Main Street pushed at Canton waterside

Shopping center would rise on ex-refinery site

May 14, 2008|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN REPORTER

Pushing gentrification of Canton's industrial waterfront farther east, developer Edwin F. Hale is planning a "Main Street"-style shopping center on a former oil refinery site that would likely be anchored by Target and grocer Harris Teeter and more than double the size of his Canton Crossing mixed-use development.

Hale Properties LLC has a contract to buy 31 acres adjacent to the development from Exxon Mobil Corp. for the retail center, said Hale, owner of the waterfront development at Boston and Clinton streets being built around a 17-story office tower.

The developer said he has formed a partnership with Owings Mills-based Greenberg Gibbons, the developer of a similar retail center at Hunt Valley Towne Centre, to build the $140 million The District at Canton Crossing. The 550,000-square-foot project is slated to open by 2011.

"This has been a fallow piece of ground sitting here a long time," Hale said during a public unveiling of his plans yesterday on the penthouse level of the 17-story tower, headquarters for First Mariner Bancorp, of which Hale is chairman and chief executive. With the addition of shopping and either condos or apartments, "We're going to give them a place with feet on the street, where you can shop, live, work and play and have panoramic views of downtown Baltimore."

Brian Gibbons, president and chief executive officer of Greenberg Gibbons, said his company has been negotiating with Harris Teeter and Target to anchor the first phase of the shopping center construction.

"We do not have signed agreements, but we feel confident they're going to join us," he said. "

A Target spokeswoman said the Minnesota-based retailer is still in the early stages of discussing what the project would look like.

"We remain extremely interested," said Anna Goeppinger, the spokeswoman.

The center would represent a major infusion of new retail for the eastern fringe of the city and indicates the growing interest from national retailers and discounters in underserved urban areas. Target is slated to open its first Baltimore store in July at Mondawmin Mall.

Harris Teeter, a Charlotte, N.C., grocer, is opening its first area store in Columbia's Kings Contrivance Village Center next week and has signed a lease to open another in South Baltimore's McHenry Row mixed-use development by 2010.

Harris Teeter officials could not be reached yesterday. Earlier in the week, Jennifer M. Panetta, a spokeswoman, said she would have no comment until a lease is signed.

The District at Canton Crossing would likely draw from surrounding neighborhoods where additional residential development is under way or planned, such as Canton, Brewer's Hill and Greektown, whose residents now often drive to the suburbs to shop.

The retail center would also round out plans Hale has for more offices as well as a hotel and either condos or apartments. With its 500,000-square-foot tower 93 percent leased, a Merritt Athletic Club and restaurants, Canton Crossing already has approval for a proposed second office tower, 500 residential units, a 144-slip marina, a hotel and a public waterfront promenade.

The retail portion still requires city design and zoning approval, including an amendment to the planned unit development zoning governing the site.

Gibbons said the partnership is working on arranging financing for the acquisition and development of the shopping center, and was hoping Prudential Financial Inc., which has financed other Greenberg Gibbons projects, would provide the financing for the Canton project as well. The Greenberg Gibbons partnership with Hale will also develop any additional retail at Canton Crossing.

Hale said yesterday that the 500 residential units in three towers as high as 28 stories would be built by a joint venture of Hale Properties and Williamsburg, Va.- based The Bush Cos., a builder specializing in mid- and high-rise residential projects. Construction of that $150 million project is expected to start in 18 to 24 months.

Bush recently completed a condo project in downtown called 414 Water Street, and sales are under way.

Andy Viola, regional vice president of The Bush Cos., said the company plans to build upscale condos or apartments that would range in size from 800 square feet to 2000 square feet. He said he expects the slow housing market to improve by the time construction starts, and believes demand will be driven by the continued expansion of Johns Hopkins' campuses in East Baltimore and nearby Bayview and by growth spurred by the federal government's base realignment.

"The Canton waterfront is the next logical progression of the Baltimore waterfront," Viola said. "It is an opportunity similar to National Harbor (in Prince George's County), where the uniqueness of the waterfront is a key ingredient. With the advent of retail and the vibrancy of the development, a good residential development will do very well."

The ExxonMobil-owned land had been a terminal and refinery that served as a major distribution point and fuel production facility during World Wars I and II. ExxonMobil has been working on environmental cleanup in the area since the 1970s. Under the property sales agreement reached May 9, ExxonMobil will complete the sub-surface cleanup, while Hale Properties will be responsible for the surface cleanup. Hale's portion of the cleanup should start in early summer and take up to a year.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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