MOM's Organic Market announced as grocer for Rotunda

As expected, the chain MOM's Organic Market will open a 15,000-square foot grocery store in the Rotunda, Hekemian & Co., the redeveloper of the mall announced Tuesday.

MOM's succeeds Giant Food, which closed its store last year after 41 years and opened a new store nearby in the Green Spring Tower Square shopping center on 41st Street.

The Rotunda had room for a 20,000-square-foot boutique grocery store, but 15,000 square feet is the MOM's model, said Chris Bell, senior vice president for development at New Jersey-based Hekemian.

The news came as Hekemian prepared for an official groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for the roughly $100 million redevelopment project, which calls for additional retail, nearly 400 apartments, a parking garage and stores turned outward to face a courtyard. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was scheduled to attend, Hekemian officials said.

The project is scaled back from earlier plans for a $180 million project that would have included a hotel and a 22-story apartment building.

MOM's has long been the leading candidate, according to sources close to the redevelopment project, but Bell said Hekemian held off making the official announcement until a 20-year lease was signed. He said MOM's was expected to issue a press release Tuesday.

Bell said other chains, notably Graul's and The Fresh Market, were also in the running, but that The Fresh Market didn't appear to do the volume of business that MOM's does, and that Graul's, which promotes itself as a full-service grocery store on a smaller scale, was not that different than Giant and not as unique as MOM's.

MOM's is opening its first store in Baltimore City. The nearest one is in Timonium. A timetable for the new store to open is unclear because redevelopment is slated to be finished in 2015 and Hekemian wants to build much of the retail together, said Al Barry, a local land use consultant to Hekemian.

"MOM's brings something uniquely new to the (city) market," Bell said. "It's much more like a Trader Joe's. Their stores typically do very high volume. The customers come back and back and back."

And Bell said that as Hampden continues to gentrify with young professionals, artists and families, "people are becoming more conscious of what they eat," making MOM's a good fit as the neighborhood changes.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who has fought for a store to open sooner rather than later because of all the seniors in the neighborhood, said she would have preferred a full-service store, but added that MOM's "sounds like a good choice."

"We'll make the best of what we get and I know a lot of people will be very happy," she said.

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