Gwynn Falls Parkway and Liberty Heights Avenue
Baltimore (City), Maryland

The James W. Rouse Company's first major shopping center project was built on a 46 acre plot, located 3 miles northwest of Baltimore's center city. At one time a country estate, the site was developed into a 450,000 square foot retail hub, known as MONDAWMIN CENTER, which was dedicated October 14, 1956.

The name MONDAWMIN was derived from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem about "Mondamin", the Native American spirit of the cornfields. Cartographers charting the city of Baltimore and its neighborhoods eventually added the "w".

In the mid-1950s, a suburban-type shopping center located so near to a downtown core was quite a novel concept. James Rouse would later dub it "urban renewal". His 2-level (with basement) shopping complex, designed by Pietro Belluschi, was situated around an open-air concourse.

MONDAWMIN CENTER was anchored by a 3-level (189,500 square foot) Sears on its east and Penn Fruit supermarket on the west. Charter tenants included Franklin Simon, Bond Clothes, Lerner Shops, White Coffee Pot Cafe, a Food Fair supermarket and G.C. Murphy 5 & 10.

Retail rivals included WESTVIEW CENTER (1958) {4.4 miles southwest, in Baltimore County}, REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA (1962) {3.5 miles northwest, in Baltimore (City)} and SECURITY SQUARE MALL (1972) {4.8 miles west, in Baltimore County}.

Although it took nearly 3 years for all fifty-eight tenant spaces to be leased, MONDAWMIN CENTER was successful by the late 1950s. Within a few years, it would be renovated into a fully-enclosed structure. Its official re-dedication took place October 2, 1963, with the name of the complex being changed to MONDAWMIN MALL.

Sears departed in 1973. As a result, several other national chains bolted from the center. The vacancy rate soared and Rouse sold the ailing complex. By 1978, the center, known as MONDAWMIN METRO PLAZA, was only 83-percent leased. The Rouse Company bought back the complex in 1979 and completed a renovation in December 1982.

The basement level was made into additional retail area and a parking deck built onto the west side of the mall. The vacant Sears space was sectioned into inline stores. This renovation was capped-off by the opening of Baltimore's initial Charles Center-to-Reisterstown Plaza Metro subway, in November 1983, which included a station stop in the parking lot of the shopping center.

Moreover, the Social Security Administration and Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles both located regional hub offices as outparcels of the mall. The revitalized merchandising mecca, known once again as MONDAWMIN MALL, rode a wave of success throughout the 1980s, but was in a second state of decline by the late 1990s.

The Rouse Company proposed a second renovation / redevelopment in 1999, but this never came to fruition. What did occur was a reinvention of the Metro's Mondawmin Station as a bustling transit center, which served to revitalize the area.

With the purchase of The Rouse Company, by Chicago-based General Growth Properties, in 2004, MONDAWMIN MALL was added to the GGP portfolio. General Growth initiated a 225,000 square foot expansion and renovation of the mall in early 2007. The existing structure was refitted with widened mallways, glass entrances and new lighting, flooring, restrooms and exterior landscaping.

The 68 million dollar project included the construction of a (67,000 square foot) Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, which was dedicated November 17, 2007. A 1-level (127,000 square foot) Target, the chain's first store in Baltimore City, held its grand opening July 27, 2008.

A (22,000 square foot) A.J. Wright discount clothing outlet made its debut on August 8, 2008. The revitalized MONDAWMIN MALL now encompassed 700,000 leasable square feet and contained one hundred and eighteen stores and services.

A.J. Wright was shuttered, along with the entire chain, in February 2011. Marshalls, another TJX Companies operation, opened in the store space on March 17, 2011.

Sources: "From Hope to Heritage: The Story of Mondawmin" / Jamie Michael Kendrick / Maryland Transit Administration / April 2002 (General Growth Properties)
Maryland Department of Taxation website


The graphics from The Baltimore Afro-American illustrate key moments in the mall's history that are described in the article. The images are of lower resolution than the original (copies made would be of inferior quality). The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute them in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.