Rotunda owner Hekemian & Co. has made its renewed redevelopment plans for the mall official in a letter to community and business leaders, including that it wants to replace the departing Giant Food store with a boutique grocer.
But as one north Baltimore community association launched an online campaign to bring a Trader Joe's grocery store to the mall, a spokeswoman for that grocer threw cold water on the idea.
"It's not in our two-year plan to open a location in Baltimore," Alison Mochizuki, a Trader Joe's corporate spokeswoman, said Feb. 9.
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Mochizuki said that plan is not cast in stone.
"Things change," she said.
Another well-known boutique grocery chain was noncommittal.
"So far, there has not been an announcement," Jordan Worrall, spokeswoman for the Fresh Market chain, said Feb. 10.
Any news about new Fresh Market stores would be posted on the company's website, http://www.thefreshmarket.com, Worrall said. No such announcement had been made on the site as of press time.
The Fresh Market opened a store on Dulaney Valley Road in Towson last year.
Chris Bell, senior vice president for acquisitions and development, said last week that Hekemian and Giant struck a deal in which Hekemian would let Giant out of its long-term lease at the Rotunda.
In exchange, Bell said, Giant would allow Hekemian to bring in a grocery store of up to 20,000 square feet, so as not to compete with Giant at its new location, in the former Superfresh and Fresh & Green's space at the Greenspring Tower Shopping Center, a quarter-mile away.
Boutique supermarket planned
Now that the Giant supermarket is leaving, "We are immediately kicking off the planning process for a revised redevelopment program for the Rotunda," said Bell's Feb. 8 letter to community and business leaders in the Hampden area.
"Although not very different from the original redevelopment program, we expect that this new program will include a small format, or 'boutique' type supermarket, along with what we expect to be an excellent lineup of retailers, restaurants and services uniquely suited for the Rotunda and the neighborhoods it serves," the letter said.
"Additionally, as originally planned, the redevelopment will also include at least 300 market rate apartments, along with associated amenities, open space and public gathering areas," Bell wrote.
Bell also reiterated in the letter what he told the Messenger earlier this month, that he is reconvening a community group that helped plan the original redevelopment proposal. He said in the letter that members of that group should expect more information in about six weeks as to when the advisory panel will meet next.
"With input from the neighborhood groups as well as the many community leaders that have been enthusiastic supporters from the outset, we are certain that a new era for the Rotunda is finally close at hand," Bell wrote.
Hekemian will "re-energize the planning process," he said.
The most enthusiastic support these days is for a Trader Joe's. William Miller, president of the Roland Springs Community Association, has posted a message on the association's website, saying, "With the Giant moving to the former Superfresh store, there is room for a new, smaller grocery store at the Rotunda."
The posting directs people to the Trader Joe's website to post their comments in support of a Trader Joe's at the mall.
"Let's show them that there is a real market for them in north Baltimore," Miller's posting states.
A Facebook page has also sprung up in support of a Trader Joe's at the Rotunda. The site is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-Trader-Joes-to-the-Rotunda-in-Baltimore/226320404127602?ref=ts
'Grocery store shuffle'
Meanwhile, buzz is building about the future of the Rotunda and what Hampden Village Merchants Association President Benn Ray called "the Hampden grocery store shuffle."
Merchants and community leaders in the Medfield area are "excited" that the relocated Giant has dropped in that community's lap.
"I am definitely excited that a strong anchor tenant is moving into the Greenspring Tower shopping center, which I hope will help attract additional high-end services into the shopping center that are not currently available in the immediate area," Gary Sever, president of the Medfield Community Association, wrote in an email. "I am also pleased to hear that there may be some movement with regards to the Rotunda plans ..."
"It'll bring more customers. It's good news for us," said Zahidul Sohel, manager of theDunkin' Donutsin Greenspring Towers.