Demolition of more than a dozen homes was under way in Waverly yesterday as ground was symbolically broken on what will become the city's largest grocery store.
Giant Food Inc., a Landover-based grocery chain, plans to open a 60,000-square-foot store on 5 acres at Old York Road and East 32nd Street by the end of the year, company officials said yesterday. The opening will create 150 jobs.
The $14 million project drew the support of most community leaders, but a few residents showed up with signs yesterday to protest the scale of the project and the loss of trees and housing stock.
"Goodbye Victorian Village, Hello Asphalt," one hand-lettered sign read.
Mayor Martin O'Malley, standing outside the shell of an old Super Fresh, due to be torn down for the new Giant, said the Waverly Giant is a critical component of his two-year campaign to bring more supermarkets to Baltimore.
The city has seen the opening of, or received commitments for, 17 new stores. O'Malley, who represented the Northeast Baltimore neighborhood of Waverly on the City Council, said the latest store helped to create momentum for others.
"I represented Waverly for eight years. I think this is the spark that Waverly needs," O'Malley said. "It will be a tremendous shot in the arm for the Greenmount Avenue business corridor."
The face of Waverly has changed in the past few years, with the community anchor, Memorial Stadium, coming down. Rubin Bard, the real estate director for Giant Food, said the redevelopment of the stadium site into senior housing and a YMCA was a factor in the company's decision to build a store in the area.
The city and state contributed $1.35 million to the project, which includes the renovation of a nearby former post office into retail space. The center will be called Waverly Crossroads.
Debra Evans, a Waverly community leader, said there were some misgivings about the placement of loading docks, the conversion of Gorsuch Street into a cul-de-sac, and the large number of parking spaces, 274.
Diana Kerns, a resident, said she and neighbors are generally enthusiastic about a grocery store within walking distance but she was disappointed the company did not respond to the neighborhood's concerns about the project's scale.
"They are coming inside a residential neighborhood but they are not coming in as good neighbors," she said.