Saturday, May 24, 2008

What's to Become of Dorsey Hall Medical Center?

Before 1986 Clarksville Pike and Old Annapolis Road made up Route 108. Clarsville Pike dead ended at Old Annapolis Road a mere feet from the traffic light at Old Annapolis Road and Route 29. Part of the interchange project at Route 29 and 108 was to make Clarksville Pike and Old Annapolis Road come together on a new wider Route 108. This left "stubs" of the former roads and some land. A piece of the land was used to build an Office Building that housed mostly Doctors' Offices with a Pharmacy and a Bank. The Building was dubbed "Dorsey Hall Medical Center. Dorsey Hall Drive was always meant to cater to low rise office development past the Village Center. This was built mostly in the late '80s or early '90s with a little more in 2002. All the Dorsey Hall Drive Office Condos look brand new, well maintained, and well occupied. Dorsey Hall Medical Center, on the other didn't fare so well.It thrived until about 2004/2005. Vacancies began popping up and remained that way. Its location works both for and against it. It's nestled in between Routes 29 and 108, Columbia Road and Dorsey's Search Village Center but it's hard to find. As I mentioned earlier, the 29/108 interchange created roadway "stubs" and Dorsey Hall Medical Center is located at the intersection of two of them.
Dorsey Hall Medical Center is three stories high and as it stands right now the entire second floor is vacant, the Pharmacy and Bank are gone, and almost all of the first floor is vacant. The third seems relatively healthy. Could they just be waiting until their lease is up before moving to a better occupied building? I have a gut instinct that this may be the case. If nothing's done I predict the building will go completely vacant.
Across the parking lot is both a Liquor Store and a Restaurant and Lounge. Across the "Old Route 108" is a new town house development dubbed "Dorsey Crossing. A few old cottages were torn down and a rather large piece of land became available for development. 95 town homes are being built and sold as I type this post.
Now, what does this have to do with Dorsey Hall Medical Center? Well it has me helped craft a vision for the land it sits on. And what's the vision you ask? Well it involves tearing down the Office Building and adjacent Liquor Store and Restaurant and building a small condo complex. Where the Office Building currently stands will be turned into a social green space with a fountain center piece.
The three to four story condo buildings will be built on all four sides of the green space. I think this will complement existing land uses very well. The first floor of one of the condo buildings will have retail and what will the retail be? You guessed it! Allview Liquors and Lee Lynn's Restaurant and Lounge.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bryant Square: What's with the Hold Up?

Ok, lets be reasonable here how long does it take to put replace old siding and roofing on an 88 unit town home development? I'd say one summer maximum. Wrong, if you live near, in, or drive by Bryant Square in the village of Wilde Lake you'd see that's not the case at all. So far it's five and a half years and counting and construction has slowed to a halt with no end in sight. They're about 33% done with the development and the kicker is that houses that have been worked on are spread throughout the entire development in an almost random fashion. A few houses have been half done for a number of years now. This brings just one question to mind; What's the Hold Up?
Built in 1973, Bryant Square has lead me to believe that it was once completely a rental community that was converted to homeownership in the 1980s or 1990s. This practice was not uncommon for older Columbia developments as the rental market dried up over the years. For town homes Bryant Square homes are huge! Many with four bedrooms.
By the late 1990s Bryant Square began to show signs of blight. It doesn't have much surrounding it. It's land locked by Governor Warfield Parkway and Twin Rivers Road.

The only housing development nearby is the Section 8 rental development of Roslyn Rise, part of community homes which has four other sites throughout West Columbia. Other nearby sites include Wilde Lake High School and Century Plaza a very early office park in Columbia's history. Paths and tunnels connect Bryant Square to the rest of Wilde Lake and Columbia as a whole.
New development across Governor Warfield Parkway further gave Bryant Square an old and blighted appearance. Spillover crimes began occurring from other decaying neighborhoods. Although Bryant Square is a homeownership development many of the units are rentals with "slum lords". In the spring of 2002 a nonfatal shooting occurred in Bryant Square which further gave off the perception of that Bryant Square was a bad neighborhood. The victims of the shootings were all Wilde Lake High School students, I was a senior there at the time of the shooting. In fact, I was on the school grounds when it happened mere feet from it.
Very quickly the suspects were apprehended (Columbia doesn't fall victim to stop snitchin') and were tried and sentenced to very long prison sentences. It became very clear that Bryant Square, like much of older Columbia neighborhoods were in need of revitalization. The county came up with a Master Plan for Bryant Square that would serve as a roll model for aging Columbia neighborhoods. The Master Plan focused mostly on sidewalk, pathway, parking space, striping, and vegetation. The structures themselves were barely mentioned so as far as the Master Plan goes it was successful. New plantings replaced dying ones, sidewalks, paths, and streets were resurfaced, and cleanup projects brought many residents out to clean up their community. The homes themselves were and still are, for the most part blighted. The original buildings are are dark brown wooden siding and white stucco. In late 2002 Vinyl siding started to appear on a few buildings. From then until about 2006, at a bottle neck pace new siding continued. For about two years now there has been no activity on the siding front. What's the hold up? They're nowhere near done, as I mentioned before, only about 40% of the homes have been completed. Crime has gone down and thanks to the real estate boom home ownership is up. As far as the original question about the hold up, I really can't answer that. The homes that have been completed don't look all that fancy, they look like old homes that have been redone instead of brand new homes. If done right Bryant Square could serve as a model for communities like Hollow Oaks, Beechin Hills, Cross Fox, Russett Ridge, Bryant Gardens, and the Cove.