$100M Redevelopment Coming To Rotunda

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (fifth from the left) and (from the mayor’s left) City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, District 14 Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke and District 7 Councilman Nick Mosby shovel dirt with Hekemian officials at a groundbreaking ceremony for The Rotunda redevelopment. (Marc Shapiro)

A New Jersey-based real estate company will invest more than $100 million in redeveloping the Rotunda building on West 40th Street in Baltimore.

Hekemian & Co., along with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Baltimore City officials, held a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 18 to officially kick off the redevelopment.

“This building has been an icon from the day it was built,” said Chris Bell, senior vice president of development for Hekemian.

The completed project will include 152,000 square feet of retail, 140,000 square feet of office space, 379 new apartments, almost 1,300 parking spaces and outdoor amenities including a central plaza. Hekemian expects to complete the project by the end of 2015, but new retailers will move in as early as summer 2015.

My Organic Market will open its first Baltimore City location at The Rotunda, Bell said, but no other retail tenants have been announced. He said the project will feature a variety of restaurants, specialty shops and a gym, all of which will have entrances on the outside of the building.

More than 900 jobs will be created in the two-year construction period, which will employ about 50 subcontractors. Rite Aid, the movie theater and the approximately 60 office tenants will be open during the construction period.

Officials said the groundbreaking ceremony was a long time coming, with redevelopment on the books since 2005. The project was continually delayed by the recession, during which retail spaces in the building became vacant.

“It stopped being the community center that it used to be, but I know that once it’s redeveloped, the people will come because it’s just, geographically, a cog in the great big wheel of neighborhoods,” said Mary Pat Clarke, Baltimore City councilwoman for District 14.

The Rotunda, located near Hampden, Roland Park and Medfield, originally opened in the 1920s, and was the home of the Maryland Casualty Company until the 1960s. It was Baltimore real estate consultant Bernie Manekin who brought retail into the office space, a new concept at the time, and reopened the building in 1973 as The Rotunda.

“It was stunningly successful, and, of course, Bernie Manekin set the pace for preserving the features of [the building],” Clarke said.

Hekemian’s redevelopment will keep the building’s historic features intact.

Clarke is pleased that not only is the project a completely private investment, but it’s also an investment in Baltimore’s neighborhoods and not along the waterfront, where a lot of real estate development is focused.

Rawlings-Blake was delighted to see eight years of work culminate.

“This takes a lot of work on the city side, collaborative work, to make a big transformative project like this happen,” she said. “I’m very proud of that work.”

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