Hampden residents scramble to mitigate expected Rotunda parking problems

Rotunda neighbor Genny Dill envisions a redeveloped mall adding night life and excitement to the area.

"It's also going to add cars," she warned an audience of about 75 people at a community meeting Wednesday.

Dill and City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke led the meeting at the Rotunda to discuss how to mitigate parking problems in the Hampden neighborhood once the small, struggling mall is revamped with apartments, restaurants, garages, a boutique grocer and stores facing outward onto a large plaza.

The only option discussed at the meeting was one supported by most residents — creating a new city Residential Parking Permit area for Elm Avenue, 38th Street and other streets at the mall's southern perimeter, where the back parking lot is now.

"I would like to see permit parking," said Dill, who lives in the 3800 block of Elm, overlooking the Rotunda.

So did most residents at the meeting. When Clarke asked how many people liked the idea of permit parking enough to explore it further, almost all hands were raised.

But a vocal minority argued that a new residential permit parking area was premature — "for something that's not built yet," said local resident Steve Baker, who heads a parking committee for the Hampden Village Merchants Association. He said nobody knows how bad the parking problem will be.

"We need a plan. This is not a plan," he said.

Merchants on The Avenue are worried about being surrounded by permit parking, making it harder for their customers to park.

Clarke, who can introduce legislation in the City Council to create a new parking permit area, said she is satisfied that there is enough community interest for her to proceed "and find out if we have support block by block."

A permit parking area can also be created administratively, if 60 percent of the households of each block in a proposed residential permit parking area say they want it, among other rules, said Steve Robinson, Residential Permit Parking supervisor for the Baltimore City Parking Authority.

Hekemian & Co., owner of the mall, hopes to break ground on redevelopment in May. The Planning Commission was scheduled to hold a hearing on the redevelopment design Thursday, with a vote after the heating likely..

Although a redeveloped Rotunda is several years away, "I have to at least prepare us to move forward as it develops," Clarke said.

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