced development, Canton Crossing, will add to that base and extend it east along the harbor.

"I think this whole area is going to change to commercial and residential," Hale said. "I'm ready to get started."

First Mariner Bank will become the project's first tenant in May when it moves into an existing warehouse that will be transformed into offices. Work is expected to begin shortly on that building. A neighboring office tower, a bank branch and a retail pavilion are also planned.

The area now is used primarily by trucking and port-related companies.

Hale also wants to bring a cruise ship operation to his property.

Currently, ships dock at the Dundalk Passenger Terminal, and the state has made no decision on where or if it will seek a new site, said Kate Philips, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Port Administration.

"Several people have expressed interest" in developing a terminal, she said. Officials are studying the idea now.

Hale's new property, two parcels split by Clinton Street, also has other obstacles.

He said the city has signed off on a master plan for the area, approving nonindustrial uses and a street design that would encourage trucks go around the new buildings. No one at the city's development agency was available for comment.

But a portion of the property used for years as an Exxon refinery and storage facility is in need of cleanup. The Maryland Department of Environment is overseeing the work done by a New Jersey company, Environmental Business Solutions International, hired by Hale.

To proceed as planned, Hale must get permission to occupy part of Canton Waterfront Park that is being used by the Department of Public works and the city's marine police. No decision has been made on leasing the site to Hale for a retail pavilion and public promenade, said Annette Stenhouse, a spokeswoman for the Department of Recreation and Parks.

He also needs tenants to fill the office and retail space, which could be tough in the currently sagging economy.

He still must find more investors to pay for the project. He expects it to cost $50 million initially, and up to $100 million if everything is developed, including the cruise ship terminal and a limited-service hotel and marina.

Hale said that with so many variables, parts of the project could change or be scaled back. Already, Hale has eliminated the condominiums that he had planned when he announced the project in April.

Hale said Bank of America has agreed to finance a portion of the construction.

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