Baltimore Business Journal: Rotunda Developers Break Ground on $100M Expansion
September 18, 2013
Demand for apartments is a top reason Hekemian & Co. has confidence to move forward with the redevelopment of the Rotunda in North Baltimore.
The 379 apartments are being planned as part of an upscale, amenity-rich complex in the mold of many of the luxury apartments that have enjoyed high occupancy rates since post-recession development restarted in 2010. The family-owned New Jersey-based Hekemian, which has a long history of developing suburban apartment projects, broke ground on the $100 million project on Wednesday in a ceremony attended by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council members.
“It’s going to be chock-full of amenities, there will be a pool and great community rooms,” said David Hekemian, a principal with the firm. “As much as the project is going to have some height to it, we’ve really brought it down to street level. We didn’t want to build something that didn’t tower over what already exists.”
The project will also include 140,000 square feet of office space, 152,000 square feet of retail, a central plaza and new parking, and has drawn attention for years due to the historic nature of the Rotunda shopping complex and movie theater. MOM's Organic Market will also open a store at the center.
Hekemian officials attended 80 neighborhood meetings and worked with the Hampden Merchants Association in an effort to calm fears that new retail would not diminish existing businesses.
Several attendees noted during Wednesday’s ceremony that the project is a long time coming. Put up for sale in 2005, The Rotunda was the subject of a blind bidding process.
Hekemian was the most persistent among the “four or five bidders,” said George Collins, who represented the seller. Hekemian’s mixed-use approach won out because it seemed most likely to work, Collins said.
After winning the bid, an ambitious design was completed in 2007 but scaled back after the recession made financing difficult. The current plan was first presented in 2012, where city officials asked Hekemian to add green space and reduce parking.
“We came up with a plan that’s a lot better and more efficient” due to the public input, Hekemian said. Bozzuto Construction is the general contractor; Design Collective is the architect.
While The Rotunda is the first project Hekemian has done in the city, Collins said their experience indicates the redeveloped Rotunda will be successful.
“The Hekemian family own a very large apartment business, so they understand the residential business in a way you’d only know if you’ve been doing it for a few decades,” said Collins, a principal at Cornerstone Commercial Real Estate. “They didn’t just show up in Baltimore one day and say ‘let’s do a project.’ When you come to a new town not everybody knows that about you.”
Construction is slated for completion by the end of 2015.