Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wilde Lake Village Center: The Plans Are In!

Photo from the Columbia Flier
Now I made a promise to myself that I would wait until Kimco unveiled its plans for Wilde Lake Village Center before I ripped them to shreds. And rip them to shreds I will. Those of you who attended the meeting this past Thursday heard me ask where the Full Service Grocer was (I was called on first) Kimco remains firm that no Grocer is interested. Now being the good little residents that we are have no option but to believe them. If you've ever read this blog you will know that I am anything but and I will question how strongly Kimco pursued Full Service Grocers.
Now would I bad mouth Kimco's plan if I didn't have my own plan? Nope, it's easy to bad mouth something without a viable solution of your own (just ask a member of the Tea Party) but a big reason I don't like what Kimco has brought to the table is because I do have a viable solution that includes a Full Service Anchor and the Apartments Kimco is so enthusiastic about. I was never against them. At one point I had a plan that a Full Service Grocer AND all 500 apartments. This one has the 215 that Kimco's current calls for.This parking lot and the vacant Giant (far left) once demolished will be the site of the new Full Service Grocer. It will face Twin Rivers Road and will be easily accessible through any part of the Center whether it be the old Village Green Shops or Lynx Lane. It will house Offices above it. I'm thinking a Mars or a Superfresh would love to stake a claim in West Columbia which is dominated by Giants and Safeways to capture its share of the Market which will undoubtedly grow with 5500 new units of housing in Town Center. The building will be demolished to make way for additional parking. The Village Green in the foreground will remain and may be enhanced to provide more plush landscaping and better lighting. Although the Village Green will stay intact, some trees may have to be cut down in favor of shorter vegetation to give a more open feeling. All the businesses in the demolished buildings except for Pizza Bolis will be reloacted to a new building on Lynx Lane.
One thing that got my attention in Kimco's plan was the idea of locating the Bank in its own Building. I support this so the Columbia Bank will get its own Building at the southern end of Lynx Lane just before Cross Fox. This will allow for the demolition of the Columbia Bank's current drive up banking structure. Now the Columbia Bank paired with the second entrance to the vacant Giant (pictured below) once housed as any as three businesses; Ridings Liquors, The Cheese Shoppe, and the Butcher Shoppe.This "new" entrance to the vacant Giant (early 1990s) paired with the Columbia Bank, which will gets its own building will make room for three new tenants. The one closest to Star Nails will be a new Pharmacy Counter similar to the departed Medicine Shoppe. The new Grocer may not have a Pharmacy of its own. In the middle will be a Pizza Bolis. Its current foot print is way too big for its purpose. Nobody EVER sits at its tables and they add to the desolate feeling in the Village Green. All other Pizza chains that are delivery based have very small foot prints. Now the space that roughly housed the old Ridings Liquors will be a home to "Yogi Castle", a Frozen Yogurt place that just opened in Ellicott City and has been a draw to that Shopping Center and with its strategic location in Wilde Lake, it will draw patrons into the Village Green.David's will move roughly to where the vacated Produce Galore sits (more about that later) Here is where the demolished businesses will relocate (The current David's will be demolished and a new building will rise in its place). Above will be one of the four story Apartment Buildings with 108 units. Below will be the Melting Pot, Wilde Lake Karate, The Bagel Bin, Quiznos, and Tokoyo Cafe. These are some of the healthiest businesses in the Center most notably the Melting Pot and Wilde Lake Karate. This may also be a good opportunity for some of the Businesses moving here to retool and recapture their market share. The Bagel Bin can shift its focus on Coffee and Tea and market itself as a Coffee House. There was desire by a meeting attendee for a Starbucks and a Starbucks will drive the Bagel Bin out. When Tokyo Cafe opened several years ago Japanese Restaurants weren't a dime a dozen like they are today. It needs a gimmick to set it apart. My suggestion? Have the cooks prepare your meal table side. The Quiznos will be a new business that will be a draw. West Columbia lacks one yet EVERY other Village Center in West Columbia and two in East Columbia have a Subway. This will further set Wilde Lake apart and draw patrons into the Center.
Now the vacated Produce Galore will be demolished and just like the Kimco plan will house 27,000 Square feet of retail. David's will take 18,000 and the remaining 9,000 will be divided evenly to the other three existing Lynx Lane businesses (Acheiver's Hair Salon, The Ups Store, and Hunan Family) and the other 107 Apartments. I would like to point out that Lynx Lane was once home to a lot more retail businesses. Both Produce Galore and David's expanded once their leases expired. David's was tiny it has since taken over Wilhides Flowers, Mailboxes Etc, Omaha Steaks, a Bakery, a Maternity Consignment Shop, JK Pub, and Duron Paints. Produce Galore was also small, it shared its building with a Hardware Store which it over took and the Building's footprint was expanded at least twice during the 1990s to house the growing business. It's quite remarkable that Produce Galore thrived in the same Village Center for over 25 years.Now Kimco's plan for the Apartment Buildings is to give them their own green spaces in the back. I'm scrapping that because of their ground floor retail. But in between the two I will put in a second Village Green roughly where the above picture was taken. This would have been a parking lot in Kimco's plan. My plan gives not only a Full Service Grocer but more public Green Space.Now back to the Village Green. With the Melting Pot building demolished the Village Green will be visible from Twin Rivers Road. This will make back filling the vacancies left by the Medicine Shoppe and Feet First easier. Also struggling businesses (with the help of the new Grocer) will see new business. I'm thinking a Day Spa for the old Feet First space and a maybe a Jewler and a Florist for the Medicine Shoppe.Now this covered area will remain largely the same. Of course the vacant Giant in the background will be demolished and the end of the covered area will lead to the new Grocer which will be set back from existing retail. Well that's my plan for Wilde Lake Village Center. It includes keeping the Gas Station (Kimco's doesn't) a Full Service Grocer, (Kimco's doesn't), and two Village Greens (Kimco's doesn't) now be warned Kimco, I'm not convinced that you've exhausted all Full Service Grocer options. I will be trying to get in contact with a number of potential tenants to see if you've wooed them. If you haven't, I will and I would suggest to anyone reading this post who agrees with me to do the same.

Now in order for this to work, Wilde Lake as a Village needs both reinvestment and redevelopment of older blighted properties. With Wilde Lake full of new construction, new tenants for the Village Center will be easier to attract. Below are links to older posts I've published calling for reinvestment of existing housing stock and the redevelopment of housing stock that's too far-gone.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Green Line's Connected to the Yellow Line I: From Greenbelt to Columbia

This is a particularly exciting post for me because it overlaps this and my sister blog "Baltimore City's Past Present and Future." This post is dedicated to bringing Rail Transit to Columbia both from Baltimore and Washington DC. Although this is not a priority for the MTA, I will press on, perhaps taking this proposal out of the hands of the MTA. With that I give you the separate entity known as the "Columbia Rail Transit Association" still funded by the State with matching Federal Funds it won't be gridlocked with MTA projects and the State will fund it separately thus speeding up the process.
First lets start off in the Suburban Washington DC Community of Greenbelt. This, like Columbia is a "Planned Community" for the purposes of this post that's a moot point. Greenbelt is the northern terminus of the DC Metro's Green Line. Now there have been proposals to extend the Green Line along the MARC lines into Howard County and into Columbia that way. Although localizing existing MARC Lines is a good idea, I'd like to create a new route that will give Rail Transit to other Communities that currently lack it while en-route to Columbia.
At first it will follow the MARC lines until its first stop in Beltsville. After that, things will get interesting. It will make a sudden turn northwest into the eastern edge of Calverton. Calverton straddles the Montgomery County and PG County Line. The Calverton Stop will be located in PG County at the intersection of Briggs Chaney Road and Old Gunpowder Road. Although this stop is located in PG County, Montgomery County will see traffic relief from this.Now rather than going into Montgomery County, the expanded Green Line will continue on old Gunpowder Road through what appears to be nothing. Now why wasn't this ever developed? I believe this was to be a right of way for the ICC. The ICC did not use this route (it will be south of here) so with a new Metro Line running through this outback, I think it only fair to develop a TOD Village known as "Greencastle", named for Greencastle Road which ends at the new stop here. The Green Line will turn easterly to meet Sweitzer Lane which is becoming a developing Commerce Area in its own right anchored by the UPS Customer Service Center. This area is known as "West Laurel."After West Laurel the Green Line will travel along Route 198 until its intersection with Route 29. When Route 29 was relocated to build the interchange Commuter Bus were added making Burtonsvillle a good location for a Multi Modal Transit Hub. This will also help the Shopping Centers that used to be on the main line of Route 29. Burtonsville can also be the ending point of a "Red Line Spur" I'm proposing as well.Well we've made it into Howard County with a stop that will generate a lot of Commuter Traffic with the APL, Tai Sophia, Rivers Corporate Park, and Maple Lawn all within a short walk. Next Stop Columbia.And we've done it! The DC Metro has been extended to Columbia! Next stop is Baltimore.