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.

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