Friday, July 16, 2010

The Rotunda:Waiting for Redevelopment

The Rotunda, located in the northern outskirts of Hampden either needs some major redevelopment. Otherwise, I fear its fate will won't be pretty. I know this because my Home Town and Current City is Columbia. I see some parallels with Columbia's Wilde Lake Village Center with the Rotunda. Wilde Lake had a Giant a little smaller than the Rotunda's. Wilde Lake's Giant closed in 2006 after 39 and a half years in business because it refused to expand and compete with newer Grocery Stores (mostly other Giants), it has yet to be replaced nor has there been a viable redevelopment plan. Despite Wilde Lake Giant's poor business before it closed Wilde Lake was almost completely leased out. After its closing, merchants have been leaving at an alarming rate draining what little vitality is left in the ailing Center. Like Wilde Lake, pre 2006 the Rotunda is anchored by a Giant Supermarket which is small dingy and outdated. Worse than that, new or renovated Supermarkets have popped up in neighboring communities. A Shoppers has opened in the newly expanded Mondawmin Mall, a Giant (much bigger and better) has opened in Waverly, the Superfresh a few blocks away has completed a renovation as has the Safeway in Charles North, and a Supermarket is planned with the Lowes on the soon to be former grounds of the Anderson Automotive Site in Remington. Can you see the writing on the wall? I know I can.The Building the Rotunda currently occupies was built in 1921 to house the headquarters of the Maryland Casulty Company. 50 years later it became the Neighborhood Shopping Mall that we see in the picture above us. Almost 40 years later not much has changed, except the vacancy rate which has sky rocketed and the vitality of the Center which has plummeted. The four story structure, in addition to the Giant is home to a Rite Aid, the newly reopened Rotunda Cimenatheque, a Hair Cuttery, a Radio Shack, a Dry Cleaners, an Optician, a Book Store a Craft Store, Casa Mia Pizzeria, and a few other Shops a (I haven't been able to find a current tenant roster so I'm going from memory from when I took these pictures)
These have popped up recently as the Charm City Diner and TCBY have closed. Plans for the owner of Cafe Hon to open the "Coffee Cart" in the Rotunda were scrapped. Perhaps the best thing to happen to the Rotunda was it bring purchased by the Hekemain Corp. Hekemain wasted no time in coming with an ambitious redevelopment plan. Original plans included a new Giant, the Rotunda Cinematheque, and several new taller buildings with upscale ground floor retail, apartments, condos, and a hotel.
Now perhaps the worst thing to happen to the Rotunda, at least in recent memory; the economy.
When the economy went bust so did any redevelopment plans for the Rotunda in the near future. Hekemain has remained firm in their commitment to eventually redeveloping the Rotunda though it might be scaled back, more recent plans show that the Hotel and Condos were scrapped.
In the mean time, what is Hekemain doing to keep existing tenants? The only two existing tenants shown in redevelopment plans are the Giant and the Cimenatheque. When Hekemain purchased the Center did have the intention of not renewing leases when redevelopment was full speed ahead? If that was the case, Hekemain had better re-shift its thinking because all the new stores they were in talks with will have to wait for actual redevelopment. So Hekemain since you're stuck with the Rotunda in its current form for a while what are you doing to keep your existing tenants?The Giant, in addition to the Mall Entrance has another set of doors directly leading directly to the parking lot. That puts the remaining tenants in a bind. My visits to the Rotunda outside the Giant is a virtual Ghost Town. Hekemain is right that redevelopment is the only option for the Rotunda but how can the Rotunda retain its smaller tenants when the anchor tenant doesn't draw traffic into the Mall? I think a short term fix would be to seal off the outside doors to the Giant. This would force Giant Shoppers into the Mall and may lead to boost in patronage of other businesses. I could also see this back firing and Giant would see a decline leading to further drainage of the Center's vitality. So what's the short term solution? I really don't know. Hekemain could show some good faith to struggling tenants who owe back rent (assume there are any) by forgiving their debts. Other than that, I don't see much else that can be done right now besides waiting out the recession. Speaking of waiting out the recession, Giant has promised to relocate to its new building when redevelopment takes place making my projection of Giant leaving the Rotunda completely false. In this instance I'm glad I was wrong. And as far as Hekemain is concerned they WILL redevelop the Rotunda in due time and it will look great. The sign wasn't meant to be interpreted this way but more shops are on the way. Hekemain still wants to bring in new upscale tenants to the redeveloped Rotunda. Even without the Condos and Hotel there will still be several hundred Apartments and Offices and Hekemain is in talks with a large Book Store. Seeing as there's already a Barnes & Noble in Charles Village I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it's a Borders. The Rotunda will rise again!


Gary said...

Hekemian still has every intention to redevelop the property, but as you said the economy sucks. This project is 1 of only about 5 in the nation, in terms of magintude and $$ amount, that are awaiting funding. Once they can secure the funding - which is tough - they plan to move forward.

When I bought my house in 2007, I was expecting that by now I'd be seeing cranes in the air finishing the place up, when I looked out my window. Sadly it has all been delayed.

The Giant's only blessings are 1) its walking distance from the numerous retirement communities in the vicinity, and 2) the Superfresh offers terrible service. I am walking distance to the Superfresh, and usually we drive to the Lauraville Safeway to shop because I have written the Superfresh off.

And although Hampdenites fail to admit it - the area is somewhat of a "food desert", containing much fewer stores per capita than most suburban areas. But once the Wal-Mart opens in Remington, its going to make a big difference, and you are right, the Giant will feel it...

Anonymous said...

Great post! Where have you been? As a follower of this blog ive been waiting for another post for months!!

James McBee said...

A few quick points: There is definitely a opportunity for them to turn the Rotunda into a thriving center. I read a few months back that Hopkins is planning to move most of its human resources employees for both the university, and the hospital, into that large office building which sits catercorner to the Rotunda. That's a lot of office workers, who ostensibly could support a lot of businesses on their lunch breaks. That's assuming Hopkins hasn't changed its plans without me hearing about it. Having said all that, I'm not sure that one should make any judgments about the Rotunda based on the retail you see downstairs. It's a big building, and I'm betting they make most of their money from the doctors and other professionals who rent offices on the upper floors. When it comes to food and retail, I think the Rotunda is going to have trouble competing with the avenue. Most people who live in Hampden, and indeed in the city at large, don't want to shop/eat in a suburban style mall. And from the perspective of a business owner, why would you pay rent for a storefront in a dingy basement with little foot traffic, when for the same amount of money probably, you could get a mortgage on a row-house zoned for commercial use on heavily trafficked 36th street? If they want to redevelop the Rotunda it's fine by me. But I wouldn't count on it becoming a huge destination. Sprucing up that Giant, and getting the same quality of food that they offer at their suburban locations, would be the best thing they could do. As to the condos, I am extremely grateful that they scrapped that part of the plan. What is with this city? We have a huge surplus of housing stock in need of renovation, and yet we are still building more. I think the sad truth is that there is more money to be made in constructing some shoddy condos, than there is in fixing up an old but solidly built townhouse. My guess is the Rotunda will stay exactly what it is now...a pleasant, if somewhat faded, old office building.

Anonymous said...

As for the Rotunda, I'm tired of seeing one store open and then another one close. I don't think it will work to lease one store at a time in the existing retail space. What they need to do is get the 5 or 6 empty stores leased all at once and open them all at once. Then have a grand reopening. What the mall has going for it now is a parking. Note, there is comic/book store there now and a new clothing store. Thomlinson's is gone. The movie theater has renovated and expanded. And, the bank is now gone. Oh yeah, the superfresh is leaving soon. So, there are a lot of ups and downs.

Anonymous said...

Your job as a future mother is to learn the god's ways and to help your child understand despite the negative reinforcement and conditioning of today's society. Without consciousous parents the child will have no hope, and may even exaserbate their disfavor by becoming corrupted in today's environment.
Your ultimate goal is to fix your relationship wiith the gods and move on. You don't want to be comfortable here, and the changes in Western society in the last 100 years has achieved just that.
1000 years with Jesus is the consolation prize. Don't be deceived into thinking that is the goal.

Much like the other prophets Mohhamed (polygamy/superiority over women/misogyny) and Jesus (forgiveness/savior), the gods use me for temptation as well. In today's modern society they feel people are most weak for popular culture/sensationalism, and the clues date back to WorldWarII and Unit731:TSUSHOGO, the Chinese Holocaust. They used this Situation to bury Japanese atrocities.
It has been discussed that, similar to the Matrix concept, the gods will offer a REAL "Second Coming of Christ", while the "fake" Second Coming will come at the end and follow New Testiment scripture and their xtian positioning. I may be that real Second Coming.
What I teach is the god's true way. It is what is expected of people, and only those who follow this truth will be eligible to ascend into heaven as children in a future life. They offered this event because the masses have just enough time to work on and fix their relationship with the gods and ascend, to move and grow past Planet Earth, before the obligatory xtian "consolation prize" of "1000 years with Jesus on Earth" begins.

The Prince of Darkness, battling the gods over the souls of the Damned.
It is the gods who have created this environment and led people into Damnation with temptation. The god's positioning proves they work to prevent people's understanding.
How often is xtian dogma wrong? Expect it is about the Lucifer issue as well.
The fallen god, fighting for justice for the disfavored, banished to Earth as the fallen angel?
I believe much as the Noah's Flood event, the end of the world will be initiated by revelry among the people. It will be positioned to be sanctioned by the gods and led for "1000 years with Jesus on Earth".
In light of modern developments this can entail many pleasures:::Medicine "cures" aging, the "manufacture" of incredible beauty via cloning as sex slaves, free (synthetic) cocaine, etc.
Somewhere during the 1000 years the party will start to "die off", literally. Only those who maintain chaste, pure lifestyles, resisting these temptations, will survive the 1000 years. Condemned to experience another epoch of planet's history for their ignorant pursuit of xtianity, they will be the candidates used to (re)colonize (the next) Planet Earth, condemned to relive the misery experienced by the peasantry during history due to their failure to ascend into heaven before the Apocalypse.
Never forget:::It is not a house of Jesus.
If this concept of Lucifer is true another role of this individual may be to initiate disfavor and temptation among this new poulation, the proverbial "apple" of this Garden of Eden. A crucial figure in the history of any planet, he begins the process of deterioration and decay that leads civilizations to where Planet Earth remains today.
Which one is it?:
One transitions into the other, allowing the gods to wash their hands of obligation to their Chosen One. My personal "consolation prize".
And since the gods never committed despite tens of billions in mass media, product development and natural disasters/tragedy they will employ the freedom they positioned into the Situation and CHEAT me out of everything.
Fuck the hundred trillion year-old gods and their "gangster capitalism" positioning:::The Matrix.