Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kings Contrivance Village Center

Finally I have gotten around to writing a post regarding one of Columbia's most interesting Village Centers; King's Contrivance. Other Village Centers like Wilde Lake, Oakland Mills, and Long Reach have dominated head lines (including my own) as they struggle to stay current and viable in today's market that King's Contrivance until very recently has had a great history whose story just begs to be told.King's Contrivance Village Center opened in 1986 using the courtyard concept that in a few short years will prove outdated in Harper's Choice. Original tenants included Lord Baltimore Cleaners, Anthony Arthur & Associates, Friendly's, McDonalds, Mail Boxes Etc, Micheal's Pub, Trattoria E. Pizeria D'Enrico, King's Contrivance Formal & Bridal Wear and the Bagel Bin. King's Contrivance was and is located far enough south in Columbia that it doesn't compete with other Village Centers.
Valu Food was the Center's first Grocer and Anchor Tenant although whether it anchored the Center is not questionable. Other early tenants include King's Cobbler, Best Hunan, Blimpy's, Keleigh Jewelers, Budding Ideas, King's Contrivance Liquor & Smoke Shop, CVS, Exxon, and Blimpy's. While other Village Centers struggled with vacant store fronts and dated facades King's Contrivance fared rather well through the 1990s.
There was some turnover during the 1990s but it was minimal Budding Ideas left, Keileigh Jewelers took that space so Michael's Pb could open a party room in its original space, the Banks changed names due to being sold chain wide, a State Farm Insurance Agent opened shop next to the CVS, and Lord Baltimore Cleaners changed its name to King's Contrivance Cleaners. The independent restaurants flourished despite there being chains in the Center most notably Trattoria & Michael's Pub.Around Thanksgiving of 1999, the Valu Food Chain announced that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and as part of the deal it would have to close some stores which included its two Howard County stores. In the same article, it mentioned that Superfresh was slated to replace the King's Contrivance store however, the next day it was announced that Safeway would ultimately replace Valu Food.
Remember when I questioned whether Valu Food was a good anchor or not? Well, during the time between Thanksgiving and New Years '99 when the Grocer space was vacant, the amount of cars in the parking lot and foot traffic in the Center dwindled only slightly. I remember going to dinner at both Trattoria and Michael's Pub during that time and both were bustling. Y2K marked an important day in King's Contrivance history; the Safeway opened after minor alterations to the Valu Food space.
Many Shoppers questioned whether the CVS would survive with Safeway being a much stronger draw to the Center than Valu Food was. Keep in mind this was the time that CVS closed locations in both Harper's Choice and Long Reach and those Centers were also anchored by a Safeway. It seems that CVS has gotten the last laugh in King's Contrivance.
Just like the 1990s, the 2000s provided minimal turnover in King's Contrivance. Keiliegh Jewlers closed up, a Master Barber opened up, Blimpy's became Subway, King's Kabob opened, Mail Boxes Etc changed its name to the UPS store and Friendly's closed never to be occupied again. Behind the scenes the Center's Owners (Rouse Company) had sold the Village Centers to Kimco before selling its entire portfolio to GGP. This proved very valuable to the future of the Village Center.After Friendly's closed, Kimco decided not to actively seek a replacement for the freestanding "pad" site. There was talk of expanding the Safeway and knocking it down as the Grocer Space was the same size it was in 1986 and it was now 2004. Kimco instead opted not to renew Safway's lease in 2005 as it had bigger and better plans for King's Contrivance. Safeway didn't prove to be the draw that others had expected it to be but King's Contrivance was still an asset to any prospective Grocer.
Enter Harris Teeter, an upscale Grocer looking to expand its share of the Market into Howard County, what location did they select? Why, King's Contrivance of course! Harris Teeter did not want to simply occupy the Grocer space like Safeway after Valu Food closed, it wanted a brand new store rebuilt from the ground up and Kimco was happy to oblige. In 2005 King's Contrivance and Safeway parted ways for good with existing Village Center merchants not nearly as nervous as they were when Valu Food realizing that their business wasn't dependent on their Grocer Neighbor. The construction took two and a half years and the Center didn't experience the loss of a single Retail Merchant, impressive? I think so!
In June of 2008 Harris Teeter opened in King's Contrivance to rave reviews and a huge turnout. I know because I was among the first shoppers the day it opened. King's Contrivance for the first time in the Center's history has a Grocer Anchor that's a real draw from the Village as a whole and far beyond. Harris Teeter likes Howard County so much that it opened a new store in Maple Lawn in 2010 and has plans to open one in Turf Valley in 2013. Here we are in 2012 and Harris Teeter is as crowded as it was almost four years ago when it opened. There has been some sad news; Michael's Pub has closed. Almost immediately the Corner Stable, a successful independent Restaurant has opened a second location in King's Contrivance in the old Michael's Pub location.
Now moving forward, I would like to see the Center expanded to some vacant land across Eden Brook Drive. I think the Exxon would be better served "roadside" rather than behind the Village Center like it is now. Also on that piece of land, I think CVS should build a new store that's open 24 hours and boasts a drive thru Pharmacy that modern stores have. Other than that, King's Contrivance appears to be in great shape for years to come.


Pflu said...

Nice summary.
Your KCVC blog was favorably referenced to the new KC Strategic Planning Committee that just work in 2012.

chris said...

Interesting to see how the village centers have changed throughout the years. I didn't know about the latet grocery store and look forward shopping there. Thanks for the post.