Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wilde Lake Redevelopment

As Columbia's first Village one would assume that Wilde Lake would need the most redevelopment and its housing stock would be the most outdated. This isn't the case, Oakland Mills and Long Reach adapted styles of housing that were popular at the time but have since gone to the dogs. Wilde Lake, although there is plenty of room for redevelopment used a more classic timeless style for its housing stock, one that can look new, modern and well kept even at 41 years of age. Then there are properties in Wilde Lake that fall under the "reinvestment" category which will get its own post. Those are properties that don't need redevelopment but could use exterior facade improvements to keep competitive in the 21st century.Photo From Google Earth
Now for the properties in Wilde Lake I'm slating for redevelopment:
Partridge Courts- I used to live here from 1984-1988 (birth to age 4)actually, this was once a rental complex that was converted into owner occupied. The lay out of the development is out dated and the buildings are hideous. Any Partridge Courts resident will tell you that it's a hike to get from your car to your house.
The new development that will go in its place will feature a wide variety of housing options from condos to two level town homes without a garage (they will have basements) and three level town homes with car garages. All housing types will face inward so residents can park their car and walk right into their home. The tunnel between Partridge Courts and Wilde Lake Village Center will be removed as it's become unsafe. The new Partridge Courts will be 60% Market Rate Home Ownership, 35% Market Rate Rentals, and 5% Below Market Rate Rentals.
Concord House, this straddles the line between reinvestment and redevelopment because the building won't be redeveloped but there will be development on its property. Its parking lot has room to have two more high rises built over top of them.
Photo From Google Earth
The three "concord houses" will have underground parking. Wilde Lake was originally meant to have more high rises but Rouse was cautious due to the market. The swath of land next to the Interfaith Center was originally intended for two high rises.
Bryant Square, I tried sending out an SOS for this community but it's just not working out, especially since it has the new developments of Warfield Triangle across the street further adding to the blighted apperance of Bryant Square.
These are regarded as some of Columbia's largest town homes so naturally in its place will be large town homes. The tunnel going under Twin Rivers Road will be removed due to safety issues. Students will be bussed to Bryant Woods Elementary. This will be 100% Market Rate Home Ownership.

Rosslyn Rise,This "Community Homes" development will be redeveloped with a mix of market rate apartments and subsidized apartments. This will be 85% Market Rate Rentals and 15% Below Market Rate Rentals.Students here will also be bussed to Bryant Woods Elementary.
Rideout Heath,The other "Community Homes" development in Wilde Lake will be redeveloped as a mix of market rate condos and subsidized home ownership condos. This will be 60% Market Rate Home Ownership and 40% Below Market Rate Home Ownership.

Faulkner Station, This town home development located on Jason Lane, Faulkner Ridge Circle, and Tolling Clock Way has become too outdated. The homes are simply too small and narrow to serve today's family.
In its place will be two two level town homes stacked on top of each other. The new homes will be wider and will feature a one car garage per unit. This will be 100% below Market Rate Home Ownership.
Brook Way, Interior renovations and changing the name to "The Berkshires of Columbia" was like putting lipstick on a pig. What's needed is an income mix for a development of that size.

The new development will resemble the new Partridge Courts both in layout and housing options. What's different is that in the new Brook Way will have an income mix. 55% market rate home ownership, 30% market rate rental, 10% subsidized home ownership and 5% subsidized rentals. The mix will spread across all housing types and nobody will know what their neighbor "financial situation" is.
Running Brook Condominiums, Just across Columbia Road sits a circle of condos that were once rental apartments. They have become unattractive and add to the sense of feeling unsafe.
In its place will be a mix of condos and town homes built around the site's existing unique infrastructure.
The "inner circle" will be condos facing inward to make a courtyard.
The "outer circle" will be town homes that make a half circle around the development. This will be a gated community.Running Brook Elementary/711/Pool/Phone Building. Running Brook Elementary is dealing with over crowding it hasn't seen since the early 1970s before more schools were built. By 2020 Running Brook may be home to upwards of 500 students with a current capacity of 405 It was barely 300 when I went there in the early to mid 1990s. This figure isn't factoring in the new Town Center development which may push the number of students up to 600.
Photo From
A 150 seat addition will be the order of the day. I will go in the back of the building and towards the pool where the expanded parking lot currently is. The front entrance will actually face West Running Brook Road now.The Verizon Phone Building has no place in a residential neighborhood and will be demolished and moved to Route 108 and Ten Mills Road next to the church. A brand new 711 will be built in its place with room for a second neighborhood business such as a Dry Cleaner. The current 711 building will be used a new locker rooms and storage for the pool. Adequate storage and up to date locker rooms is something the pool currently lacks. The Pool will be updated to look like Columbia's new pools like those found in River Hill, Hawthorn, and Dickinson.

Wilde Lake Tennis Courts,It's time for them to be replaced that's all I have to say.

Wilde Lake Middle,With the new Town Center development and its current projections Wilde Lake Middle and its capacity of 506 won't cut it. An addition putting it to 662 won't make existing class rooms larger or the halls wider, nor will it make the Cafeteria or Gym larger (all problems I dealt with as a student here in the mid to late 1990s when the there were 500 students) It's time for a new WLMS and maybe with a new building more Clemens Crossing Parents will send their kids here and not a private Middle School in between Elementary and High School.

Well that's it for the redevelopment of Wilde Lake!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Harpers Choice Village Center

Talk about the text book case of a Village Center coming back from the brink of death not only to survive but to thrive. I can only hope that Wilde Lake Village Center can come back the same way Harpers Choice has. I hope that other Village Centers that are showing signs of slipping (Oakland Mills and Long Reach) can reach this same bench mark. They are however, on the east side of Columbia where there are many more retail oppurtunities than just the Village Centers. That's why those two Village Centers need to offer a better mix of tenants so they're aren't left to the wayside.
Now back to Harpers Choice, it opened in 1971 under a different name; "Joesph Square" a part of the current Harpers Choice Village Center is still refered to as Joseph Square. Its original "anchor" tenant was a Pantry as was with Oakland Mills. This space made Wilde Lake Giant look like a modern day Wegmans. It was tiny, it was the same size as the space currently occupied by Tuesday Morning which was originally meant for a drugstore. A People's Drug and eventually a CVS were tenants of that space.
Harpers Choice was different from the get go in that it had residences above its shops as well as offices. Today, as other Village Centers redevelop housing above the shops has become a common concept. The Pantry Pride chain went bankrupt in the 1970s and pulled out of both Harpers Choice and Oakland Mills and were replaced by a Valu Food and a Giant respectively.
Over its 38 year history Harpers Choice has played host to a variety of different tenants which include but aren't limited to: Parcel Plus, Today's Catch Seafood Market, Subway, Jerry's Subs & Pizza, Nations Bank, Chick 'N Friends, Trolley Stop, Hair Cuttery, Amoco Gas, Uniphoto Labs, Little Ceasers Pizza, Tropical Juice Bar, Gringada Mexican Restaurant, Atlantis Seafood & Grille, Lily's Southwestern Bar & Grill, and Modern Haircut.
Not surprisinly the 1990s brought change to Harpers Choice. Both neighboring Villages opened brande new centers each with a Giant that made Harpers Choice's Valu Food a joke. With the Village of Harpers Choice shouldering 25% of Columbia's low income housing crime began to increase (it had been a problem before hand but it became more frequent and serious)
The center also suffered from poor lighting and visibility from the road and an increasingly blighted appearance. Valu Food and many of the cneter's smaller tenants began leaving at an alarming rate. Other outside influences included white flight caused by the building of River Hill and a higher concentration of poverty. By 1996 Harpers Choice had only a hand full of tenants holding on. They inluded Nations Bank, Harper's Choice Liquors, Cleaners Plus, Strand's Hair Studio, CVS, Hunan Diamond, Gringada Mexican Restaurant, the Amoco Gas Station, and McDonalds. I remember going to the McDonalds and it feeling like it was the entire Village Center. I thought Harpers Choice was gone for good. Harper's Choice had other attributes such as The Athletic Club and the Florence Bain Senior Center and Kahler Hall. Also on site is Harpers Choice Middle School and the Cedar Lane School.Little did I know that the Rouse Company (Owners of the Village Center at the time) weren't about to let Harper's Choice go down without a fight. The Rouse company was prepared to open up the Village Center by demolishing and rebuilding a substantial part of it. First off the old Valu Food could not be back filled it was too old, too small, and too hidden. It had to go, McDonalds was attached to the building that housed Valu Food so it went with Valu Food. But wasn't McDonalds the only saving grace for the Village Center? Yes and it got a brand new building with better visibilty and access. Now came the hard part, selling the center to a national grocer and where to build it. Any national grocer or local one for that matter would be taking a huge gamble by coming to Harpers Choice especially because the new store would be the same size as newer stores in Dorsey's Search and Hickory Ridge. Safeway took a leap of faith and decided to be Harpers Choice's new anchor.
With the addition of Safeway back filling vacant store fronts became much easier. They included Nail Center, Parcel Plus, Papa Johns, Dunkin' Donuts, The Columbia Bank, The Hair Cuttery, and Uniphoto Labs.Renovations occurred in 1997 and by 1998 a new Harpers Choice Village Center was born. The question that everybody was banking on was "if we build it will they come back?" The answer was and is yes. Harpers Choice is one of Columbia's most profitable Village Centers new or old.Eleven years later Harpers Choice has continued to thrive. New additions include Columbia Sports Park which has a Mini Golf Course and a Skate Boarding Arena and an Adult Day Care Center. Renovations of the Florence Bain Senior Center, Kahler Hall, and the Athletic Club have also occurred.The current retail tenants are as follows; Safeway, Tuesday Morning, Nail Center, Harpers Choice Liquors, Ritas Ice Cream, Strands Hair Studio, Howard County Police Sataleitte Office, Papa Johns, Zapata's Mexican Grille, Acheiver's Hair Salon, The Columbia Bank, Hunan Diamond, Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, Misko's Ballet Studio, Bank of America, Harpers Choice Cleaners, Maiwond Kabob, and a BP Gas Station. Both the Safeway and Dunkin Donuts have undergone renovations which suggest a long term commitment to Harpers Choice.
Harpers Choice still has residences above and may not be the only Village Center to have them in the near distant future. Harpers Choice has made a come back that is beyond remarkable and with new development above Route 108 its clientele will only grow. Wilde Lake, now it's your turn!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Owen Brown Village Center

Owen Brown Village Center is the only Village Center that has never been owned by either Rouse or Kimco. I'm unsure of how it happened but Owen Brown Village Center fell under the ownership of GFS Realty, a subsidiary a Giant Food which by no mistake is the center's one and only anchor tenant.
Opened in 1978 Owen Brown Village Center, believe or not was regarded as the first Village Center with a Big Grocery Store. Those of you who remember the old Owen Brown Giant can easily recall who narrow and cramped the isles were but understand that the only other Grocery Stores in Columbia were the Giants at Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake, the Valu Food at Harpers Choice, and the Safeway at Long Reach. Kings Contrivance, Dorsey's Search, Hickory Ridge, and River Hill wouldn't open for many years let alone the big boxes and Grocery Stores just outside of Columbia. If anyone remembers who laughable the sizes the Grocery Stores were before Owen Brown opened will know that for the time Owen Brown Giant was huge, after all it had a Pharmacy inside the store!
Over the years Owen Brown Village Center has seen many tenants come and go. They include Cover to Cover Books (which had a cafe inside), Simply Soccer, Baskin Robbins, Everett Jewlers, A Sporting Goods Store, News Center of Columbia, Parcel Plus, Viedo Library (later named Owen Brown Video), a Nursing Supply Store, Chevy Chase Bank, Choes Hap Kido (a Karate DoJo), Roy Rogers, Hardees, and a Satellite Office for the Howard County Republican Party. If I left out any please add them in the comments field.

From the mid 1990s until about 2000 Owen Brown struggled with vacant store fronts and a blighted outdated appearance. Plans to redevelop and expand the center were on the drawing board for years but no action had taken place. Meanwhile older Columbia Villages like Owen Brown had experienced a surge in crime further deterring would be shoppers. GFS Realty wanted a full redevelopment of the center but infrastructure issues kept them building what they and most of the community wanted. The finished result is so so there's a lot more that could have been done and I will no doubt tell you what it is because I don't keepy my big mouth shut.

The finished product includes a an expanded Giant which at first housed the center's Chevy Chase Bank but that was taken out in favor of a Starbucks. In order to expand the Giant a row of stores had to be demolishe and located else where. The stores were Owen Brown Wine & Spitirts, Jerrys Subs and Pizza, two vacants, Hair Cuttery, Owen Brown Cleaners, and Dollar Tree. That strip was rebuilt facing Cradlerock way without the two vacants. The old dingy Giant is now a brand new sparkling flagship store. The back of the center didn't fare so well, there was no demolition and the Giant expansion further enfrorced this sense of isolation.

Now what needs to be done. We're going to have to live with the Giant at its current location but that's fine. The Giant, in order to keep up with the increasing size of stores like Wegmans and Harris Teeter can undergo another expansion. The expanded part is shallower than the original part which goes deeper. The expansion would be in the back making the whole building deeper.

The remaining old buildings will be demolished; the islolated back buildings, the professional building near the McDonalds, the Bank of America building, and a half vacant professional building that was all but blocked off by what I'm calling Phase I of Owen Brown Village Center's redevelopment (what I'm proposing will be Phase II.) With the Bank of America building gone there will be room to expand the new strip towards the Interfaith center from the Liquor Store. All of the back building's businesses will go in this expanded strip including the Bank of America. This new part of the strip will be two stories high. The second floor will include the offices that were displaced when their buildings were demolished.

The current lineup of stores located in the back are Vocelli Pizza, Future Nails, Warren's Barbershop, Elegant Twist Hair Salon, A Beauty Supply Shop, A Computer Sales & Service Shop, Chinese Gourmet Carry Out, and Sanomas Bar & Grille. There's an Art Studio that's opening soon. I would change around the line up of retail tenants to create more "draws" and get rid of dead weight. There are too many hair and beauty places that don't bring much to the Village Center and I would replace them stores that residents would patronize. I would get rid of the Beauty Supply Place, The Barber Shop, and the Art Studio. Replacing them would be a Smoothie King, a Fractured Prune, and a Curves. Also added to the roster of tenants would be a UPS store. The McDonalds would undergo a major renovation and expansion to include a "Play Place"

With the new Village Center lay out an excess of parking would be created. An idea that's been tossed around is adding housing to Village Centers. Harpers Choice has always had it, Wilde Lake may get it and I think Owen Brown should as well. These are the only three Village Centers at the moment where housingis a viable option. The new housing would consist of 2 and 3 bedroom condos three to four stories in height and have underground parking.

Think Villas at River Hill. They would be located where the office building, the islolated retail buildings are, and the vast under utilized parking lot is.

That concludes Phase II of Owen Brown Village Center's redevelopment, if it's as successful as Phase I has been Owen Brown Village Center will be as big a hit as the Harris Teeter at Kings Contrivance.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Long Reach Redevelopment

Just like Oakland Mills, Long Reach is ready for some massive redevelopment. The two villages were built at exactly the same time by the same builders in the same style. One difference between the two is the distribution of open space. Long Reach's open space is in one section of the village rather than spread out like Oakland Mills every other village in Columbia. That plan was flawed because in 1976 route 175 cut through Long Reach's open space.
The past decade in a half was not kind to Long Reach. As River Hill came up middle and upper income families fled for Columbia's newest village as Long Reach saw an increase and in crime, blight and drugs. A big saving grace was the expansion of the Safeway in the Village Center which involved relocating the doors to face the parking lot. Another addition to the Village Center was a Howard County Police Satellite Office. Eventually Harpers Choice, North Laurel, and Oakland Mills received these offices. Owen Brown and Wilde Lake are the last two Columbia Villages that would need one.
Now back to the redevelopment of Long Reach. The two effected neighborhoods would be Locust Park and Jeffers Hill. The most would occur in Locust Park, in fact I'm guessing 90% of the neighborhood would be rebuilt from the ground up. In Jeffers Hill, there would only be two effected developments but they would give the neighborhood a face lift and provoke more investment. Going along with Rouse's 10% low income rule the income breakdown for the new Long Reach would 65% Market Rate Homeownership and 25% Market Rate Rentals spread out through the new developments. Now with the 10% low income rule who says it has to mean rentals? Why not make them subsidized homeownership? Why not put equity in these people's pockets instead of helping "buy time" as is the case with renting. Also additional home owners means a bigger stake in the community and would translate into more long term residents.
The developments to hit the wrecking ball are (drum roll please) Columbia Landing (formerly Bentana east and west) Sierra Woods (Flowerstcok Row and Airy Brink Lane) Long Reach Knolls, Long Reach Condos, Heatherstone (Tamar Drive and Hayshed Lane), Lazy Hollow, Jeffers Glen, and Treover.The Columbia Landing West site will contain low rise elevator condos and will be renamed Locust Grove. With 65% Market Rate Home Ownership and 35% Market Rate Rentals.The Long Reach Knolls/Sierra Woods Flowerstock Row Site will contain 4 story elevator garage condos and will be renamed the Crescent at Locust Park. It will contain 45% Market Rate Home Ownership 30% Market Rate Rentals, 20% Below Market Rate Homeownership and 5% Below Market Rate Rentals.The Lazy Hollow site will contain 5 story elevator condos with and will be renamed Long Reach Town Center. It will be 30% Below Market Rate Home Ownership and 70% Market Rate Rentals.The Columbia Landing East site will contain two car garage town homes and will be renamed The Townes at Locust Park. They will be 90% Market Rate Home Ownership and 10% Below Market Rate Rentals.The Heatherstone sites will contain non garage town homes and will be renamed Tamar Overlook. They will be 100% Market Rate Home Ownerhip.
Long Reach House Condos will contain one car garage villa town homes for seniors and will be named Hearthstone at Locust Park. They will be 100% Market Rate Home Ownership for Seniors.The Sierra Woods Airy Brink Lane site will contain two on two town homes stacked above each other with one car garage per unit and will be renamed Locust Woods. They will be 50% Market Rate Home Ownership and 50% Market Rate Rentals.
Longwood House Apartments will be redeveloped into low income senior condos and will not be taken from the pool of affordable housing units. They will be 100% Below Market Rate Home Ownership.
Shalom Square will be redeveloped into rental senior villa town homes for low income residents. It will resemble what is replacing Long Reach House Condos. They will be 100% Below Market Rate Rentals.
The site on Old Dobbin Lane across from Long Reach High School will be developed with high rise elevator condoes with underground parking and will be part of the Long Reach Town Center development. The relocated Exxon station from the Village Center redevelopment will be here too.
In Jeffers Hill the site of Jeffers Glen will be one car garage town homes renamed Majors Overlook. This will be 75% Market Rate Home Ownership 20% Market Rate Rentals and 5% Below Market Rate Home Ownership.
The Treover site will contain low rise elevator condos and will be renamed the Pointe at Jeffers Hill. These will be 100% Market Rate Home Ownership.

Last of all, the Fire Station will be redeveloped with a brand new 21st century state of the art facility.

Well that's it for Long Reach's redevelopment.