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.

No comments: