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Permit parking, garage spaces sought on streets near Rotunda mall

Residents of row houses along Elm Avenue and 38th Street will have the mixed blessing of living near a redeveloped Rotunda with apartments and garages as close as across the street.

It's not so much Hekemian & Co.'s redevelopment plan that bothers Genny Dill, who lives in the 3800 block of Elm.

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"They've got to make the Rotunda as lucrative as possible," Dill said. "I get that. I think my neighbors get that. We're not ready to pull out the pitchforks yet."

What does bother Dill and her husband, Everett Noe, though, is the potential impact redevelopment could have on parking on their street. That's why they and other residents are asking Hekemian and Baltimore City officials to take several measures of note to mitigate parking problems that they fear will come with redevelopment.

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One measure they are seeking, said Dill, is residential permit parking on both sides of Elm. Currently, their side of the street has permit parking, because it is designated as Area 25 by the city Parking Authority. But there is no permit parking on the other, commercial side of the street, where the back parking lot of the Rotunda is now — and where Hekemian plans to build dozens of town house-style apartments, plus a 125-space private garage just for residents of those apartments, as part of the $100 million redevelopment project.

Residents would have to petition the city to expand Area 25 permit parking, and if they do, Hekemian will support their cause, said Al Barry, Hekemian's land use consultant for the project.

Barry went even farther, saying, "We would not have our residents (in the planned apartments) be eligible for (residential) permit parking."

But Dill said residents on Elm and 38th are also asking Hekemian to include one space per apartment unit in the private garage as part of the rent, so that the newcomers won't be tempted to park on the streets.

Barry said that area residents, who met with Hekemian officials earlier this month to discuss parking and other issues, expressed concern that if garage spaces aren't included in the rent, the new tenants might be tempted to park on the streets.

"We're considering giving units parking (in the private garage) as part of their rents, so there's no incentive for them to park on the street," Barry said.

He said he doesn't think parking will be a problem if there is permit parking on both sides of Elm and if tenants of the planned apartments have a parking space in the garage and are not eligible for permit parking.

"They would pay more for the convenience of having a closed, secure space behind their apartment," he said.

Hekemian's overall redevelopment plan calls for about 300 apartments, aimed at empty nesters and young professionals, and a new loading dock. The project also includes a five-story building with four stories of apartments and a lower level of additional retail. A six- to seven-deck, above-level public parking garage is also planned, as are several restaurants.

Existing stores inside the mall would be turned outward to face a plaza and the interior of the mall would be closed except for the theaters — a plan that doesn't sit well with City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke and at least one member of the city's Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel, which met earlier this month.

The panel is scheduled to meet again Aug. 16, and Hekemian's advisory task force of area residents and community leaders is scheduled to meet Aug. 14, Barry said.

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