The developers of the proposed redesigned Rotunda cleared the final major hurdle before breaking ground on the proposed mixed-use project in Hampden.
The Baltimore Planning Commission unanimously approved its staff’s recommendation to affirm the project’s design on Thursday afternoon.
"The process is pretty well over… we need to pull a building permit and, you know, select a contractor and get started," said Chris Bell, a senior vice president with Hekemian & Co., the owner of the Rotunda.
The commission approved the plans over the objections of some residents along 38th Street and Elm Avenue directly across from the mall.
Residents told commissioners they were concerned about the scale and the setbacks of the buildings that will be built around the perimeter of the development.
Dawn Kacey, of the 900 block of W. 38th Street, told the commissioners that the buildings were not a good fit, and out of scale with the surrounding community.
"This is a quiet neighborhood. It’s not downtown or the Inner Harbor," Kacey said.
Residents also said they felt like they were not properly kept in the loop about the design for the building.
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said there might not have been enough communication with immediate neighbors as to what was happening, but said that was no fault of the developer.
"I blame myself," Clarke said.
Thomas Stosur, director of the Planning Department, praised the outreach to the community and called Hekemian’s effort’s "Herculean."
"This is one of the most extensive outreach processes that I’ve ever seen—flaws and all," Stosur said.
The proposed redevelopment includes 182,000 feet of retail space; 153,000 square feet of office space; about 1,100 parking spaces and 382 residential units.
The residential units will be housed on the southern portion of the redevelopment in seven-story west wing, a five-story east wing and a three to four story building at street level alon W. 38th Street and Elm Avenue.
Bell said a grocery store; a national health club chain and four restaurants are close to signing leases for space in the new Rotunda. He also told the commissioners they expect to have leases signed for 65 parent of the retail space by June.
"[We’ll] get everything nailed down by the end of May," Bell said.
Bell said there still a way to go before the project was completed but that he was glad to be entering the home stretch of a process that goes back to 2005.
"We still have a lot to do on our side. This is a huge part of it…it’s a big project. We’ve got a lot to do and we’re pushing as hard as we can," Bell said.