Canton pavilions proposed

The Baltimore Sun

The Main Street-style shopping center planned for a former oil refinery site in the Canton Crossing mixed-use development - likely to be anchored by Target and grocer Harris Teeter - will include two large waterfront pavilions for shops and offices.

Developers of the proposed The District at Canton Crossing presented the idea for the pavilions along with their conceptual site plan yesterday to a Baltimore design panel in a first step toward winning city approval for the 570,000-square-foot center.

The developers, Hale Properties LLC and Owings Mills-based retail developer Greenberg Gibbons, first unveiled plans for the shopping center in May and expect to complete it by spring 2011. It will be the first large retail project at Canton Crossing, a waterfront development built around a signature 17-story office tower. It will eventually include additional offices, residential towers and hotels.

Brian Gibbons, president and chief executive officer of Greenberg Gibbons, said his company is continuing negotiations with the two anchors. Neither retailer would comment on the project yesterday because leases have not yet been signed.

"This is a very viable project," Gibbons said yesterday just before presenting the plans. "We've gotten keen interest from many other tenants, even in this environment," in which many mixed-use projects - especially those including housing - have stalled, he said.

Gibbons said he expects to clear one hurdle in about a month and close on a financing package from Prudential Financial Inc., which has financed other Greenberg Gibbons projects.

Greenberg Gibbons redeveloped Hunt Valley Towne Centre and is redeveloping the former Parole Plaza near Annapolis into the mixed-use Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole.

Hale Properties LLC has a contract to buy 31 acres adjacent to the Canton development from Exxon Mobil Corp. for the retail center, which will require an amendment to the planned unit development zoning governing the site.

The site plan shown to the city's Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel shows a walkable shopping center just east of the 17-story tower, with the largest anchors - expected to be Target and Harris Teeter - toward the back and away from Boston Street.

Single-story buildings would line newly created streets with shops, restaurants and gathering spots, including a central plaza area. It would also include a 150-room boutique hotel.

The 120,000-square-foot pavilions would lead to the waterfront on the west side of the tower with shops on the first floor and offices on the upper levels.

Design panel members, who did not vote on the plan yesterday, suggested some changes but appeared to agree with the overall concept.

Canton Crossing's developer, Edwin F. Hale, told panel members yesterday that he had taken a chance in redeveloping the former industrial site by building the 17-story tower with no tenants lined up. Now, he told them, the tower is 91 percent leased and brings in higher rents than some central business district office buildings.

Hale said he started planning the retail portion after hearing of the need for more shopping from residents of Canton and nearby neighborhoods.

When the housing market improves, Hale explained, his intention is to proceed with residential towers, with 500 units in three towers.

The housing will 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.

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