Rotunda Owner Addresses Stalled Development Plans
Chris Bell, senior vice president of Hekemian & Co., spoke with residents for the first time since Giant announced it was leaving.
Chris Bell, senior vice president of Hekemian & Co., spoke to residents about plans for renovating the Rotunda shopping center for the fist time since the Giant announced it was moving last month.
Hekemian, owner of the Rotunda, has been trying to renovate it into a mixed use outdoor mall since 2005. During a meeting Tuesday night, Bell told residents the company wants to move forward with the renovations and possibly begin them as early as spring 2013.
“We want to get this thing under $150 million, we want to get it under $100 million and we want to get this thing built fast,” Bell said.
Bell said the economic crash as well as Giant’s change of heart about remaining at the Rotunda helped slow plans to renovate. He said Giant decided to move because they were afraid of another competitor moving into a newer shopping center west of the Rotunda.
“It was all about Giant,” Bell said.
In January Giant, an anchor tenant at the Rotunda since it was converted from an insurance office building, announced it was moving west a few blocks to the spot formerly occupied by Superfresh and a Fresh and Greens market.
Bell said now that Giant has announced its move; Hekemian will forge ahead with rebuilding the center as The Grand Rotunda. But the remodeling will have significant differences from what was previously proposed to the community.
There will be no 22 story high-rise, separate super market in the parking lot or hotel and condos associated with the project. Instead there will only be a pair of five to 10 story buildings with 300 market-rate apartments and a smaller grocery store than initially planned; in addition to the previously planned retail expansion.
The limit on the size of the grocer is the result of an agreement to let Giant out of the remaining lease at the Rotunda. Any grocery store on the site cannot be bigger than 20,000 square feet as part of that agreement, said Al Barry, a development consultant who works for Hekemian. He said the agreement was necessary because Giant could have kept the space vacant after it moved down the street.