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Removing Rotunda’s Interior Shopping Raises Concerns

A city design review panel examined plans to redevelop the struggling Hampden mall.

New plans for the redevelopment of the Rotunda still need some adjustments.

Representatives from architectural firm Design Collective and Chris Bell—senior vice president of Hekemian and Co., the mall’s owner—presented the plans to the Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel on Thursday.

Members of the panel said they generally approved of the reduced plans for the proposed mixed-use redevelopment. An earlier proposal for the project included a hotel, a 22-story apartment building and condos, but that was scrapped after the 2008 nationwide economic collapse.

The new plans still include creating more outdoor retail space at the mall, but now include a much smaller residential component of 300 market rate apartments.

But members of the panel expressed some concerns with the plan, especially a proposal to remove any interior shopping.

Currently, is an interior mall, but the plans would turn it into a completely exterior shopping center, save for a lobby area for the Rotunda Cinemas.

M.J. “Jay” Brodie, a panel member, and Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke expressed concerns about removing the interior shopping center from the revamped Rotunda.

"The Rotunda, in the community, is not only seen as a place to shop, but a place to shop and see people you know while you’re doing it," Clarke said, comparing it to an indoor

The objection to removing the interior shopping caught the developer a little off guard. Al Barry, a land use consultant hired by Hekemian, said the removal of the interior shopping space has been in the plans since they were first proposed in 2006, and that this was the first objections to it that he was aware of.

"I think it’s unrealistic to restore an interior mall that showed—even when —that it wasn't able to retain retailers," Barry said.

Board members also suggested the architect may want to consider enlarging a proposed public green space so that it was more than a grass space in the middle of a parking lot.

Panel members also said that they want to see a design that would increase the redeveloped Rotunda’s accessibility and connectivity to the Hampden neighborhood.

Barry said the panel generally seemed to be happy with the proposals and said that the architects and the developer would work to address some of the panel’s concerns before a second presentation is made.

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