Wednesday, September 29, 2010

If you Redevelop It They Will Come

One thing I've neglected to mention when I put up posts is that they all fit into a broad Master Plan I have for Columbia. Every post is a piece to that puzzle. When I do redevelopment posts, Village Center Posts, reinvestment posts, new School construction posts, or mass transit posts; I have that entire vision in my mind and every post is crafted carefully to "fit in the puzzle" Let me give you an example.Well here's a surprise, my example is Wilde Lake Village Center. I'm sure you're sick of me constantly writing about and being convinced that it can attract a Full Service Grocer. Well, I'm kind of sick of writing about it myself but it doesn't have one yet so I will write on. Now, why did Giant leave? Because it refused to compete larger Grocers nearby and did not want to commit to expansion which would be its only means of doing so. Now how may I ask will that convince another Grocer to build a larger store in the same spot and compete with the same Grocers Giant waved a white flag at? The truth is, it can't and it won't.So, does that mean I have given up on Wilde Lake? Of course not. My plan for Wilde Lake Village Center fits into a puzzle of other things I would like to see throughout Wilde Lake and Columbia. What has been true for Village Centers across Columbia for the most part has been the old saying "if you build it they will come" by "They" I mean Grocers. With Wilde Lake that's not possible seeing as the Village is 43 years old and is built out. However, new home construction can do wonders in attracting merchants to an area and old outdated construction with a reputation for crime can do wonders in keeping them away. But that old saying continues to stick with me, If you build it they will come.Now this isn't a lost cause, we just have to fine tune the old saying to fit Wilde Lake. How about "if you redevelop it, they will come"? If you remember a post I did back in 2008 regarding the need for redevelopment and new construction in Wilde Lake to broaden the income mix and make Wilde Lake viable on the ever evolving Real Estate Market known as Howard County? Suppose I wasn't just thinking of Wilde Lake's housing stock when I inked that post back then? Truth be told I wasn't. I looked over that post and I realized I left something out, something very important; the new found potential and leverage brought about by lots of new construction around the Village Centers will make Grocers take a second look at Wilde Lake. The demographics and statistics of the Village Center's surroundings i.e. "the Market" will be more favorable to a perspective Grocer or any new Village Center Tenant for that matter. If you redevelop it, they will come. Still not convinced? Let me take you around Columbia and see how the "if you build it they will come" mentality has shaped Columbia's Village Centers.Now Harper's Choice Village Center in the mid 1990s was doomed just like Wilde Lake is today. The Center's pathetic excuse for an anchor; Valu Food which was much smaller than today's average CVS, had closed and the Center was desolate. But how did it come back? As you can see it's anchored by a very large and modern Safeway today. The answer is in part new construction. Hobbit's Glen, the Village's newest Neighborhood was mostly built in the 1990s as were Neighborhoods across Route 108 along Homewood Road which Harper's Choice I'm sure was eager to draw. See? If you build it they will come.
Long Reach, in the late '90s was in danger of loosing its small Safeway. Unlike the Wilde Lake Giant, Safway was convinced to expand and modernize its store to the standards of the time i.e. relocating the front doors to face the parking lot instead of the parking lot. Kendall Ridge, was still under construction during the expansion of the Safeway bringing a larger Market to the Village Center's door step. The past several years has dealt several blows to the Long Reach in the form of newer, fancier, and specialty Grocers in Columbia's Big Box Centers and Out-parcels. Safeway stores (including the new one in Harper's Choice) have all been renovated lately, the one in Long Reach has not and it doesn't seem to be happening any time soon. Could Safeway be letting its lease run out?Owen Brown Giant, for a long time was the only game in Town for East Columbia. Oakland Mills Giant failed in comparison, the Long Reach Safeway as well, and the newer Valu Food in King's Contrivance was not a draw to the Center (smaller tenants were draws in and of themselves) So it really wasn't a surprise when Owen Brown Giant became dated and obsolete, it didn't loose much of its Market Base. When Oakland Mills has lost Grocers time and time again, Owen Brown has captured up its Market Share time and time again. Owen Brown Giant has since been expanded and renovated several times. Although past due, that Giant stayed viable the rest of the Village Center was not so lucky. Time will tell how Owen Brown Giant will react to newer Super Markets throughout the region. I do think it can gain a larger customer base through redevelopment throughout the Village. If you redevelopment it they will keep coming.
(Remind to take a picture of the completed redevelopment) Now Kings Contrivance for all intensive purposes survived very well without an anchor from its opening in 1986 to 2008 when it had two lame duck anchors. From 1986 to Thanksgiving 1999 it was a Valu Food and when that chain went belly up, Safeway had signed a lease within days end. Safeway was just like Valu Food in terms of attracting a customer base, the Center itself kept the lot full not the Grocer. When Safeway left in 2006 the amount of cars in the lot remained virtually the same. In the summer of 2008 marked an historical day for Kings Contrivance; the arrival of a brand new Harris Teeter. This was also the first and only Specialty Grocer to open in a Village Center. Now wait a minute.. Kings Contrivance's build out was 20 years ago, how could it attract such a prize? Well, look to the south to new Communitys like Maple Lawn and Emerson Kings Contrivance is not far from them at all. It might not have been in the Village itself but the Market share in Kings Contrivance grew due to new housing. If you build it, they will come.Dorsey's Search marked a new era for the size of Giants. Although renovated this Giant has not expanded since its opening in 1989. Dorsey Hall was nearing completion at the time of the Center's opening but Fairway Hills was just beginning. The Neighborhoods of southern Ellicott City; Burleigh Manor, Font Hill, and Gray Rock Farms also grew with Dorsey's Search and account for a large chunk of its Market Share. If you build it they will come. Hickory Ridge is different. The Village Center opened in 1992 but two of the Village's Neighborhoods were built in the mid to late 1970s. Clary's Forest however, was built in the 1980s. A few final touches came up in the '90s but Hickory Ridge went without a Center for a good 18 years from when its first houses came up and the Village Center opened. The Giant, although new in Village Center Years was new and large in 2008 inside it was showing its age. It has since undergone a massive renovation making brand new once again. If you build it they will come, 18 years later but they came none the less. I saved Oakland Mills for last because it defies logic! How could three Supermarkets fail yet it was able to attract a Food Lion? The Surrounding Village has stood in a virtual time capsule from 1971 with the exception of its renovated Village Center. Oakland Mills needs more redevelopment than Wilde Lake. Did I forget to mention that Oakland Mills Village Center has perhaps the worst location and the lowest traffic count of any Village Center. Just because it has a Food Lion doesn't put Oakland Mills out of the woods, I'd like to see more renovations, a larger tenant roster, and massive redevelopment throughout the Village. Perhaps the Food Lion could level up to a Bloom giving Oakland Mills a "niche".Now that I've showed you other Village Centers and the Historys of their Grocers, in most cases you will see that the construction of new homes has played an integral part in attracting Grocers to a new Village Center, keeping it at an older one, or reviving an old one. So it's obvious, to get a new Grocer for Wilde Lake there will have to be new construction around the Village Center. For further reading, I refer you to my Wilde Lake Redevelopment post here and my Wilde Lake Reinvestment post (not redevelopment, new exterior facades on viable housing) here.