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Space institute among newly named tenants at Rotunda

New tenants coming to the redeveloped Rotunda shopping mall and apartment complex in Roland Park range from a pet store and a kebob restaurant to the Space Telescope Science Institute, which tells the famed Hubble telescope what to explore in outer space.

Last year, Hekemian & Co., owner of the Rotunda, announced that the mall would be anchored by a 17,000-square-foot MOM's Organic Market, which is scheduled to open this September, and Cobb Theaters' 35,000-square-foot CineBistro, a multiplex cinema with upscale dining. The theater is scheduled to open in spring 2016.

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On Monday, April 7, Chris Bell, Hekemian senior vice president for development, announced several additional retail tenants, all chain stores, which have signed leases at the Rotunda. They include a Pet Valu store next to MOM's; a Moby Dick's House of Kabob restaurant; Massage Envy; Bella Beach, a salon and day spa; and Floyd's 99, a chain barbershop that Bell described as having "a funky vibe." He said it takes its name from Floyd the barber on the old TV series, "The Andy Griffith Show." The Floyd's 99 website calls it "the original rock 'n' roll barbershop for men and women."

Hekemian is also negotiating to bring in a fitness center that would lease 15,000 square feet of space, and a national coffee chain store, Bell said. He would not name those businesses, because no leases have been signed.

The only remaining retail tenant from before redevelopment began is a Rite Aid store, which is considering expanding within the mall, Bell said.

The redeveloped Rotunda, previously limited to retail and offices, will now also include a residential component of 379 apartments, to be called The Icon at the Rotunda, as well as a central "Town Square" plaza for the mall complex and 1,200 parking spaces — about 300 surface spaces and the rest in two garages. The apartment building will have a courtyard, where Bell said residents will be able to grill out and watch TV, among other amenities. There will also be a resort-style pool, he said.

Construction of the redevelopment project as a whole is expected to be finished by the end of this year, Bell said. The first apartment tenants are expected to move in this summer. Hekemian already has an unofficial waiting list of people who have expressed interest in living there, he said.

Hekemian anticipates a mix of residential tenants, including Hopkins students, empty nesters and young professionals, and a mix of chain retail stores that gives them and north Baltimoreans in general "more choices, closer to home," Bell said.

"I think this part of Baltimore has been underserved with good retail," he said.

Rotunda as icon

The biggest of the tenants announced this week is the Space Telescope Science Institute, which will move much of its administrative and office staff from the institute's headquarters at 3700 San Martin Drive to the 15,000-square-foot ground floor of the original mall building with a bell tower that dates to the 1920s, when it was the Maryland Casualty Insurance Co.

The institute is committed to using as much as another 15,000 square feet in the building as the move is phased in, Bell said.The institute is an operations center that helps set the mission agenda for the stargazing Hubble space telescope, which is in orbit 343 miles above the Earth.

The Hubble control center is based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, but the institute, on the grounds of Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, is "determining what the telescope will look at," said Cheryl Gundy, an institute spokeswoman.

The institute will do the same for the James Webb infrared space telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2018, Gundy said.

The institute of about 500 employees also uses space in Hopkins' nearby Bloomberg Center for Astrophysics, "but we still need more space," Gundy said. She said the Rotunda is "minutes away" from the institute and is a known quantity, because the institute used to have offices in the mall.

Hopkins also owns the former Zurich insurance company building, now called Hopkins at Keswick, which is located next to the Rotunda.

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Ground was broken on the $100 million Rotunda redevelopment project in September 2013, and the progress made since then was evident Monday as Bell led a hard hat tour of the grounds, including the framework of the residential component, with views of the Baltimore City skyline.

"On a clear day — even on a non-clear day — you can see the Key Bridge easily," Bell said, gazing out a window on the fifth floor of the apartment building. He said the name The Icon was chosen because "We thought the Rotunda was such an icon."

Bell said Hekemian is encouraging foot and bicycle traffic to the mall from the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University and from Hampden, Roland Park and other nearby neighborhoods. The redeveloped mall will include a room where bicyclists can work on their bikes, including doing maintenance and making repairs.

The new-look Rotunda will join an area ripe for redevelopment. Seawall Development Corp. recently broke ground on the mixed-use Remington Row project, and when that's finished, Seawall will decide what do with a separate site it owns at 25th and Howard streets, where a previous developer planned to build 25th Street Station, a shopping center anchored by a controversial Walmart store.

Not far away, Towson is growing fast, with projects like Towson Square and its new Bonefish Grille restaurant.

Bell said he is not worried about competition in the area.

"Towson's growing, but Towson's Towson," he said. "This is the Rotunda. It's been a shopping place for years and years. We're just bringing it back."

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