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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Owen Brown Redevelopment

Owen Brown has some of the most dated housing stock in all of Columbia. That being said, it has very few rental complexes; two to be exact and one is still new.
Redevelopment in Owen Brown will be constricted to areas along Cradlerock that have struggled with crime and can't be modernized with major exterior facade over hauls. Other older Columbia Villages have more of this housing stock, therefore much more of their housing stock falls in the redevelopment category. Owen Brown's housing stock has gone stagnant and much of its housing stock needs a massive exterior face lift that will be discussed in another post. Now for the redevelopment of Owen Brown.
First off, will be the "Chimney's of Cradlerock. Their dated appearance and safety issues and lack of maintenance have put a damper on this "entrance to Owen Brown" when entering Cradlerock via Broken Land Parkway. There is also a lot of Section 8 housing that home owners in neighboring Communities are concerned about. In its place will be new Apartments/Condos known as "Owen Brown Crossing that will greatly improve and renew the appearance of Owen Brown when traveling on Cradlerock and Broken Land Parkway. This will also allow for affordable home ownership in Howard County in 25% of its units with the rest being market rate rentals. This surely will revamp outside interest in Owen Brown and East Columbia as a whole.The next development is privately owned town homes on Quiet Hours across from the Chimneys at Cradlerock and the East Columbia Library has long been the victim of loitering and spill over problems from other Communities. There are also lots of rentals here that have been neglected. The small size of these homes have made them less attractive to buyers where a larger could be found at the same price. Exterior facade improvements can't make the houses bigger.In its place will be "Dasher Green Pointe" which will consist of "stacked" two level town homes that are wider than what is currently there allowing for larger homes without compromising density with two homes where there used to be just one. These will be 65% Market Rate Home Ownership and 35% Market Rate Rentals.
Now we come to Greenleaf. This neighborhood has seen its share of crime over the years. The homes are some of the ugliest Columbia has to offer and the ones with separate basement Apartments have created problems with their upstairs neighbors. There have been lots of rentals here in the past adding to the blighted appearance. Landscaping is barren and makes the homes that much more prominent. During the late 1990s the drug trade raided this neighborhood. Pathways along here have become less safe as well.The redeveloped Green Leaf will be named "Broken Land Crossing" and although they're larger One Car Garage Town Homes there will be more units. The infrastructure will be completely redone and will stretch closer to Broken Land Parkway to further reiterate the new Owen Brown.The Cradlerock Mart and Cleaners replaced the long vacant High's Store. The High's Store left due to robberies and petty theft. This has been a blighted eyesore on Owen Brown for far too long. The Cradlerock Mart has also been the victim of robberies and has barred windows. We're not in West Baltimore people!Royal Farms would make a great replacement for the blighted Cradlerock Mart. Shown here is a Flagship Royal Farms Store that Owen Brown should follow when redeveloping the Convenience Store. The Day Care Center on Homespun Drive is the last part of Owen Brown that needs to be redeveloped, this is Elkhorn's Neighborhood. There should have been another pool and Elementary School here.I'm not proposing the New Building be a Goddard School but they should use this as a model.

Well, like I said there's not much in Owen Brown that needs redeveloping. Stay tuned for the Owen Brown Reinvestment Post that will cover more of Owen Brown and really renew Owen Brown.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Harpers Choice Redevelopment

I'll be the first to say that Harper's Choice has made a huge come back in the past several years but is that enough? It needs to be more visual than that just a drastic reduction in crime, higher School Test Scores and higher property values.
There are still pockets saturated with blighted section 8 housing that may deter future homeowners and renters. With older Columbia Villages it's all about creating a sense of new. Why buy an older home in Columbia when you can buy a newer one in Ellicott City or Elkridge. Lets at least give them an option of new construction in Columbia. So with that, I give my redevelopment plan for Harpers Choice.

First, we'll start off with Harper's Forest Apartments and Ranleigh Court Town Homes. Harper's Forest Apartments is market level rentals with a few Section 8 units thrown in. The buildings are old and tired looking. Despite recent renovations to the interiors it still lacks the modern conveniences that dwellers of modern day complexes take for granted such as a washer & dryer in the unit and walk in closets to name a couple. Ranleigh Court is a Community Homes development consisting exclusively of section 8 units.
In place of both developments will be new condos and apartments that look like these. It will be a mixed income community known as "Swansfield Crossing." A possible street connection making turnabout lane even with Twin Rivers Road should be considered. The name appropriate because the new community would be visible to passers by on Little Patuxent Parkway and will make a good impression of Harpers Choice. The income mix will be 45% Market Rate Homeownership, 40% Market Rate Rental, 10% Subsidized Homeownership, and 5% Subsidized Rentals.Next we come to Fall River Terrace, perhaps the worst Community Homes development. It's struggled with drug dealing, loud parties, and messy common areas. The redevelopment of Fall River Terrace will be very symbolic in the continued renewal of Harper's Choice.What will now grace the grounds of Fall River Terrace will be "The Townes of Harper's Choice." which will consist of two car garage town homes with said garage located in the back of the home. These wider town homes have a few narrow units made to look the width one of the normal ones. The narrow ones will be the subsidized units. The income mix will be 100% Home ownership 75% Market Rate and 25% Subsidized.
Next we come to the Meadows Town Homes located both off of Eliots Oak Road and Hesperous Drive. This is the first Community in Harper's Choice I'd like to see redeveloped that is Owner Occupied. That would make redevelopment all the more difficult when acquiring land and property from dozens of owners rather than just one or two, but "if you don't dream big don't dream it all" that's been my motto when writing these blogs. The meadows has become dated and the small size of the homes are not compatible with the needs of a modern family. Homeowners have tried very hard to maintain their homes but there are somethings they can't change. The streets located in the meadows are as follows; Hildebrand Court located off of Eliots Oak Road closest to Harpers Farm Road, Fallriver Row Court between Hildebrand Court and Hesperous Drive, Mystic Court located off of Hesperous Drive closest to Eliots Oak Road and Endicott Lane located farthest from Eliots Oak Road. The location of these streets will play a pivotal part in their redevelopment. Notice the two different style of Town Homes I chose for this new Community. The first picture is of one car garage "stacked" two level town homes which will be on the outer edge of the new Community titled "Longfellow Pointe" The outer portions include the southern part of Hildebrand Court, the northern, eastern, and western ends of Mystic Court, and all of Endicott Lane. The inner portions of "Longfellow Pointe will include the northern portion of Hildebrand Court, all of Fallriver Row Court, and the southern portion of Mystic Court. These homes will be one or two garage "back to back" town homes where what you think is the back of a home is actually the front of a totally different home with a different street address. That's why I positioned these particular homes in the middle of the Community where they will only face each other. These will be 100% Market Rate with a 50-50 Homeowner/Rental split.
Capistrano Villas are town homes with an apartment underneath located between Fenland Fields Apartments and Harper's Choice Village Center. Their dated style and lack of exterior maintenance make them ripe for redevelopment. Also being near Fenland Fields Apartments has had a negative effect on this development (you have to drive Fenland Feilds to access it.)
In its place will be "Joesph Square Overlook" the original name for Harper's Choice Village Center was just that, Joesph Square. Capistrano Villas overlooked the Village Center and so will its replacement hence the name. I like to throw in a little history when I can. Joseph Square Overlook will be laid out the same as its predecessor; two story town homes with an apartment underneath. The town homes are accessible by going up the flight of stairs and the apartment entrance is at ground level. Upon entering the apartment, you'd go down a flight of stairs first. Joseph Square Overlook will be 100% Market Rate Home Ownership. This vacant parcel at the corner of Harpers Farm Road and Rivendel Lane overlooks the Golf Course and would be prime for over priced condos. I'm choosing a different method for this piece of land.What I have in mind is Senior Apartments ages 62 & Better. They will be 100% Subsidized Rentals and displaced Seniors from Ramleigh Court, Waverly Winds, Fall River Terrace, and Harper House will get first dibs. The new development will be called "The Fairways at Hobbits Glen."Harper House (nee Abbott House) was once Harper's Choice's most dangerous development. There was drug dealing in the stair wells, loud parties, and even a shooting or two. There have been numerous drug related arrests here that have calmed things down in the mean time. The building is dated and casts a blighted shadow at one of Harper's Coice's most heavily traveled intersections; Cedar Lane and Harpers Farm Road. Currently this is 100% subsidized rentals.In is place will be three mixed income buildings like this one with underground parking. They will be built on the grounds of the former Harper House, its parking lot, and green patch adjacent to it. The income mix will be 55% Market Rate Home Ownership 35% Market Rate Rentals 5% Subsidized Home Ownership and 5% Subsidized Rentals. The new development will be called "Swansfield Grove."Harper's Village (Grand Banks Road) has seen better days (and worse.) Being located between two Section 8 developments (Harper House and Waverly Winds) has taken its toll on these owner occupied town homes. Although similar developments will be spared (Harper's Glen and Merion Station) and its Section 8 neighbors will be redeveloped, Harper's Village needs to be redeveloped as well to streamline the new development in Harper's Choice.
In its place will be "Swansfield Overlook", two story town homes with basements. These town homes pictured have two car garages in the back but Swansfield Overlook will not have garages and will utilize existing on street parking. Swansfield Overlook will be 100% Subsidized Home Ownership and will help moderate income families become home owners in Howard County.Waverly Winds, the final "Community Homes" development has struggled with crime and drugs in the 1990s and still has a ways to go. In an effort to create a broader income mix throughout Harper's Choice, Waverly Winds will be redeveloped.
In its place will be the mixed income Community known as "The Crescent at Swansfield", which will feature three level two car garage town homes. The garages will be located in the back of the homes. The income mix will be 50% Market Rate Home Ownership 40% Market Rate Rental and 10% Subsidized Rentals.

Fenland Fields Apartments are sprawled in three different sections along Harpers Farm Road. Each section therefore, should be redeveloped differently. The first section (pic coming soon) is located at the intersection of Harpers Farm Road and Eliots Oak Road. It's between the Athletic Club and Fall river Terrace.

In its place will be "Longfellow Crossing", three story non garage "back to back" homes. It will utilize existing on street parking and paths leading to homes whose fronts aren't accessible through the parking lots. Longfellow Crossing will be 100% Market Rate Rentals. The second section is located between the Athletic Club, The Village Center, and Kahler Hall. Needless to say, this is a weird place for Apartments. So I pose this question to you; Why redevelop it with more of the same if something else the Village Center is lacking maybe a better suit for it? What do I propose for it? An Interfaith Center, Harper's Chocie doesn't have one and there's no other land in the Village available to build one on. The last and largest section of Fenland Fields is lcoated between the Village Center and Rivendell Lane. Part of the redevelopment will include a Traffic Signal at Harpers Farm Road and Rivendell Lane and Cedar Lane and Route 108 due to the higher density of the redeveloped Fenland Fields and both intersections warranting them anyway.

In its place will be will be a new mixed income community of condos. The new community will be called "Parkside at Cedar Lane" due to its breath taking views of Cedar Lane Park. Parkside at Cedar Lane will contain the income mix of 60% Market Rate Home Ownership, 35% Market Rate Rentals, 3% Subsidized Home Ownership, and 2% Subsidized Rentals.

Well, that's it for the redevelopment of Harper's Choice. This will ensure the continued revitalization and renewal of Harper's Choice that the Village has been enjoying since the real estate market surged after the turn of the century. It's time for new construction to go along with it.