Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Schools in KingsContrivance: Relief for the Southeast

In 2012, redistricting on the Elementary Level will take place to provide relief to unprecedented growth and overcrowding in a hand full of Schools. Fulton Elementary will play a key role to directly relieve overcrowding at Gorman Crossing Elementary and indirectly relieve Atholton and Guilford Elementaries by opening up space at Hammond Elementary. Although this change is welcome, the southeast will continue to grow beyond its capacity at both the Elementary and Middle School levels. The County realizes the need for a new Elementary School in the southeast but has yet to realize the need for a new Middle School in the same region.
The southeast includes Columbia's Kings Contrivance Village, whose overcrowding will be subdued at the beginning of the coming School Year by adding Hammond Elementary into the equation. Now for the new Elementary School in the Southeast, the County will have to secure a
new site somewhere in the region to build it. I'm sure like in the case of the Northeast they will look in the Route 1 Corridor but maybe they're already sitting on a few viable School Sites right in our beloved Columbia.
The Kings Contrivance Neighborhoods of Dickinson (pictured above) and Huntington both have sites that were reserved for Elementary Schools but existing Schools such as Atholton, Guilford, Bollman Bridge (which was essentially the rebuilt Savage Elementary) have served the Village and later this year, so will Hammond. I think the Dickinson site will be the optimal site for the new Southeast Elementary School because not only will Atholton continue to grow in size but Hammond will be needed to provide relief for Gorman Crossing, Laurel Woods, Forest Ridge, and Bollman Bridge. Dickinson Elementary will produce a domino effect of redistricting that should provide region wide relief.
Dickinson Elementary (my vision for it pictured above) won't be large in size it only needs a Capacity of about 450 but its impact will be huge. The Neighborhood of Dickinson in 2015, the projected opening date of the new School will be served by Atholton and Hammond Elementaries while Huntington will be served by Hammond and Bollman Bridge. The Dickinson Elementary District will include the Dickinson Neighborhood south of Guilford Road, Kings Meade Way, and Huntington west of I-95 pulling from the three mentioned Schools.
Atholton will not receive any additional Students given its small capacity of 387. Bollman Bridge will receive from Deep Run the area southeast of I-95 and Route 175, Hammond will receive from Gorman Crossing the proposed Wincopia Farms Development and from Laurel Woods
the Canterbury Riding and Whiskey Run Developments. Gorman Crossing will receive Emerson East of I-95 from Forest Ridge and Forest Ridge will share the Laurel Park Station Development with Laurel Woods.
Now we've seen how in 2015 Dickinson Elementary can provide relief to the entire Southeast but just like clock work a few years after massive Elementary growth, massive Middle School growth will follow. I'm proposing a new Southeast Middle School to open by 2018. The three existing Middle Schools in this region are Hammond, Murray Hill (pictured above), and Patuxent Valley (pictured below). All three Schools will be way overcrowded and the County will again have to look for a new site suitable for a Middle School. And wouldn't you know it? Kings Contrivance also has a Middle School Site? It's right next to the Village Center and Hammond High.
Like most new Middle Schools in Howard County Kings Contrivance Middle will have a capacity of 662 and will draw from the entire Dickinson Elementary, the Kings Meade Neighborhood, Macgills Common, and the Glen Oaks Neighborhood. Whether this School District can fill a
capacity of 662 is yet to be seen.
Kings Contrivance Middle was created from Hammond and Patuxent Valley Middles and in order to back fill their districts they will draw from Murray Hill Middle, the School that will be the most crowded. Hammond Middle will receive from Murray Hill, Harvest Way, Settlers Landing, Wyndmere, and Wincopia Farms. Patuxent Valley will receive Kings Woods, Northgate Woods, Country Meadows Apartments, and Hammond's Promise Overlook. Patuxent Valley will have already given the portion of Jessup above the train tracks to Mayfield Woods in 2015 when Long Reach Middle is due to open.
By opening new Schools on sites long reserved for new Schools in Columbia, a domino effect of redistricting can provide relief for an entire region.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Long Reach Village Center: Set to Fail Once Again

Surprise! The Safeway in Long Reach has closed! Actually this is only a surprise if you've been living under a rock for the entirety of 2011. It began with the fact that Long Reach was left out as chain wide renovations took place and then in the summer time the Pharmacy closed due to increased competition. Although Safeway insisted this wasn't leading to a closure of the entire store, everybody including the Village Center's Owners were skeptical.
America's Realty Corp. whose knack seems to be renting out distressed properties at below market rent to low income tenants and doing little to no renovations of the property. In my book, that's a textbook definition of a slumlord.Although Safeway closed in November, America's Realty Corp. had been in talks all year with potential Grocers to replace Safeway because they saw the writing on the wall just like everybody else. I had written previously about how I would like Columbia's and Howard
County's only Whole Foods Market to come to Long Reach to make the Center a regional draw not just for the residents of Locust Park.
Whether America's Realty Corp discussed this possibility with Whole Foods is unknown, what is known is that Long Reach, for now at least won't suffer a fate like Wilde Lake. A new Grocer is lined up to replace Safeway, but in classic slumlord fashion it's an independently owned one. Without further ado, I give "The Family Market" no the above image has not been air brushed or otherwise doctored that is the sign that one sees while driving past the Village Center, I'd park the car but not to buy anything, just gawk at what passes for an Anchor Tenant nowadays.
The Family Market is said to be "upscale" but given that it's meant to cater to the population immediately surrounding it rather than the Village as a Whole I find that hard to believe. Still, in addition to Hispanic and Asian Foods there will be a Cafe with Wi-Fi access and Residents are excited to see a replacement to the troubled Safeway.
The past couple of years have not been kind to Long Reach, in addition to the Safeway, the Village Center has lost Dog House Pub, Dominos Pizza, State Employees Credit Union, and Rave Day Spa. The news of The Family Market's arrival has brought new signed leases to the Village
Center including Subway, a Hair Salon, a Caribbean Restaurant, and Long Reach Pizza which also serves Indian Food (pictured below.)
All and all this appears to be a solution to the woes Long Reach Village Center has been suffering. This may help in the short term but I don't believe this to be a viable long term solution for Long Reach. I believe that like the collections of stores that were there with the Safeway, the Family Market will continue in the tradition of only drawing patrons from Locust Park, the distressed Neighborhood surrounding the Village Center rather a broader clientele this new roster of tenants will suffer a fate similar to Safeway in a few years.
So what's the long term solution? Obviously it would be to find a roster of tenants that serves the entire Village of Long Reach and beyond starting with a strong Anchor Tenant. That's a simple solution to a not so simple problem. Notice I've said repeatedly that the area directly surrounding the Village Center is distressed? Regardless of the condition of the Village Center, patrons are scared due to the crime and blight that holds back the entire Locust Park Neighborhood.
Lately the County has been spearheading efforts to redevelop blighted Neighborhoods such as Guilford Gardens, Hilltop, and Ellicott Terrace into amenity filled modern mixed income Neighborhoods. Granted these developments are County Owned but a similar campaign should start in Locust Park to modernize the Neighborhood and diversify its Residents. The worst offenders in Long Reach are Lazy Hollow Apartments, Sierra Woods, Long Reach Knolls, Columbia Landing, and Heatherstone Town Homes. There are others throughout Locust Park that are in need of redevelopment as well but these need it the most.
As Residential redevelopment flanks the Locust Park Neighborhood, the desirability of the Village Center to new Merchants and Patrons outside Locust Park will go up. Perhaps the long term answer to Long Reach Village Center isn't the Center itself but the residences surrounding it.