Canton retail center sought

The Baltimore Sun

The developer of Canton Crossing, a mixed-use waterfront community in East Baltimore, is planning a "Main Street"-style retail center that could include an upscale grocer or a big-box anchor such as Target.

Developer Edwin F. Hale Sr. said yesterday that his development company, Hale Properties, has been in talks with potential anchor tenants for the retail portion of the nearly $1 billion development on 65 acres in Canton.

The project would be the first major retail development for the community, now the site of a 17-story office tower that is headquarters for Hale's First Mariner Bank and where Hale has proposed building additional office, retail and residential projects.

Hale said the plans for a retail complex similar to The Avenue at White Marsh are in the preliminary stage and would require city approval to amend the planned unit development zoning.

He said talks have been continuing with several retailers, among them Target Corp. and Charlotte, N.C.-based supermarket chain Harris Teeter Inc., which is expanding in the Baltimore area.

But "we don't have signed deals," Hale said. "Are we hopeful? Yes, but it is not done. We're talking to them and have been talking to them for a long time."

A Harris Teeter spokeswoman said yesterday that the grocer is actively looking for sites in the Baltimore area. But she said she could not comment on Canton Crossing or McHenry Row in Locust Point, a redevelopment site in South Baltimore that has approval for a new grocery store along with apartments, office buildings and additional shops.

"We don't have a fully executed lease at Canton Crossing or Locust Point," said Jennifer Panetta, the Harris Teeter spokeswoman.

Chesapeake Contracting Group, which is building a 300-car parking garage at McHenry Row, between Fort Avenue and Key Highway, said on its Web site two weeks ago that additional phases of the project would include a 66,000-square-foot Harris Teeter grocery store as well as two residential towers, a second 700-car parking structure and a five-story office building.

The company, which had removed the reference to Harris Teeter from its site yesterday, referred calls to McHenry Row's developer, Mark Sapperstein, who said he could not comment on Harris Teeter as a potential tenant.

State Sen. George W. Della Jr., whose district includes South Baltimore, said the developer has had continuing talks with community members and that "one of the things that they were adamant about is that the site include an upscale grocery store."

Harris Teeter has 168 stores in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida and is building its first Maryland store in Columbia, in Kings Contrivance Village Center.

Target Corp. also is opening stores in the area, including one planned for a renovated Mondawmin Mall. Target officials did not return calls yesterday.

At Canton Crossing, once deals are reached with larger anchors, "they'll set the stage for an Avenue-type of place with smaller stores," Hale said.

"When negotiations for big box - whether with Target or someone else, whether Harris Teeter or someone else - when those conclude, we'd have a whole lineup, and we'd see what the market will bear and that will determine the size" of the center, Hale said.

The new shops would be to the east of the existing office tower. Hale said he has been planning to bring in retail ever since proposing the office tower and getting requests for retail from community members.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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