Monday, October 18, 2010

True Revitalization For Oakland Mills

Well, here it is the long awaited streetscape enhancements to Robert Oliver Place. Here it is in all its glory, the very thing promised to revitalize Oakland Mills both the Village Center and the Community as a whole. Nope, this isn't a small piece of the project this is the whole project. If this is the Village's idea of true revitalization, then it's no wonder the Village is struggling. For Oakland Mills, true revitalization will have to come in the form of redevelopment both in the Village Center and surrounding Communities throughout the Village.
Most of the "thru" streets in Oakland Mills have been resurfaced in the past couple months. Only Stevens Forest Road received a lane for Bikes. I've heard differing opinions regarding the Stevens Forest Road Bike Lanes. I am in favor of them, in fact I believe they should extend further towards the Village Center and other "thru" streets like Thunderhill Road, White Acre Road, Basket Ring Road, and Kilimanjaro Road should all get the Biker Markings. Not only that, they should get the streetscape enhancements Robert Oliver Place did which will unify the Village.
The survival of the Village Center's Independent Merchants is nothing short of miraculous. It's also miraculous that Oakland Mills, with the failure of several prior Supermarkets has been able to attract and keep its current Food Lion Anchor.
That being said, there is still a lot of room for improvement in the Village Center. There are vacant storefronts and vacant lots on Stevens Forest Road and the Community Policing Office is in an unattractive trailer. Now riddle me this; where's the Village Green?
The predicament of not having the Village Green, in my opinion is what needs the most attention. I think in order to achieve this, a lot of redevelopment will need to take place. This is good because although I believe in certain fundamentals, Columbia should not be placed in a time capsule.
One of those fundamentals is a Village Green. First and foremost the current building that houses the Second Chance Saloon has to be demolished.
The new Second Chance Saloon will be in a new building on the grounds currently occupying the Bankok Garden Restaurant. Since the Meridian Square Development didn't go through, I think subsidized Senior Housing should where it was proposed to be (the old Exxon Grounds) named "Parkview at Oakland Mills".
Qualified Seniors currently living in Oakland Mills will get first pick. Now, the Meridian Square design should be used to redevelop the outdated Stevens Forest Professional Center on Santiago Road. Speaking of Santiago Road, the Interfaith Center is prime for redevelopment.
One thing requested in the Village Center Master Plan was Spiritual Community Green Space outside the Interfaith Center. Redeveloping the Interfaith will recognize this goal and it will face the extended Thunderhill Road to truly integrate the Interfaith Center into the Village Center. More Green Space will be provided around the fountain outside the current Second Chance Saloon.
The Interfaith Center Green Space and the Retail Center Green Space will be "connected" through the current Robert Oliver Place Streetscape Enhancements as a promenade. All this for a Village Green? Yes and it's worth it! This also allow for Thunderhill Road to be extended past Santiago Road/Robert Oliver Place all the way to Stevens Forest Road.
Before I get to the Retail portion of the Village Center I must send out an SOS to the Columbia Ice Rink. It's outdated and redvelopment is essential. Doing so would allow for outdoor ice skating space, a wish that would be granted from the Village Center Master Plan.
Now for the Retail Portion of the Village Center. Given that I'm calling for major redevelopment Village Wide, the income mix around the Village Center will reflect the need for more upscale merhcants.
Also with increased competition from new Grocers it's time the Village Centers began attracting them as tenants as well. Food Lion has an upscale counterpart known as Bloom. Since Food Lion is the Anchor Tenant a switch to Bloom won't be unreasonable.
Between the Food Lion/Bloom and the Ice Rink is an open space that would be great for a Starbucks. Imagine the appeal Shoppers will have when approaching the Village Center from Thunderhill Road and seeing a Starbucks.
Also with the Second Chance Saloon Building demolished, there's room to expand from the Liquor Store towards the barns. New tenants would include a Coldstone Creamery, a FedEx Kinkos, and a proper space for the Community Policing Office. Along Stevens Forest Road there's room for change too.
The old Bank Building will be the new location for Sam's Mart. It will be the convience store (with a Krispy Kreme Donuts and Boardwalk Fries) for the Shell Gas Station with a touchless Car Wash. That's right after ten long years I'm bringing a Gas Station back to Oakland Mills.
Where Sam's Mart currently is, will become home to an Outback Steakhouse and a Bonefish Grill.
Now for the residential change in Oakland Mills, although I'd like to minimize displacement when possible it's high time that new construction made its way to Oakland Mills. Just like every other old Columbia Village, its higher density housing stock is old, tired, and dated. the Village can't move forward without major redevelopment.
We'll start at Stevens Forest Apartments, originally intended to Senior Housing in my plan it's now for all ages at a 100% Market Rate Home Ownership housing for all ages.
Now Grand Pointe, varying from Garden Apartments to a High Rise its replacement; Talbott Springs Pointe will boast 55% Market Rate Home Ownership 30% Market Rate Rentals, 10% Affordable Home Ownership and 5% Affordable Rentals.
Autumn Crest, renamed Talbott Springs Overlook, will have 60% Market Rate Home Ownership, 20% Market Rate Rentals, 15% Affordable Home Ownership, and 5% Affordable Rentals.
The Verona at Oakland Mills will retain its name but will ultimately hit the wrecking ball. It will include 35% Market Rate Home Ownership 30% Market Rate Rentals, 20% Affordable Home Ownership, and 15% Affordable Rentals. As you can tell from the pictures what I have envisioned for the new developments will be of the same density as their current predecessors however, they include all modern conveniences that newer parts of Howard County are known for.

Now for the hard part, redeveloping privately owned developments. Just like the rentals they too have seen their day in the sun. Again we want displacement to be minimal and there will be some "buyouts" mostly to people who rent out their homes in the first place.
First up will be the Shadow Oaks Condos. In it place will be Oakland Mills Town Centre. It will be 40% Market Rate Home Ownership, 50% Market Rate Rental, and 10% Affordable Home Ownership.
Next comes the Cinnamon Tree Quads, they have suffered from poor maintenance and low Home Ownership Rates as well as high turnover. Cinnamon Tree has two sites one on Thunderhill Road, the other in Stevens Forest. Both sites make for an entrance from nicer Single Family Homes into the blighted part of the Village. The perception of safety plummets upon entering through Cinnamon Tree. The Thunderhill site will be renamed The Townes at Talbott Springs I
and the neighboring Emerson Hill Development will be renamed (after redevelopment) The Townes at Talbott Springs II. The new Stevens Forset Cinnamon Tree will be called the Towns at Stevens Forest.
Going down Kilminjaro Road we come to a Town Home known as Antorun. After redevelopment the new homes will feature one car garages and better front door street access.
Past the High School we come to Tarleton, perhaps the ugliest Town Homes known to man. Like, Antorun they will be redeveloped with two car garage Town Homes that will be larger and taller. Finally we come to Holly Court, just like other Town Home Developments it's dated and is ready for redevelopment. It will also feature Town Homes with two car garages.
Now I haven't forgotten Single Family Homes they will be developed not redeveloped where? Blandair! That piece of land was to be developed as part Rouse's original dream and I think we should honor him by doing just that. The park idea was brought about by aging hippies who think a time capsule is the best form of revitalization. I just showed you what real revitalization is, it has road bumps and many of you will disagree with me but this is the way to a successful 21st Century Oakland Mills.


wordbones said...

I think you should stick with the hospitality industry. You appear to be clueless when it comes to redevelopment.


Mediaprophet said...

A coffee shop would be very welcome in Oakland Mills. A green is unnecessary with the high school right there, but your idea for it might actually change my mind on that idea.

Sam's convenience store kind of sucks. I'm not usually one to push chain stores, but a 7-11 or Royal Farms would be a huge improvement. And with the number of shift workers in the Oakland Mills area, the convenience store should be open 24hrs. There's a police substation right there, so in theory late-night stickups would be less of a fear.

Keep in mind the high percentage of low-income renters keeps the Food Lion alive, with its lower prices (but weaker selection) than all the other Columbia supermarkets. Food Lion may be surviving BECAUSE it's not Bloom. I can get chicken breasts, cereal, and ground beef for significantly less than what they cost at the Owen Brown Giant.

Why is the police substation in a nasty looking trailer when there are two abandoned retail spaces there? It separates Bangkok Garden from Robert Oliver Place, and there could even be a patio area there for people to congregate and eat their tasty Thai food and Second Chance burgers in fair weather. Not to mention how the farmers market would benefit from the larger open space, direct visibility from Stevens Forest, and patio area.

And why isn't there a fast food restaurant in Oakland Mills? Lucky's China doesn't count (though if you're looking for the most calories per dollar in Columbia, their Lo Mein can't be beat). With the nearby walk-able apartments, you'd think a McDonalds (or something independent) would make a killing. Not that McDonalds is healthy, but we're talking jobs, more two-stop custom, and more rent money for the landlord.

I think the biggest strength of the Oakland Mills village center is that it's too far out of the way for anyone but Oakland Mills residents to visit. But that's also its biggest weakness. Coldstone Creamery and FedEx Kinkos would be bad calls for OM because the former is too high-end and the latter depends on more business than the Stevens Forest Professional Center can muster.

The interfaith center and other barn are too pricey, too! It costs more to rent a room in Oakland Mills for club events than at almost any other village center. I can go to Owen Brown or Longfellow and rent a room for cheaper than either. Maybe they get enough rentals to be content with their rates -- I don't know. That's just my pettiest gripe.

urbanite said...

Of course Oakland Mills is an easy target, but your piece makes a lot of good points. I liked your thoughtfulness.
I doubt if anyone here thinks that the Robert Oliver Place improvements are the answer to our many issues. It was, however, an example of the county working with the villge to get something positive done and for that reason we are proud of it. Most of our housing stock is nearing 40 years of age and will requre substanial rehabing or replacement to keep Oakland Mills a healthy, desirable place to live. Oakland Mills greatest asset is its citizens and their interest in the village's continued well being, but we will need outside help.
Your suggested improvements will demand a much higher level of vision, cooperation and investment from the county, CA, the village center's owners, other stakeholders and the OM community then we are used to seeing.

Spence said...

Woodbornes, show me your vision for Oakland Mills or any Village for that matter. Tell me what makes me so "clueless" as you put it.

Mediaprohet, Before Sam's there was a Royal Farms there. It left in '99 due to hold ups. Sam's came in after the Metro left in 2001. There was a Roy Rogers in the Bankok Garden Building until it was bought out by McDonalds in the mid 1990s. There was ample opportunity for that to be converted to a McDonalds but it sat and rotted until 1999 when another Chinese Restaurant called "Congee House" opened. It didn't last as patrons decided to go with Lucky's. After Congee House left Bankok Garden opened.

Urbanite, you actually understood the point of this post, i guess 1 out of 3 isn't bad. True revitalization means redevelopment.