Matt Williams, CEO of Fresh & Green's parent company, Toronto-based Natural Market Restaurants, said in a statement that all of the company's other Maryland stores would continue to operate. Because of a confidentiality clause in the agreement with Giant, Fresh & Green's declined to comment on what prompted the stores' sale.

There had been speculation that the Johns Hopkins University, which owns the former Zurich office complex next to the Rotunda, might take over the Giant space, but that is not true, Hopkins spokeswoman Tracey Reeves said Friday.

Chris Bell, senior vice president of acquisition and development of Hekemian & Co., the New Jersey-based owner of the Rotunda, said Friday that that the space could be redeveloped with a boutique grocery store of up to 20,000 square feet.

Hekemian has long-standing plans to make over the site with a mix of retail, offices, apartments, restaurants and a parking garage. Those plans once called for Giant to close the current store, one of the oldest and smallest in the region, and to build a state-of-the-art Giant in the parking lot behind the mall.

But Miller, the Giant spokesman, said Giant is now "focusing 100 percent" on relocating to Greenspring Tower.

"It allows us to expand our presence in the Baltimore-area market," Miller said.

It also gives Giant a substantially bigger store right away, with 47,000 square feet in Greenspring Tower compared with the 33,000-square-foot store in the Rotunda, Miller said.

The Rotunda Cinemas movie theater is building a fourth screen where Tomlinson used to be, but some merchants, who requested anonymity, said they doubt the expanded theater will bring more foot traffic to their shops.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, whose 14th District includes the mall, said Friday that she thinks the Rotunda can survive and proceed with redevelopment without a supermarket, but that the plan would have to be scaled back, as it has been several times already.

"It will be harder. It will be smaller," she said. "But Hekemian will take care of the Rotunda."

Baltimore Sun reporters Jessica Anderson and Steve Kilar contributed to this article.