Friday, December 25, 2009

Hickory Ridge Redvelopment

There are those who think that Hickory Ridge doesn't need any redevelopment because it's one of Columbia's newest Villages. Fact of the matter is Hickory Ridge is Columbia's Fifth Village with the first homes going up in the early 1970s before Owen Brown. Hickory Ridge was built in stages and three big reasons that it's thought of as a new Village is because its Village Center is Columbia's second newest opening in 1992, the newer housing st along Broken Land Parkway and Hickory Ridge Road, and Clarys Forest. Even Clarys Forest has a few developments that need redevelopment and with that I give you the redevelopment of Hickory Ridge.First comes Sierra Villas. I don't ever recall these ever being attractive in their 35 year existence. Located at the high traffic Cedar Lane and Hickory Ridge Road intersection they serve as a Gateway to Clary's Forest.Villas can be done right. First off, these have Garages allowing for more homes to be built on the land locked site Sierra Villas sits on. Garages are much better than carports when it comes to security, protection, and cosmetics. These villas are built with vinyl siding and brick compared with the yellow stucco and brown wooding siding of the current Sierra Villas. This will be 100% Market Rate Home Ownership.Next there's the Bluffs at Clary's Forest, surrounded by newer looking developments like Clarys Chase, Reflections, The Club Merion, and Clary's Crossing. There haven't been any interior renovations here and the trees are sick not allowing grass to grow here. In its place will be new elevator mixed income Apartments/Condos 55% Market Rate Home Ownership 35% Market Rate Rentals and 10% Subsidized Home Ownership. It will also complement the existing developments nearby.The Greens at Columbia, now why this one? There haven't been interior renovations and the amount needed (I toured this complex) would require vacating the complex and gutting the interior and updating the exterior facades. A full redevelopment would be just as viable.In its place will be a new courtyard style Condo Complex that would complement the way the Greens at Columbia are currently configured. A new development would put a new face on another Clarys Forest "Gateway" Complex like Sierra Villas. It will be 50% Market Rate Home Ownership and 50% Below Market Rate Home Ownership.The Bluffs at Hawthorn is identical to the Bluffs at Clarys Forest. Surrounding Developments along Hickory Ridge Road are newer and have had substantial reinvestment at the same time. The Bluffs at Hawthorn has neither of these things. It's time this aging development be replaced with new 100% Market Rate Rentals that would go with its surroundings better. The old Bluffs at Hawthorn shares the same flaws as the Bluffs at Clarys Forest.Hickory Ridge Place might be the first Apartment Building in the Village. Even though it's had interior renovations it's still seen better days. In fact, I would have it redeveloped as a 100% Subsidized Senior Apartment Complex.Here's a good example of a new Senior Apartment Building that would be a great replacement for Hickory Ridge Place. It has the same branching off that Hickory Ridge Place does.

Well most of you would think that these developments don't need to be changed. I do mostly because they haven't withstood the test of time. In order for Columbia to be a contender in the 21st Century all developments need to look in pristine condition. And I do mean all of them.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Vantage Point Reinvestment

Town Center is almost exclusively new housing. Banneker was built in the mid 1990s and that's the second oldest part. Vantage Point is the oldest part and most think of it as an extension to Running Brook (I grew up in Vantage Point and had to explain it that way when somebody asked where I lived). I didn't even count Creighton's Run (Davidge Drive) as Town Center because it's too weird to think of that as Town Center. Vantage Point is full of subdivisions that were built from 1974-1986. Vantage House was completed in 1990 but I'm concentrating on all ages housing stock. How about we reinvest in Vantage Point and make it look brand new just like the rest of Town Center? Also the part of Running Brook that Vantage Point abuts to I would have redeveloped.
First lets start off with the Condos on Smooth Meadow Way. They were built in 1983 and with a minor facelift they can look brand new.The new look for Smooth Meadow I'm taking cues from Island Club Apartments in Dorsey's Search which believe it or not were built in 1986 and just received a face lift themselves.Now we come to Ring Dove Lane town homes built in 1974 these were the first homes in Vantage Point, I resided at 5477 from 1988-2003 age 4-19, I attended Running Brook Elementary and Wilde Lake Middle and High. They've already received face lifts in 2000 but I'd like to kick it up a notch. Two story town homes will lose the front storage patios (which were always a carpenter bee's haven) to make way for larger front yards and more decorative front windows. The bedroom balconies and bump outs will be taken out as well. Up stairs windows will be moved away from the sides to allow for decorative shutters. The bricks that separate each home will be done away with.The three story town homes will have garages built where the carports currently are. Front doors will be bumped out to reflect this as well. Balconies will be done away with just like the two stories for decorative windows as will the separating bricks. Windows here are in a much better location for shutters.Here's what I have in mind for the two stories, notice the clean fresh appearance and the decorative features currently lacking. The three stories, now garages will give Ring Dove Lane a more modern look than the dated car ports and will make them a bigger selling point.
Waterbury town homes have held up quite well. Built in 1984, a good 10 years after the first houses in Vantage Point they still use wooden siding and every row of houses uses the same light blue color.
I'm using Foregate on the Green in Dorsey's Search as a good idea for putting on new siding in Waterbury. It will use vinyl siding and use different colors to create a more interesting mix of homes.Now we come to Glen Meadows, which consists of both Condos and Town Homes. Built in 1986 they're Vantage Point's newest homes yet they look the most dated. The dark wood siding and the lack of front windows over the front doors don't do these homes any favors. The condos, although their siding is dated don't need any real design changes. The new siding will take care of everything. I might add enclosed building entries as a safety measure.I took design cues from a rental Apartment/Town Home Complex known as Kaiser Park in Ellicott City. Although it was built from 2003-2004 a good 17-18 years after Glen Meadows it's easy to plug in the design of these homes into Glen Meadows. I'm aware Glen Meadows has garages and these don't but look beyond that. The condos are even easier to transform. Just add new siding and an enclosed building entry and there's your new Glen Meadows. These are the Apartments at Kaiser Park in Ellicott City same development as the Town Homes.Water's Edge is Vantage Point's second development. Built in 1975 these town homes are huge! They use a stucco exterior which is dated and that's putting it nicely. Unlike the rest of Vantage Point it's hard to grow grass here. That's a sign that the trees here are sickly and need to be replaced with new healthy trees allowing grass to grow once again.For Waters Edge I used Summerfield at River Hill as a design cue. Their brick fronts provide a fresh modern look. They also have fireplaces in the front like Waters Edge which has and this shows this design can look in the 21st century.

Well that's for Vantage Point, the neighborhood that raised me, after the housing stock is updated it will look brand new just like the rest of Town Center making it fit in perfectly.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Owen Brown Reinvestment

Like I've said before Owen Brown has some of Columbia's most dated housing stock yet it one of the fewest number of rental properties of any Columbia Village. Also the size of most homes in Owen Brown are very large. These reasons and more are why redevelopment on a large scale in Owen Brown isn't the answer to put it in the 21st century.
Other Villages warrant redevelopment so much more than Owen Brown but that doesn't mean Owen Brown doesn't need a massive face lift to stay viable. So, I will start a serious of posts that support the massive over haul of exterior facades in almost all Columbia Villages starting with Owen Brown. So here's the reinvestment of Owen Brown.First we start with Southwick. Southwick is a town home development located on both Knighthood Lane and Talisman Lane. The uniform brick design leaves a lot to the imagination. There is also a lack of windows here. The windows that are here have no decorative trimmings and bump outs on the front doors.
Although these are apartments, they were built in 1974 and underwent a massive exterior facade overhaul. It's a mixture of the original uniform bricks coupled with siding, shutters, and slanted roof decorative trimming. This would be a great new look for Southwick although they're town homes.Elkhorn Landing town homes also need a major overhaul. The chimneys on the front need to disused to create a more uniform appearance. The homes use wooden siding and brick fronts. Elkhorn Landing is located on Lasting Last Way and Winter Rose Path. Vinyl siding with stone and shutters and bay windows would make a great new appearance to Elkhorn Landing. Also there are many more windows in the new Elkhorn Landing allowing for more natural lighting.Here we are in Woodlake, whose design is similar to that of Southwick only the homes are much larger. The front yards here have also turned for the worse. Old and sick trees have caused grass to stop growing around their bases. A good investment in this neighborhood would be to remove said trees and plant new healthy ones in their place and reseeding lawns. Woodlake is located on Kerry Hill Court, Mossy Brink Court, and Hickory Log Circle.This new design concept is probably the easiest to see. The homes here are split foyer like those in Woodlake, and are brick front. They incorporate many more windows which in Owen Brown are an endangered species or at least they were in the mid to late 1970s when these homes were built. One thing to point out is that newer town homes have a uniformed look to their backs. This is something that homes in Owen Brown currently lack and that should be incorporated in its reinvestment.Swanpoint is probably Owen Brown's modernist looking development. That's probably because it's newer having been built in the 1980s rather than the '70s. All it needs is some new siding for a fresher appearance. Swanpoint is located on Swanpoint Lane and Harbor Lane.As luck would have there is such a development built just a few years later in Clary's Forest which Swanpoint can model itself after.The last two developments off of Cradlerock Way that are blighted look exactly the same and their new look will also be the same. The are Dockside and Lakeside and they're located on Dockside Lane and Broken Staff respectively. The trees here are also sick and need to be cut down and replaced with healthy ones to allow grass to grow.
I looked to Baltimore for inspiration on the Dockside/Lakeside renewal. I used the Townes At Orchard Ridge which is a redevelopment in and of itself. It replaced the Claremont Homes and Freedom Village Public Housing Projects. You can see some of them are two stories and others are three just like the homes they're modeling to be.The Duplexes in Hopewell at the end of Carved Stone and Stag Horn Path could use a freshening. Like Woodlake, the landscaping is at the mercy of sick and old trees. It's time to replace these tress as well with healthier ones to let the grass grow.These town homes don't look much different than the duplexes but like I said they just need a freshening.

Well that's it for the reinvestment of Owen Brown. Along with the redevelopment, Owen Brown will look completely renewed and you'll barely recognize it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dorseys Search Village Center

Dorsey's Search Village Center set the benchmark when it opened in 1989. First, it was the first Village Center to be built with an open air strip concept, it was the first Village Center in West Columbia to be built in 18 years, and it was the first Village Center to use a large Grocery which, 20 years later is still the same size and needs no expansion.
Dorsey's Search has set the benchmark for newer Village Centers and the redevelopment of old ones.
Over the years, like many Village Centers Dorsey's Search has hosted many tenants in its life time. They include; Video Library, Crown Books, Sundaes, Roy Rogers, Amore Italian Deli, Venture Travel, Party Party Party, Bruggers Bagel Bakery, ZiPani, The Dark Room, Cingular Wireless, European Touch of Beauty, Nationwide Insurance Office, and Beverly's Hallmark.
Today Dorsey's Search plays host to a lot of restaurants and hair salons. The current tenant roster is Giant (which was just renovated inside), Parcel Plus, Cleaners Plus, Great Clips (from Wilde Lake), Hunan Legend, Subway (I worked there from late 2000 to February 2002) Honey Baked Ham (nee Heavenly Ham), Dorsey's Search Wine & Spirits, Avalon Hair, Nails & Spa, Trattoria Pizza Pasta & More, Casey's Coffee, Master Barber, Blockbuster Video (Going Out of Business), Chevy Chase Bank, and a Sunoco Station.
Just like any Village Center or Retail Center for that matter Dorsey's Search has had a turnover of tenants and expansion into different spaces. Video Library left and Party Party Party took over its space, Crown Books left and in came Bruggers then ZiPani then Subway (Subway took most of the space while Hunan Legend expanded into the rest. Venture Travel left after 9/11 and Heavenly Ham (now Honey Baked Ham) expanded into that space.
The Dark Room left and hosted a couple short lived businesses; Cingular Wireless and a Nationwide Insurance Office, now it's home to a Great Clips. Amore, a seemingly successful Italian Deli left or was bought out by the far Superior Trattoria Pizza Pasta and More (They own several Restaurants in Howard County) Sundae's left a while ago and Casey's Coffee has made good use of that space.
When vacancies came on the scene at Dorsey's Search, they were back filled pretty quickly. The vitality of the Center has kept it "hot spot" for chains and Mom & Pop businesses alike. Roy Rogers was the only long standing vacancy in the Center. There is one vacancy right one whose last tenant was Beverly's Hallmark (formerly Party Party Party) this is a large vacancy which may be hard to back fill with just one business.One reason that the old Roy Rogers space stayed as long as it did (roughly three years late '96 to late '99) was that McDonalds bought out Roy Rogers and there were rumors that the Golden Arches might take over the space. This never came to fruition and a Blockbuster ultimately moved in. Now 10 years later, the last Blockbuster in a Village Center (this one) is closing its doors. I don't blame the location or the bad economy for this, I blame the evolution of retail i.e. Netflix. Netflix has killed the Blockbuster chain. Blockbuster is fighting back with its own Mail Order Video Rental and boasts that rather than sending back your rentals through the mail, you can simply return it to your neighborhood Blockbuster, too bad they're all closing.
I don't see this space as being any easier to back fill in 2009 than it was in the late 1990s. This time, it's the economy rather than McDonalds deciding what to do with it. Luckily, I have my own ideas about how to back fill not just the soon to be vacant Blockbuster Space but Dorsey's Search Village Center as a whole. In case you haven't figured it out all my posts eventually tell people what I think needs to be done. Kimco (the Center's Owner) can look within the Center to back fill Blockbuster. Yes, it's Subway as pictured above.
Although it spent a the past 10 years as a Blockbuster, the space still has the bones of a Fast Food Restaurant. Pictured above is the retired Drive Thru path and Window used when the space was a Roy Rogers. Currently, the Subway doesn't have a Drive Thru here but there are Subways that do have them. Moving Subway here will give it a cutting edge advantage of being the only area Subway with a Drive Thru Window. It will also increase business. It's a win win all around.Drive Thrus have evolved since the departure of Roy Rogers and before Subway can take it over, there will have to be some minor changes. The biggest one being the addition of a second window. Judging by the appearance of the back of the space this can be easily accomplished. One window is for paying, the other for picking up your order. That's how Drive Thrus have evolved in recent years. Of course an ordering screen and speaker will have to be reinstalled.
Now we didn't decrease any vacancies with the Subway move we just made a shift in the location of one tenant. The current Subway Space will now be vacant and would have to be back filled. I would suggest a Jeweler. The area boasts a very high median income especially when one factors in that Ellicott City Neighborhoods such as Font Hill, Burleigh Manor, Dunloggin, and Grey Rock Farm use this Village Center as well. Maybe a Jared's or another Everett.

Now to back fill the large space vacated by Beverly's Hallmark. Like I said before, I don't foresee it being one large business but two or three smaller ones. Like I also said before, Dorsey's Search has a lot of Restaurants and Hair Salons so to mix up the Tenant Roster it would be wise not to add more of those. Half of the space can be a High End Consignment Boutique. There's been a successful one in Hickory Ridge forever and one just opened in King's Contrivance. This part of the retail niche has been a good alternative to buying new during the recession. One fourth of the space could be a "Tan Stand" a tanning salon, and the last bit could be a photo framer. In Waverly Woods Village Center there's a great example of one and perhaps the Owners of that one could open another location in Dorsey's Search.

Casey's Coffee is a business that I think of as a competitor to Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. Now Dunkin Donuts also host a Baskin Robbins these days, a good way for each business to expand while keeping costs manageable. I think Casey's Coffee, although indepently owned has room to host another business within itself. The Other Business? Smoothie King. Smoothie King is a rapidly growing business that needs to find a niche in Columbia. I suggested one for Owen Brown Village Center and now I'm suggesting one here in Dorsey's Search. I think the brand recognition of Smoothie King will in turn boost business in Casey's Coffee. Another win win. I'm not suggesting Casey's Coffee is struggling by any means I'm just saying that when was the last time a Business Owner has said: "I wish we didn't have so many Customers"

Chevy Chase Bank has been a long time tenant (I believe it's an original) but when facing Dorsey Hall Drive it appears its free standing building is vacant. This picture faces the main strip where the Bank appears as it should; Open For Business.I took this picture when I was getting gas at the Sunoco Station adjacent to the Bank. This is what is seen from Dorsey Hall Drive. I thought Chevy Chase had left the Center because I hadn't taken any pictures yet. There needs to be an illuminated sign and perhaps a second ATM on this side of the Building to attract more Business from Dorsey Hall Drive.Now for some minor Cosmetic Improvements to the Center. There are archways that are freshly painted bright white. This makes the siding and stucco trim in the Center look washed out and faded. So, the siding should be replaced with the same bright white color and the stucco should be painted that same white as the archways. This will give the Center a new and refreshed look. In 2000, the Rouse Company (Center Owners at the time) put up signs to let people know what Businesses were in the Center. One thing that signs don't have for the most part are logos for chains and they're not illuminated for night time passers by. This is an improvement I'd like to see and it will pay off.Last but not least is the intersection of Dorsey Hall Drive and the Main Entrance to the Village Center. This has become difficult to negotiate during peak day time hours and a traffic signal should be installed here to control the growing traffic volume.

Now, Dorsey's Search is one of Columbia's healthiest most vibrant Village Centers yet I wrote a very long post about it, Like any Village Center or any Retail Center for that matter, it needs to be closely examined to make sure it continues to do so.