Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wilde Lake Village Center

By now I'm sure everybody's aware of three major events at Wilde Lake Village Center. The first being that Giant closed in late 2006, the second that Produce Galore has closed in spring of 2008, and the third that Kimco, the center's owners plan to raze the center and redevelop it as a mixed use residential, retail, and offices. The new layout would be main street style shops with 500 rental apartments and no new Grocery Store, something that every Columbia Village Center has been anchored by. Rouse sold the eight Village Centers it owned (the exception being Owen Brown) to Kimco. Kimco could not have been a better candidate for Columbia's Village Centers.
Kimco's specialty was and is grocery anchored shopping centers not unlike Columbia's Village Centers. It seems that Kimco has given up on finding a replacement Grocery Store to replace and the new vision is Kimco's way of telling village residents that they admit defeat. It could also be that Kimco is ushering a new wave of retail using Maple Lawn as a model. The difference between Maple Lawn and Wilde Lake is that a Main Street runs through it and it's much closer to a major intersection (Routes 29 and 216).Wilde Lake lacks the critical mass that can support anchorless retail even with 500 apartments. I have championed the idea of redeveloping Columbia's first Village Center for years now and that I have mixed feelings regarding Kimco's plan for the center. My plans for the center evolved as the conditions of the center have. First I thought that the Giant should be expanded to compete with its sisters stores that have opened in neighboring villages more recently, then I entertained the idea of another Supermarket taking Giant's place, one that isn't so saturated in Columbia. It always involved a full service Grocery Store much larger than the 22,000 square foot Giant two and a half to three times larger to be exact, the doors would be located in front of the center and the expansion would be constructed on the parking lots near Cross Fox and Lynx Lane.Wilde Lake Village Center has played host to a dozens of merchants mostly Mom & Pop businesses, local chains, and a small mix of national chains. They included a Dress Maker, a Butcher Shop, a Cheese Shop, a Maternity Shop, a Duron Paint Store, a Bike Shop, a few Bakeries, an independent Pharmacy, a Dried Grocery Store, an Avanti Italian Restaurant, the Pub at Wilde Lake, a couple of Florists, an Encore Books, an Ice Cream Store, a couple of Shoe Repair shops and Photo mats, a couple of Pizza Parlors, an Erol's Video Store (later Blockbuster), a Hardware Store, a Jack in the Box, Roy Rogers, Hardees, than Roy Rogers again, an Animal Hospital, and a High's Dairy Store. Back then, store fronts were smaller and more businesses could fit in the center. A mild expansion of the Giant Food Store, vacant store fronts making way for larger stores and would eventually come to be the center's other anchors; David's Natural Market and Produce Galore.
Today, Wilde Lake Village Center is hanging on by a thread. Its current roster of tenants are David's Natural Market, Hunan Family, Great Clips, The UPS Store, KFC, Crown Gas Station, The Melting Pot, Wilde Lake Karate Center, Bagel Bin & Deli, Pizza Boli's, Tokyo Cafe, Feet First, Absolutely Wine or Spirits, The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, Anthony Richard Barber Shop(original tenant),Wilde Lake Cleaners, Today's Catch Seafood Market, Star Nails, and the Columbia Bank. All of which could close up shop at any time regardless of whether they break their lease or not. Produce Galore broke theirs and will pay Kimco for another 18 months.
Now Wilde Lake Village Center isn't just retail with offices above select portions of it. Shown above is the Family Life Center which is under going renovations, Slayton House the Village's Community Center which was renovated in 2005, the CA Swim Center which was renovated in 2003 and the Wilde Lake Tennis Courts which are scheduled to undergo renovations in the near future. There is also Wilde Lake Interfaith Center which will undergo renovations and an expansion. Wilde Lake Middle and High Schools are behind the center. Wilde Lake High was torn down and rebuilt from the ground up from 1994-1996 students attended the undistricted River Hill High during those years. Wilde Lake Middle wasn't so lucky.
This main courtyard and building would be demolished under my plan to make way for a new parking lot. The building contains The Melting Pot, Wilde Lake Karate,Bagel Bin,Pizza Bolis, and Tokyo Cafe. They would be relocated on Lynx Lane on the grounds of the former Produce Galore along with Today's Catch and Anthony Richard Barbershop. This new building would would house roughly 125 condos on the top floors. It will have underground parking for residents and shoppers alike. The little building that houses the UPS Store and Great Clips would be relocated to the left of David's along with the Columbia Bank Drive through which would be demolished to make way for parking. The David's building would go through a massive overhaul and above it would be another 125 condos.
What is currently parking to the right of and behind the vacant Giant would be used for the Supermarket expansion. I'm thinking of a something like a Food Lion, Superfresh, or a Mars would be the perfect candidate to fill Giant's shoes. All are stores that aren't over saturated in the Columbia marketplace and one would think that they would jump at this rare opportunity to expand into Columbia. I'm guessing Kimco didn't fight hard enough to attract a supermarket after all they lured a Food Lion to Oakland Mills where it lost two other supermarkets in just 5 years! Giant had been at Wilde Lake for 39 years! Kimco got the idea to mimic Maple Lawn and ran with it. What I'm proposing is a mixture of that and a traditional Grocery anchored Village Center. Where would the other 250 condos go? On top of the new Grocery Store! Kimco's plan said the residential units would be rental apartments but Jim Miller co owner of Today's Catch preferred condos because they would be privately owned and would therefore have a more vested interest in the community. Jim, if you're reading this I agree with you whole heartily that's why I'm proposing 500 condos instead of apartments.

Almost every other Village Center has been redeveloped with a full service Grocery Store and Wilde Lake should be no exception.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Industrial Buildings and Land Have Aged Terribly

Industry was never meant to be pretty. Back in the early days of the industrial revolution residential and industrial land lived side by side and neighborhoods were built for the tens of thousands of workers in the factories. In the late 1800s the idea of smog free neighborhoods with grass and trees while still being urban came to fruition. This was the earliest version of the suburbs. At this point only the very wealthy could afford these new homes. After World War II the housing pressures caused suburbia to become more affordable. The Suburbs had the presence of mind to locate industry away from residential neighborhoods because this contributed to the downfall of the American city.Columbia is no different, its industrial land is located away from neighborhoods. It's located in the far eastern edges of town due to the land being flatter than that of West Columbia. When Columbia held its grand opening in June of 1967 Rouse presented thousands of observers and potential residents pieces of the city. A Village Center, a Neighborhood Center, some Model Home Parks of varying housing types, a Downtown Office Building, Hobbit's Glen Golf Course, and finally industry.
The "pieces" of industry Rouse decided to showcase were in Oakland Ridge (Red Branch Road) and Seiling (Gerwig Lane). Since this was the 1960s windowless, contemporary, gray, manufactured off the assembly line buildings were used. According to today's architectural standards the buildings are hideous. However some buildings have had face lifts and new buildings are being thrown into the mix.Today some industrial buildings are coming down and being redeveloped in favor of retail and office uses. At Snowden River Parkway and McGaw Road there is a proposal to tear down a vacant industrial building and Wegman's Supermarket.On Snowden between Broken Land and Minstrel Way 2 industrial buildings are being torn down for 2 restaurants and 2 hotels.As for existing industrial buildings there have been some improvements particularly on Route 108 across from Glenmont. Dobbin and Snowden have the worst buildings and redevelopment is the only solution for these eye sores. The out sourcing of these types of jobs and the dependence on machines will make industrial jobs obsolete and the buildings will continue to vacate themselves and redevelopment will take place. I don't agree with job outsourcing I'm just stating it as a fact.