Monday, June 30, 2008

Long Reach Village Center

Ladies and Gentlemen stop the press because I got the idea of the millennium for Long Reach. Between Long Reach and Owen Brown Village Centers lies a mecca of suburban "big box" retail that has changed the way Columbians have shopped forever. This no doubt cost East Columbia Village Centers business and tenants especially Sit Down Restaurants. Long Reach has lost a very large number of mid market to upscale tenants over the past 15 years to be replaced by low rent tenants that cater to a poorer audience. This is also due to the decline of apartment and town home developments around the Village Center. Crime has also been a deterrent to would be shoppers for the past 15 years as well. The opening of a Police Satellite Office in the Center has brought back shoppers but not upscale tenants.
Now my idea, rather than building a Wegmans at Snowden River Parkway and McGaw Road we build it at Long Reach. Upscale Grocery Stores have been the order of the day in the past few years and it doesn't get much higher end than Wegmans. Now why Long Reach? Well, it's very close to all the big box retail and it's probably the closest Village Centers to a slew of high traffic roads; (Route 175, Dobbin Road, Snowden River Parkway, Route 108, and Route 100. Tamar Drive also carries a respectable number of cars itself.
Now how can a Village Center attract a high end grocer? Well a new page in history was written when Kings Contrivance attracted a Harris Teeter replacing an aging Safeway which coincidently is the current Supermarket at Long Reach. Safeway has stuck it out through good times and bad times at Long Reach but has increased competition from the new Giant at Palace 9, the new Food Lion, on Route 108, and even a new Safeway at Long Gate which boasts a more modern look and a better selection. Wegmans can be Long Reach's chance to get back the business it's lost over the years.Over the years Long Reach has lost a Subway, a Taco Bell, a Hair Cuttery, a First Union Bank, a Blockbuster Video, Jack's Ice Cream, a CVS Pharmacy, a Renew Instant Shoe Repair, Sneakers Bar & Grill, Adam's Ribs, India Palace, African Braiding House, Long Reach Hair & Nail Salon, a Bike Shop, Long Reach Pharmacy, Barber King, and the Long Reach Branch of the Howard County Library.Current Tenants include Dollar Buys, Long Reach Beauty Supply, Community Cutz, United Optical, Gourmet Garden, Dominos Pizza, Long Reach Cleaners, Angel Nails, Deli Town, State Employees Credit Union, Reve Day Spa, Long Reach Laundromat, Chick'N Friends, Liberty Tax Service, Parcel Plus, Safeway, Richburn Liquors, Exxon, and the Howard County Police Satellite Office.Now my remodeling plan for Long Reach Village Center is just a small part of my redevelopment plan for the Village as a whole. The addition of upscale merchants would be supported by a broad new spectrum of residents. I will dedicate an entire post to the redevelopment of Long Reach.Now the current Safeway is a once respectable 53,000 square feet, well under half the size of a Wegmans. No doubt, the current anchor space in Long Reach would have to be expanded drastically to accommodate a Wegmans whose stores run about 130,000 square feet. Now I don't know if Long Reach has the space to expand to a full 130,000 square feet but I'm aiming for at least 110,000 square feet, still more than twice the size of the current Safeway.
The new Wegman's expansion would be to the left of the current Safeway eating up Richburn Liquors and the Exxon. It would brush up against Tamar Drive and Foreland Garth, in fact Foreland Garth may be relocated a little further towards Old Dobbin Lane to accommodate Wegmans. The new Exxon would be across Foreland Garth near the power lines and the new Richburn Liquors would be located inside the courtyard where the Laundromat currently is. The Liquor Store wouldn't take the whole space.
Other new tenants would include an A&W Foods (replacing Deli Town), Walgreens (replacing Dollar Buys and Long Reach Beauty Supply with a Drive Through Pharmacy), the sidewalk between Walgreens and SECU would turned into a paved road to make way for the drive through Pharmacy. Still more new tenants would include a Rita's ice (the other part of the now former Laundromat which will have parking lot frontage) Starbucks Coffee (replacing Liberty Tax Service, and Curves Women's Gym (replacing Chick'N Friends.)
Well that'll do it the new Long Reach Village Center, the crown and jewel of the redeveloped Long Reach.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hickory Ridge Village Center

The County is getting serious about revitalizing Village Centers new and old and is drafting legislation to make it possible. Hickory Ridge Village Center opened in 1992 a good 20 years after the first houses went up. It's located at the corner of Cedar Lane and Freetown Road, two very old roads that pre date Columbia by at least 100 years. The Village Center, though centrally located is surrounded almost exclusively by low density single family homes but there are new developments nearby in the pipeline.
While other Village Centers were suffering Hickory Ridge thrived. Vacancies were kept minimal and it was always able to attract quality businesses both chains and independently owned shops. Its anchor tenant has always been a Giant. Past tenants include Young's Gourmet Coffee, Hickory Ridge Bottle Shop, Blockbuster Video, Parcel Plus, One Hour Photo, Greene's Travel, Boston Market, Taco Bell, The Card Shop, Sara's Cards & Gifts, The Dollar Bazzar, Experience Works, Hickory Ridge Chiropractic, Old Hickory Grille, and Greek Taverna II.
Today there are three vacancies in the Village Center the most recent tenants in those vacancies were Blockbuster Video, Dollar Bazzar, and Hickory Ridge Chiropractic. The Giant Supermarket is showing its age and is due for a renovation and an addition. The suits at Giant Recognize this and are planning a renovation and a 50,000 square foot addition that would nearly double the size. (It's currently 55,000 square feet) this is going with the trend of "mega marts" like Wegmans and Harris Teeter. Owen Brown is doing the same thing with its Giant. It just expanded to a good size plus I don't see room for additional expansion.
At Hickory Ridge current tenants in addition to Giant are Jiffy Drop (packaging and shipping), The Fractured Prune, Renew Shoe, SunTrust Bank, Master Barber, Rave Reviews:A Consignment Shop, Dominos Pizza, PNC Bank, Decantur Fine Wines, Luna Bella Ristorante, Peking Chef, Nirita Sushi, Pro Finish Nail Salon, Hair Cuttery, Wardrobe Valet Dry Cleaners, and Subway, and Hickory Ridge Sunoco. Also on site are Sunrise Assisted Living and the Goddard School.
Besides the new Giant renovations at Hickory Ridge should be relatively minimal. It's laid out with two strips and a front and back parking lot. Between the two strips and parking lots is "The Avenue" a pedestrian walkway. Shops in the middle of the Avenue don't get the visibility that outer shops do. My solution to this would be to turn the Avenue into vehicular cut through. Think the Avenue at White Marsh. This would bring back a Main Street element to the Village Center.

Now there are still three vacancies in the Village Center. Blockbuster left because Netflix is killing the chain (close to every Blockbuster in Columbia has closed or is going to.), The Dollar Bazzar left because it's too low class for an upscale Village Center like Hickory Ridge (renovation to the space was non existent), and Hickory Ridge Chiropractic left because a retail center is not the best place for a Doctor's Office. United Optical at Long Reach is the exception to this rule.
Backfilling these vacancies shouldn't too hard. I suggest a Cold Stone Creamery (the first in the area) for the Chiropractic Space. I think an old Columbia favorite that has recently closed its doors at the mall; Bun Penney Food & Wine should go where Blockbuster was. Bun Penney didn't close due to lack of business it closed because their rent was close to $40,000 a month. Where the Dollar Bazzar was it should be subdivided into two spaces. The first half would be a Jeweler maybe a Jared's and the other half would be a full service day spa. I think Jiffy Drop has got to go in favor of a better packaging and shipping place like FedEX Kinkos or the UPS Store.

One thing Hickory Ridge Village Center lacks is an Interfaith Center and a Community Center. I don't believe the Hawthorn Center on Sunny Spring was meant to serve long term as Hickory Ridge's Community Center. It's seems more like a neighborhood Center. There's a parcel land on Cedar Lane just south of the Village Center that would be perfect to house both a new Community Center and an Interfaith Center for Hickory Ridge.