Monday, December 27, 2010

Introducing.....Holding Schools and Modernization Pre Phase I

Earlier this year I put forth a plan called the Columbia School Reconstruction Act. It was and is a far reaching plan to Modernize the aging School Buildings in Columbia and put them up to par with new Schools built in other parts of the County. I was very vague on how I would execute this plan, why? Because I didn't have a clue on how I could do it. This post will go into specifics on how to do so. Of course what this doesn't do is indicate how to fund such a bold venture but after decades of funding new School Construction and short changing Columbia Schools, it's time Columbia got a piece of the action. The need for additional buildings has gone down in other parts of the County and not only have Columbia Schools aged but in recent years their enrollment has sky rocketed making the need for intervention all the more urgent. Columbia, it's your turn and here's how it will all be done.

I have extensively researched Montgomery County Schools as they're another rich County in Maryland with Schools that both brand new and aging. Montgomery County has come up with a good way to modernize and or replace old School Buildings that have reached the end of their life cycle and give the student population a place to learn during construction. Montgomery County has what they call "Holding Schools" these are Schools of theirs that have closed and are open to populations of Schools that are modernized or rebuilt. Howard County doesn't have any such Schools right now but it can. I've discovered how it can have three.
The first is Clarksville Elementary, in this region of the County we over built. Dayton Oaks, Clarksville, and Pointers Run are all slated to be just over half full in the coming years. That's a lot of wasted space. Clarksville can close and its district can attend either Dayton Oaks and Pointers Run allowing for full utilization of each School while Clarksville opens its doors to west Columbia Students from 2012-2020.
Next will be Cradlerock School. Cradlerock has ceased to be a Prek-8 and has split into two traditional Elementary and Middle Schools. Presumably the Elementary School will be named Dasher Green like it was before and the middle School will be Owen Brown just like it was before.
The two are slated to continue sharing a roof but I have a plan to change that. Owen Brown was supposed to have its own High School which explains why there are so many ball fields near the School.
Obviously Owen Brown High was never built and students attend Oakland Mills for High School. But the available ball fields will allow for the construction of two new separate buildings one an Elementary School and one a Middle School.These will be the first new Schools built under the Reconstruction Act and construction will begin in the 2011-2012 School year and the new Schools will open Fall of 2012. I'm making all construction projects one year instead of two. Cradlerock will be a Holding School for itself and when it empties, for other East Columbia Schools. The two Schools pictured above are new Montgomery County Schools that Columbia will model its Schools after. The first picture is the new Owen Brown Middle and the second is the new Dasher Green Elementary.
The third Holding School, which won't be used that often will be the old Elkridge Elementary. This stopped being a School when its replacement opened in 1992. It will mostly be used for when High Schools are rebuilt and the districts are carved in three (one at each holding) but will be used for other ventures as well. A couple of Schools won't need holding Schools because their replacements will be built on a different site.

Now I've used a new term that I haven't used before until writing this post "modernization" this is what some of the Schools will undergo instead of a complete tear down while others will undergo a complete tear down. Montgomery County uses this term for Schools that are old but have had recent additions added on and said additions because they're not old will be spared. Only the original part of the building gets torn down and connected to the addition. A modernization is much more than a standard "systematic renovation" that older Howard County Schools get, a modernization is everything but a replacement School, a modernized and a completely torn down School will look exactly the same; brand spankin' new inside and out.

Also during the summer of 2011 Deep Run Elementary will undergo systemic renovations.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Long Reach Reinvestment

Although I'm calling for a lot of redevelopment in Long Reach there are developments here that need not hit the wrecking ball. At the same time their exterior facades could use a lot of updating so that's when I put out a "compromise" post that involves reinvesting into the Communities in question and modernizing the exterior to give equity to Home Owners so they can do the same on the inside. So, after a month of completely bulldozing Long Reach lets end it on a happier note that doesn't involve displacement.

First we start in Locust Park, believe it or not some of Locust Park will still be standing after the demolition crews have done their jobs. The Wooded Ridge Town Homes on Lambskin Lane have escaped the difficulties that the rest of Locust Park hasn't been able to. The Homes are rather small but that alone isn't reason to redevelop them. Also if you're looking to buy you can get a good price here.
The rehabbed Wooded Ridge will feature brand new bricks, trim, roofs, shutters, and windows. New grass will be planted as will shrubs and flowers. If there are sick trees that hinder the growth of new grass then that tree will be cut down and a new baby tree will go in its place.
Next we go to Phelps Luck to the Town Homes at the intersection of Phelps Luck Drive and Lightspun Lane. These feature brick and stucco exteriors that lets face it are just plain ugly. Maintenance has been so so as a whole but even good maintenance can't cure ugly.
As these Homes are fixed up, the brick homes will get new bricks and the stucco homes will get vinyl siding. Newer more modern looking windows will be installed as well.

Here's a look at what the new backs of the Homes will look like if you're driving down Tamar Drive. If you didn't know any better you'd think these Homes were redeveloped.
Now Bladegreen Lane holds a secret, it would appear that in passing it's just single family homes but guess again! At the end of the road lies the King Charles Town Homes. They're just a little dated and offer some very large end units. Currently their fronts are a mixture of brick and siding, their new facades will be all brick.
Now King Charles Town Homes will be fit for a King.
Now we come to Wood Creek Town Homes. These homes are almost indentical to Bryant Square in Wilde Lake which I'm suggesting to have redeveloped. Bryant Square is in a much worse Neighborhood and the Homes have suffered as a result. Wood Creek just has dated homes and it's located in a much better area.
The newly modernized Wood Creek will also feature brick front Homes with new windows, doors, trim, shutters, and siding on the back.
Here's a look at what one will see from the back of Wood Creek. Just like the Lightspun Lane development, the Homes will appear to be brand new without a single demolition crew.
Finally we come to the small Single Family Home Development at High Tor Hill and Phelps Luck Drive. They lack any sort of front windows whether it's from a Courtyard or simply an absence of windows. These Homes, which are mixture of brick and wood siding will get updated siding and additional full length front windows. Though small in size they're located in a great area and even with new siding and windows, they will be a good deal.
That's it for the reinvestment of Long Reach, how much did you expect me to have? After all, I want so much of it to hit the wrecking ball!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Long Reach: Out of the Hole and into the Mix

Now I just put forth a bold redevelopment plan for Long Reach Village Center that includes new upscale Merchants. Now, when one looks around at the Village Center I'm sure you're thinking, "this guy's crazy! how can the surrounding demographics support this?" Well, they can't and as I've hinted in the previous post, I was discussing Long Reach as a whole Village and the Village Center was part 1 and the residential is part 2. So without further ado, I give you part 2! That will put Long Reach into the mix.

Redevelopment will completely makeover Tamar Drive and make Long Reach a worthy contender to all of the new development along Route 108 and Route 103. It will start in Jeffers Hill at Tamar Drive and Old Montgomery Road and extend through the Village to Old Dobbin Lane, past Old Dobbin Lane is Kendall Ridge which is much newer than the rest of the Village. New housing will transform the entire Locust Park Neighborhood and a few select developments in Jeffers Hill and Phelps Luck that border Tamar Drive will all be transformed into mixed income Communities hence the name; into the mix.

Now, lets start at the beginning of our redevelopment journey and take a pictoral stroll down Tamar Drive. Actually this development (Jeffers Glen Town Homes) doesn't have Tamar Drive frontage, it's off of Majors Lane but redevelopment is needed. There have been reports of gang activity here and lots of burglary and petty theft. In its place will be garage Town Homes with all the modern conveniences that Jeffers Glen currently lacks. The mix will consist of 90% Market Rate Home Ownership, 5% Market Rate Rentals, and 5% Affordable Home Ownership.

Now on to Treover Condos built in 1973 as Apartments and converted into Condos in the early 1980s, Treover also suffers from low Home Ownership, Car Thefts, Burglarys, Petty Theft, and Vandalism (tire slashing) and the like. Also a big problem with older Condo and Apartment developments (besides more bathrooms and walk in closets) is the insecure entrances to the buildings. Once redeveloped, Treover will have all these things and more! What more you ask? Those who don't live on the bottom floor will have an elevator to take from your doorstep to your car without climbing a single stair. The mix in Treover will be 55% Market Rate Home Ownership, 25% Market Rate Rentals, 15% Affordable, and 5% Affordable Rentals.

Now we're going to cross Route 175 into Locust Park which will land us at Columbia Landing west (formerly Bentana) These are Long Reach's oldest Apartments. Unlike Treover, the entrances to the buildings are more secure but for very good reason. Crime here is much more vioent than in Jeffers Hill. The drug trade has lured its ugly head all across Tamar Drive in Locust Park and Columbia Landing West is no exception. These Apartments aren't exclusively Section 8 but there are lots of residents on Section 8 assistance. When redeveloped instead of just two flag lots off of Tamar Drive there will be three. The third one will be directly across from Phelps Luck drive and a Traffic Signal will be installed. The last flag lot will be even with Sweet Wind Place. Three story Elevator Condos/Apartments will replace the dated and blighted Buildings. The mix will be 45% Market Rate Home Ownership 40% Market Rate Rentals 10% Affordable Home Ownership and 5% Affordable Rentals.

Now we cross Tamar Drive into Phelps Luck, we're on Sweet Wind Place in the Heritage Walk Town Home Development. It faces many of the same struggling developments along Tamar Drive including sprawling parking lots. It will be redeveloped with two car garage Town Homes that will make for a denser Community. Although most of the new Homes will have their garages in front the ones that abut to Tamar Drive and High Tor Hill (currently no homes do) will have garages in the back. The mix here will be 65% Market Rate Home Ownerhsip and 35% Market Rate Rentals.

On the other side of High Tor Hill is Yellow Rose Court. The Town Homes are a little smaller and more run down than those in Heritage Walk. Yellow Rose Court was featured in an article back in 2001 as "Inner Columbia" where Kids walk the streets at all hours of the night and the drug trade was flourishing. Despite being Owner Occupied there are lots of rentals some of which are Section 8. Residents have complained about slum lords in the past. I'm quoting the article these aren't my words. The redeveloped Yellow Rose Court will feature three story two car garage Town Homes. As development approaches the Village Center the Homes both Apartments and Town Homes will gradually be taller and denser. The new development will actually be larger because there ia a plot of land off of Yellow Rose Court that has eluded developers for the past 36 years. Also just off of Tamar Drive on High Tor Hill will be a driveway to allow for Homes to be built along Tamar Drive with their garages in the back. The mix for Yellow Rose Court will be 70% Market Rate Home Ownership and 30% Affordable Home Ownership.

Now we cross Tamar Drive again to the developments of Long Reach Knolls and Sierra Woods West. Long Reach Knolls is a Home Ownership development in a sea of Rentals so there are a lot of spill over problems. Sierra Woods is a Section 8 development. The two developments will be redeveloped as one large development. It will contain four story elevator Apartments/Condos. Spiral Cut Lane will be relocated to be even with the Columbia Landing East Entrance and Flowerstock Row will be even with Hayshed Lane. A study will be conducted to see if it warrants a traffic signal. The new development mix will be 65% Market Rate Home Ownership 30% Market Rate Rentals and 5% Affordable Rentals.

Once again we cross Tamar Drive where Columbia Landing East will be redeveloped as three story two car Town Homes. This will effect both the Tamar Drive Units and the Hayshed Lane Units. Like Yellow Rose Court there will be Homes that have Tamar Drive frontage that have their garages in the back. New Homes will also have Hayshed Lane frontage but their garages will be in the front. The mix here will be 50% Market Rate Home Ownership 5% Market Rate Rentals 40% Affordable Home Ownership and 5% Affordable Rentals.

Now we cross Hayshed Lane into Long Reach Condos. These will be redeveloped as one car garage Town Homes which will cover more ground than their predecessors with Homes covering its entire flag lot including some with Hayshed Lane frontage. These Town Homes will be 100% Market Rate Rentals.

Further down Hayshed Lane closer to Tamar Drive is Heatherstone, there is also a Tamar Drive entrance to Heatherstone. Like Long Reach Knolls there is a lot of spill over problems from adjacent Rental properties. On Tamar Drive the entrance will be relocated to be even with Cloudleap Court, the existing traffic signal will have to be modified. Like the adjacent Long Reach Condos the new Heatherstone development will be one car garage Town Homes only these will be 100% Affordable Home Ownership.

Next we come to Sierra Woods East. If one were to catch a bullet in Long Reach, this would be the place. I've spoken of spill over into other developments in this post, this is where they're spilling over from, I'm not just saying this because it's 100% section 8 I'm saying because it's the awful. There may be an effort to draw in Market Rate Residents because Sierra Woods was renovated earlier this year. To quote our President renovating Sierra Woods is like putting lipstick on a pig. It will be redeveloped as two on two stacked Town Homes. Each Town Homes will be two stories with a one car garage making a "stack" four stories. The mix will be 100% Market Rate Home Ownership, a symbol for the change to come in Long Reach by putting the ony 100% Market Rate Home Ownership development located on one that was 100% Section 8. Part of the redevelopment will include making Airy Brink Lane even with Foreland Garth.

For the last time we cross Tamar Drive into Lazy Hollow Apartments which abuts to the Village Center. Lazy Hollow, for a rental complex in Locust Park is relatively quiet. However, the biggest complaint has been the upkeep of the Apartments and Village Center spill over. Lazy Hollow will be redeveloped as 5 story Condos with below ground parking. This goes along with the mentality that the closer one gets to the Village Center, the taller the Buildings. The mix will be 45% Market Rate Homeownership, 35% Market Rate Rentals, 15% Affordable Home Ownership, and 5% Affordable Rentals.

On Foreland Garth, Longwood Apartments will be redveloped as Senior Apartments with more units which allow qualified Seniors living in Locust Park who will be relocated to live there. The new Longwood Apartments will be 100% Affordable Senior rentals.

Seniors looking for an affordable Villa for purchase can move to the new Shalom Square. Between Longwood Apartments and Shalom Square, I think the Howard County Office on Aging will be very happy that I have made every unit below market rate to allow for affordable Senior Housing.

Now that I've put forth a plan to redevelop Long Reach as a whole as well as the Village Center Long Reach is truly out of the Hole this time it's in the Mix not just the income mix but the mix of surrounding new construction.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Long Reach: Out of the Hole and into the Whole

Laundromat?, Beauty Supply that cashes checks?, Lake Trout?, Tax Prep Help?, an unrenovated Grocery Store with expired food on the shelves? in Columbia? This isn't Columbia this is West Baltimore and I would know I frequent West Baltimore for my sister Blog. Sadly the scenario I described was not West Baltimore it's right here in Columbia's Long Reach Village Center. How did this happen? How did Long Reach get into the hole so deep? It's time we got Long Reach out of the hole and into the Whole.
The Village Center was a victim of sprawling subsidized housing complexes and other substandard rental complexes. There are also a few privately owned developments where owner occupancy appears very low. I will address the condition of housing surrounding the Village Center in part two of this post.
Long Reach Village Center also fell victim to big box shopping center development throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. Not only that new housing in Kendall Ridge and that across from Route 108 haven't used Long Reach as their Village Center. New Neighborhood Retail along Route 108 hasn't exactly increased foot traffic at Long Reach.The biggest elephant in the room for Long Reach is its stubborn crime rate. It was the first Village Center to have a Howard County Police Satellite Office although other older Village Centers followed suit, their crime rate has been much lower than that of the 1990s. Harper's Choice Village Center has made a complete 180 in the past 10 years and I consider it to be a twin of Long Reach. Both have a mix of housing types new and old surrounding it and both have the potential of drawing from markets above Route 108. They alsohave high traffic collector roads driving right by them. If Harpers Choice can do it, why can't Long Reach?
One reason Long Reach has had to compromise its tenant roster has been the new development of new big box Centers like I said before. The next phase in big box trends has been new Grocery Stores that cater to demographics lager than just the Neighborhood. In addition a new Food Lion opened in 1999 and a new Giant opened in 2004 both very close to Long Reach. In 2007, a Costco and a Trader Joe's have also opened in Long Reach's back yard. The Safeway at Long Reach has taken an almost fatal beating due to this competition and the news isn't getting much better. In the next year or two at Snowden River Parkway and McGaw Road a brand new Wegman's is being built as I ink this post. I predict this to be the final nail in the coffin for Long Reach's Safeway.
The Safeway is Long Reach's original anchor and it's teetering and clininging foro dear life due to competition and declining Neighborhoods. The entrance wasn't always as accessible as it is today. One used to have to go through the courtyard to go inside. In 1998 the Safeway underwent a renovation and expansion that involved moving the doors to their current location. I can't help but wonder if Safeway signed a 15 year lease and in 2013 they won't renew and close thier doors for good. One reason I believe this is because when the Safeway chain renovated all of its stores in the past couple years Long Reach has remained untouched. Although Safeway has said all of its stores including Long Reach back in 2006 will be renovated I have seen no evidence of renovations for Long Reach. Why renovate a store you have plans to close in a few years?
So, moving forward lets assume my instincts are correct about Safeway and it leaves Long Reach after almost 40 years (The Village Center Opened in 1974) where do we go from here? Well, you know the old saying; "If you can't beat 'em join 'em" well that has always been my plan for Long Reach. First I tried to get the Wegman's to open there instead of where it's currently being constructed. Long Reach is way too landlocked to support a Wegman's but it's the perfect sixe for a Whole Foods. Whole Foods was the inspiration for this title; out of the Hole and into the Whole.
Whole Foods has yet to stake a claim in Howard County and if and when it does, it should be at a Village Center. David's Natural Market will keep it from Wilde Lake, Oakland Mills's Food Lion's sister brand "Bloom" which is similar to Whole Foods so if Oakland Mills went upscale, that would be the direction it would go. Long Reach is the only other Village Center in danger of loosing an anchor so Whole Foods at Long Reach is the best solution.
Photo From Whole Foods
Whole Foods is much more destination Retail instead of a simple Neighborhood Grocery Store so the addition of such a store would put Long Reach on the map instantly. It will mimic the success of Harris Teeter coming to King's Contrivance where just like in Long Reach its old Anchor was a lame duck Safeway.
Now like I've said earlier, Long Reach as a Village would have to undergo massive redvelopment to support a Whole Foods and I will discuss that in my next post. Also Long Reach's Tenant Roster will be shaken up if a Whole Foods were to move in. New tenants will be more upscale in some cases and in other cases will draw people into the Village Center who may currently overlook it.
The Center itself will have to undergo some long overdue renovations. The building that houses the Police Office and Chick 'N Friends will be demolished. It will be rebuilt across the parking lot with the same number of spaces so let me say what I'd put there. The current vacancy caused by a few ill fated Day Spas, I would put another Day Spa sounds crazy?
I think with a new Market to draw from Long Reach would finally be able to support one. In place of the Laundromat would be a Fine Wine & Spirits Shop, where Liberty Tax Service is will be a Ritas and a Daily Grind Coffee House. The popular local Coffee Chain will make its debut in Columbia at Long Reach. Parcel Plus, the Police Office, and Chick 'N Friends will all remain.
On the undemolished side, Dollar Buys will be replaced with a Hallmark Gold Crown and the Beauty Supply Store with a Jared's the Galleria of Jewelry. All other stores will remain. This will undergo massive facade updates as will the small building that houses the SECU and Delitown.
Neither of these businesses will stay in my plan, Delitown will be replaced with the area's first Sonic Burger the only other one in the area is in Randallstown and that's always packed so I forsee a lot of foot traffic in Long Reach if a Sonic were to open up. The SECU will be replaced by a PNC Bank.To the left of the Safeway/Whole Foods is Richburn Discount Liquors, like I said earlier I'd put a more upscale Wine and Spirits Shop elsewhere in the Center leaving that vacant. It's large enough for two more stores, a Great Clips and a Capital One Bank.
Last but not least are the Offices above, they would move behind the Retail portion of the Center which is currently a no man's land. Well that's my plan to get Long Reach out of the Hole and into the Whole, stay tuned for the residential redevelopment portion to create a stronger market of all these new stores.