Monday, June 15, 2009

Walgreens to the Rescue!

Walgreens has been trying to open its first Columbia Store for quite some time now.
First it was in Dorsey's Search across from the Dorsey Medical Building but the County wouldn't give them the necessary zoning.Now it's Oakland Mills on the grounds of a closed BB&T Bank branch. Commuinty outcry has thrown a monkey wrench in their plans but haven't been scrapped to my knowledge. It seems like wherever Walgreens wants to open up shop in Columbia they're not wanted. But suppose there was a location that would benefit from a Walgreens at least for the time being. How about an offer is put on the table they can't refuse?As I'm sure you're all painfully aware, Kimco has scrapped any redevelopment plans for Wilde Lake Village Center due to the economy. No apartments no nothing. They're also not pursuing any Grocers top replace Giant. Now, Grocers site proximity to competing properties as the reason for not opening a store in Wilde Lake but I'm sure if the economy were in better shape there would be plenty of store chains both local and national looking into expanding into the West Columbia Market. When that time comes Kimco should pursue them aggressively with the help of CA and the County.Now where does that leave Walgreens? Why not have them open at Wilde Lake in the Giant space until a Full Service Grocer can be nailed down. At 22,000 square feet and change that would be the perfect size for a Walgreens and it would increase foot traffic in the Village Center and increase sales in existing businesses that are currently hurting.
Very few modifications would have to be made to the space that Giant occupied for 39 and a half years. All that would need to be done would to install a drive through lane seeing as most Walgreens have them. That would go in the back of the building which ironically faces Twin Rivers Road. That's early Columbia Planning for you.Now why am I so sure Walgreens would agree to open up in Wilde Lake? After all I'm sure Kimco has pursued them because their stores fit the existing foot print of the old Giant Space making redevelopment unnecessary. Well, Kimco most likely hasn't offered them the space RENT FREE!
Now would I suggest that Kimco essentially give away an anchor space in one of its Village Centers? Actually, it's logical on both ends of the spectrum. Kimco, for now has all but given up on searching for a viable Wilde Lake solution so they're eating the loss of revenue from the Giant Space.
With Giant being empty Wilde Lake has lost a lot of other merchants including Produce Galore which was an anchor in and of itself. Other merchants to leave the center include
Feet First (they moved to Hickory Ridge), Great Clips (they moved to Dorsey's Search),The Medicine Shoppe, and Reidel's Florist.
Other merchants in danger of leaving the Center include the Bagel Bin their business has plummeted since the closing of Giant,
Anthony Richard Barbershop, they've been at Wilde Lake since its opening in 1967 and if business doesn't pick up the long time Barbers might decide to retire,
and Today's Catch Seafood Market. Although they maintain a loyal customer base and have decided to "weather the storm" of Wilde Lake let me remind you that they were originally in Harpers Choice and they moved to Wilde Lake when Harpers Choice lost its Valu Food Anchor. There's a vacant storefront in Hickory Ridge left when the Fractured Prune went belly up that would be the perfect size for Today's Catch. I wouldn't be surprised to Today's Catch moving there and once again sharing a Village Center with Feet First.Now keep in mind that these are only the businesses that I see closing and or moving. Giving away the Giant Space to Walgreens temporarily would stem the tide of store closings. Walgreens, wanting to open up shop in Columbia despite the shaky economy would probably jump at the chance to not only open in Columbia but not have to build their store like they would have in their other instances, they can just move in. Walgreens has less competition now that the Medicine Shoppe has closed further making this little arrangement feasible.
Kimco, in the mean time can still pursue a Full Service Grocer like Superfresh, Mars, or Food Lion to expand their portfolio into Wilde Lake and redevelop the Village Center to keep it viable for decades to come. For now, it's Walgreens to the Rescue!


Anonymous said...

Don't jump the gun on doubting the Walgreens will build in Oakland Mills. A large % of the OM population support the project as does OM Board. It may take time but we truly believe the site at 175/TH Road will be a done deal for the store.

Spence said...

Within 24 hours of me publishing this post I read in the Columbia Flyer that the Development Plan for Walgreens had passed. On that same page I read that legislation for revitalizing Village Centers has not passed. Wilde Lake's goose is cooked and Oakland Mills residents seem to have forgotten how hard it is for them to hold onto a Grocery Store in their Village Center. I can only hope Food Lion can hold its own with Walgreens.

Columbia2 said...

Spence, I am with you on this one. I think the Oakland Mills Board needs to be questioned about putting the prosperity of Walgreens at such a dangerous intersection before the safety of residents. Additionally I think you are correct that Walgreens will hurt Food Lion, and we should be glad to finally have a local grocery store.