By Larry Perl, firstname.lastname@example.org
10:31 PM EDT, March 19, 2012
Behind brown paper covering the windows and a uniformed guard at the front entrance, a new Giant supermarket in the Hampden area is taking shape, days before its scheduled opening March 29.
"We will be ready," said Jamie Miller, a spokesman for Landover-based Giant Food, as he led a tour March 19 through the 47,000-square-foot converted space in the Greenspring Tower shopping center.
The new store, a former SuperFresh and later a Fresh and Green at 1030 W. 41st St., in Hampden, will have a soft opening with an open house from 5 to 8 p.m., and a ribbon-cutting at 6 p.m.
Invitees include Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who has not yet accepted, and City Council President Jack Young and City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who have, Miller said.
The store is expected to be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. or midnight daily, Miller said.
At the same time as the open house, and without the fanfare, a longtime Giant store in the Rotunda mall a quarter-mile away will close after 41 years, Miller said.
A Giant sign sits above the front doors in the new location and some shelves are stocked with nonperishables, from canned pineapple and greeting cards to condoms and diapers.
A store directory hangs in the front and a customer service desk and manager's office are ready for business. A full-service deli, bakery, produce section, butcher and seafood department are there, too. There's a cafe area with self-serve coffee, too, and separate floral and natural foods sections, as well as a Carvel ice cream case.
There's no pharmacy, but a Rite Aid is next door in the shopping center, which also includes a T-Mobile cell phone store, a Dunkin' Donuts and the restaurant Mamma's Cucina.
The floor and all shelving in the new Giant is new, according to Miller and to floor plans spread out in the store.
In other words, it looks like a Giant.
Miller said most new Giants are built from scratch, and it's rare to convert a space, as was done when Giant Food purchased the Fresh and Green's store in Hampden and Parkville earlier this year. Miller said.
But he said the conversion was difficult only because of its short time frame, about six weeks, and that customers shouldn't miss a beat when they come for the first time. The Giant will be nearly as large as the 50,000- to 55,000-square-foot Giants that are being built these days, Miller said.
""It's going to be very clear when they walk in that it's a Giant store," he said.
Giant has actually been decreasing the size of its stores in the past 18 months, based on customer complaints that stores were too cavernous, Miller said.
But the new Giant will be significantly larger than the 33,000-square-foot Rotunda Giant, which many customers complained was undersized.
The new Giant is also likely to have a "cartronics" system to prevent the theft of shopping carts from the store, Miller said.
In an agreement inked last month, New Jersey-based Rotunda owner Hekemian & Co, which plans to redevelop the Rotunda, agreed to let Giant out of its long-term lease in the Rotunda, so Giant could relocate.
In exchange, Giant agreed to let Hekemian replace the Giant store with a smaller "boutique" grocer of no more than 20,000 square feet in the Rotunda, so as not to compete with Giant in its new location, said Chris Bell, senior vice president for acquisitions and development at Hekemian.
Bell cited Trader Joe's as an example of the kind of boutique grocer that he said would be "a nice fit" in the mall. But he and land use consultant Al Barry say it could be several years before a tenant is found to take over the Rotunda Giant space, because it would be unfair to have another grocer move in, only to have to shut down for several years once redevelopment begins.
Bell last month reconvened a long-dormant task force of community leaders and presented scaled-back plans for a roughly $100 million redevelopment of the Rotunda as a mixed-use complex of 300 market-rate apartments, retail, offices, several restaurants and an above-ground parking deck.
Earlier plans for a 22-story apartment tower, a hotel and underground parking have been dropped, Bell told the task force Feb. 28.