Saturday, March 3, 2012
Oakland Mills: No Longer In Bloom
I have always had high hopes for Oakland Mills Village Center. Like Long Reach, in order for that goal to be achieved, a lot of redevelopment in Neighborhoods around the Center would have to occur. My dreams for the Village Center have recently taken a hit however, when Food Lion's parent company announced that they would be discontinuing their upscale market chain known as Bloom, since Oakland Mills already has a Food Lion, I had wanted that store to be converted into a Bloom but given that that chain no longer exists I will have to look elsewhere to carve out a niche for Oakland Mills Village Center.
Since I knew the Safeway in Long Reach was going to close, I had always wanted a Whole Foods to replace it, now that the Family Market has opened and has appeared to be busy and is bringing a larger clientele to Long Reach, I would still like to find Whole Foods a Columbia home in a Village Center rather than Downtown. Wilde Lake is out of the question because Whole Foods would kill David's, a long time Columbia staple. Ironically in the 1970s David's was in Oakland Mills before relocating Wilde Lake. That being said, I think it's in the best interest of Oakland Mills for it be the location of Columbia's Whole Foods Market. Sorry Food Lion.
Another great possible Grocer for Oakland Mills is known simply as the Fresh Market. The only other one in the area is located on Greenspring Avenue in Pikesville/Mount Washington. My Mother, an Ellicott City Resident drives all the way up there to shop there surprisingly often and with gas being as expensive as it is, that must mean the Fresh Market is worth it. If one were to open in Oakland Mills there's at least one shopper built in already. Now one thing to remember is that all posts I write fit together like a puzzle. That being said, if you're wondering how the current demographics of Oakland Mills can support a higher end Grocer I refer you to my posts regarding redevelopment in Oakland Mills that would provide more home ownership opportunities and more of an income mix. Also keep in mind that both Whole Foods and the Fresh Market are "destination retail" which means shoppers from all parts of Howard County will be drawn to it not just those within walking distance.
I will be the first to admit that the location of Oakland Mills Village Center is the poorest when it comes to traffic counts, location, and roadside visibility. That makes it all the more crucial to give non Village Residents reason to come there. The Village Center right now has two faces. First, there's the businesses that have survived insurmountable odds after Metro left in 2001 and stayed in business until the opening of Food Lion in 2004 and then there's the Buildings with frontage along Stevens Forest Road. The buildings along Stevens Forest Road are a disgrace and all need to be demolished. They're almost all vacant and once redeveloped would look like the newer buildings on Robert Oliver Place.
Along Stevens Forest Road I envision a restaurant haven with choices not offered in the big box centers along 175. Where the old putt putt course was once was I would like to see a Bonefish Grille, the only one in the area. Next to it, since they're owned by the same parent company would be an Outback Steakhouse where Sam's Mart now sits. There's an Outback in Long Gate but I think the distance is far enough that the two can survive together. Where the old vacant M&T building is would be a new expanded Sam's Mart with BP Gas Pumps. Oakland Mills hasn't had a Gas Station since the Exxon closed in 1999 and I think it's high time that Oakland Mills played host to one once again. Where Bangkok Garden now is, I would tear it down and relocate Second Chance Saloon there I think it would be beneficial for the entire center to have it there and I'll explain why later.
Now, where the old Gas Station used to be has been the subject of many heated debates with the would be developer, the County, and CA. I have blasted the amount of red tape that the County and CA have implemented on that site or anything that warrants redevelopment for that matter because the developers had walked away from the project due to the County and CA hurdling them every step of the way. It was going to be a four story Office Building with ground floor Retail. There is a sign that says "Financing Provided by Sandy Spring Bank" however my camera battery had died so I couldn't snap a picture of it nor could I call the phone number to see just what if anything is currently being built.
What I would like to see built are Senior Apartments with a few ground floor Retail Bays. The Apartments would be 100% subsidized for Seniors with all the amenities of an upscale Senior Community. Most Apartments would be independent living but Assisted Living units would also be provided. Retail use I would like to see a Day Spa, an African Hair Braiding Salon, and a new location for Bangkok Garden. Parking will be in an underground garage to make full use of the site.
Meanwhile back on Robert Oliver Place I have vacated the building that the Second Chance Saloon now occupies. I would have it demolished and more shops would be added past the Liquor Store and towards the Barns. Tenants would include a UPS Store, a Nail Salon, Cold Stone Creamery,and a new location for the Howard County Police Satellite Office to get rid of that awful trailer. Connected to the current Food Lion, there's a vacant space that I would fill with a Starbucks. I know it's a chain that's all over the place but it will draw people into the Village Center and given its visibility on Thunderhill Road, it would be beneficial to all other businesses with less roadside visibility.