Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Long Reach: A New Addition to the Family

Well color me purple with embarrassment. My post saying that the addition of the Family Market to Long Reach Village Center was a mistake was just plain wrong and arrogant. That should teach me to open my mouth and judge a Business before it even opens. Well my now that the Family Market has opened and I have paid a few visits to it, I must confess that I'm flip-flopping my opinion on it. That's right I'm the Mitt Romney of Bloggers at least when it comes to the Family Market but allow me to explain.
Ever since I started blogging and perhaps even before I knew that the Safeway at Long Reach was in no way in it for the long haul. Being so certain of this, I began looking for new Grocery Chains to replace Safeway, freshen the smaller tenant roster, renovate the Center, and redevelop the Neighborhood at large. First I wanted Wegmans to come to Long Reach instead of Snowden. Then I wanted Whole Foods when it become clear that the Village Center is far too small to hold a mega Grocer like Wegmans. I was and still am a proponent of large scale redevelopment around the Village Center and renovating the Center itself.
I actually found out that Safeway was closing and that the Family Market was its successor at exactly the same time. Seeing that such a Business wouldn't be enough to bring in long term change to Long Reach that I had championing for so many years I thought that it would fail. One thing I didn't account for was how the Market from Long Reach and beyond would react for that I had to wait until the Family Market Opened, so wait I did.
Now that the Family Market has been open for a few weeks I can begin to evaluate it from a more practical prospective. It appears that the Family Market can do what Safeway couldn't do; bring people back to the Village Center. The Parking Lots is much fuller now that the Family Market has opened and an more diverse array of Shoppers now flank the Center. Long Reach has become a draw to outside Residents not just those who live right by it as evidenced by the full parking lot.
Now that Long Reach has found a niche in the Grocery sector, lets once again revamp the tenant roster. At the very least, lets replace floor plan sign from Safeway to the Family Market and get rid of Domino's and replace it with Long Reach Pizza and Indian Food. Given Long Reach's new found viability, I think the smaller merchants could upgraded.
Delitown is without a doubt the worst business to ever come to a Village Center past or present. What I envision for Long Reach is a concept of more chains, but those that have yet to expand into Howard County to make the Center more "destination Retail" rather than "convenience Retail" that it suffered during the final years of Safeway. So Delitown is gone and replacing it would be a Sonic. We see commercials for Sonic all the time but the closest one is in Randallstown and it does a great Business, I think Long Reach will benefit greatly from a Sonic.

Now hopefully somebody can help me clear up some confusion I have been experiencing. Since July of last year I have seen "coming soon" signs for a Caribbean Restaurant that's slated to replace the Dog House Pub & Grill. I don't know of any other Caribbean Restaurants in the area so I think it would be a perfect fit if marketed properly. What confuses me is that the coming soon sign is gone and there is no sign where the permanent sign should be. I mean it's March now, it shouldn't take that long for a Restaurant to open and if it's taking that long there should be still a coming soon sign. Is this Restaurant a reality or have plans been scrapped? If they have indeed been scrapped I'm thinking Long Reach should try for a Buffalo Wild Wings. The closest one is in Arundel Mills and it's high time that Columbia and Howard County get one too.

The Dollar Store, another foe of mine should be a Walgreens or a Rite Aid. This very space once played host to a CVS but left to build a new store along Route 108 with a drive thru Pharmacy. Now why another Pharmacy? Well, the Family Market doesn't have and also it doesn't have much in the way of basic staples like Milk, Eggs, and Bread. The new Wilde Lake Village Center when completed will have a Pharmacy like this to complement David's which has always been similar to the Family Market. This new Pharmacy in Long Reach would be a equipped with a drive thru lane behind it.
Another type of Business I can't stand is Beauty Supply stores. I find them very low class and in the case of the one in Long Reach, it has branched to provide more low class "services" like check cashing and burner cell phones. Pretty soon this place will employ a Bail Bondsman. In its place should be a Hair Salon to complement Community Cutz. It should cater to the hair of all ethnic group and also provide tanning beds.
Liberty Tax Service also annoys me a great deal. I think a Starbucks (yes a Starbucks) should replace it. Starbucks like it or lump it is a draw anywhere and everywhere. Given this spot's location half facing the parking lot and the other half facing the Courtyard this space is crucial that it draw people into the Courtyard to entice people to patronize Businesses with less visibility. Next on my list of wrong Businesses for Long Reach is the Laundromat. I think Chick' N Friends should expand into that space. Chick' N Friends has proven to be a regional draw with superb write ups from every food critic in the area I think it's time Chick 'N Friends take it to a new level from running as simply a carry out Business to at least the option to sit down at a table and eat in. Perhaps one day this could be an order via wait staff Business.

Like Chick 'N Friends, Richburn Liquors is a diamond in the rough. Its exterior facade deeply masks the fact that it has a very wide selection of Beers and Wines that rivals the upscale the Perfect Pour. It may be time for a massive renovation inside and out and change the name to something along the lines of Richburn Fine Wines and Beers.
Since Blockbuster closed several years ago two Day Spas operated out of this space. Obviously they have both closed. I would love to see Long Reach play host to another Day Spa but I don't see that being very feasible unless there's redevelopment around the Center. For now I'm thinking a Tuesday Morning.
This space was once a First Union Bank, then vacant for several years and then got a SECU (State Employees Credit Union) which in turn opened up on Snowden where the Krispy Kreme was. Since this area is filled with Banks, the only one I can't think of as having a branch nearby is Bank of America, so that's the Bank that should occupy this space.Now that the Family Market has opened and is proving to be a major player in the Grocery scene, it's time for Long Reach to step up its game. That includes a full renovation of the Family Market to get rid of all Safeway decor and a renovation of the whole Village Center to make it once again the crown & jewel of the Village as a whole. Long Reach, you've been thrown a life line so don't screw it up!

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.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bollman Bridge and Patuxent Valley: A 17 Year Deal

The southeast has played host to a few Schools that have closed before some of the current ones have come to replace them, the main two that come to mind are Scaggsville Elementary and Savage Elementary. Scaggsville operated out of what is now the Southern District Police Headquarters while Savage is now a private School.
Scaggsville and Savage Elemenatrys closed in 1971 and 1973 respectively when Hammond Elementary and Middle opened in 1971 while Whiskey Bottom Elementary (now Laurel Woods) opened in 1973. The closure of Savage Elementary was not well received by the Community of Savage, who thought losing their School was detrimental. The County had plans to build a new Savage Elementary later in the 1970s as well as another Middle School, so in 1971 two years before Whiskey Bottom Elementary even opened, the County purchased a huge swath of land at the southwest quadrant of Volmerhausen Road and Savage Guilford Road.
Now why open Whiskey Bottom at its location in North Laurel? Well, big development plans were in the works in North Laurel that would provide a very high density to the still predominately rural southeast. The County did not feel it was feasible to put money into the aging Savage Elementary and also given the high density in North Laurel, the decision was made to build the new School in North Laurel and allow future growth in the Savage Community dictate when Savage Elementary would be built.
For the remainder of the 1970s and through the mid 1980s growth was concentrated within a stones throw of Whiskey Bottom Elementary and School enrollment in the Savage Area, was on the decline as the County pondered whether or not to close the aging Guilford Elementary. The hold up in growth was due to a poor economy that halted the development of King's Contrivance in Columbia. Luckily Guilford was not closed as it became the defacto School of King's Contrivance's Huntington Neighborhood, the bulk of which was built in the 1980s. Guilford was modernized in 1982 and received an addition in 1986. Atholton, the School serving King's Contrivance's Dickinson and Macgills Common Neighborhoods was modernized and added onto in 1980 given that Clemen's Crossing's 1979 opening wasn't enough to stop overcrowding there.
Whiskey Bottom and Hammond Elementaries both received additions in 1987 as the floodgates halting development in the southeast had been opened. These additions in the 1980s were not enough to relieve crowding in the southeast. A new Elementary School was needed in the
region. Although Elementary and Middle Sites in King's Contrivance were master planned in the Community, the County opted for a different site; Savage!
The new Elementary School in Savage was named Bollman Bridge after the name sake bridge in Savage opened in 1988 17 years after the land for it was purchased. Bollman Bridge opened while development was in a frenzy, along Gorman Road Bowling Brook Farms was under development as was Kings Woods off of Whiskey Bottom Road, not to mention King's Contrivance and new high density development in Guilford. Next year in 1989 Patuxent Valley Middle opened next door to Bollman Bridge.
Bollman Bridge became very crowded very quickly as did Laurel Woods (nee Whiskey Bottom) and Hammond. In 1992, just four years after Bollman Bridge opened, Forest Ridge Elementary opened and just two years after that Bollman Bridge received an 88 seat addition bringing its capacity up to 616 from 528. Although Bollman Bridge's crowding subsided, Gorman Crossing Elementary opened in 1998 one year after Murray Hill Middle to relieve Forest Ridge and Laurel Woods and to provide a home to the planned Emerson Development.Bollman Bridge lost some K-5 Capacity to expand its PreK and RECC programs knocking the capacity down to 566. The drop in enrollment at Bollman Bridge was short lived however, and a 97 seat addition was just now completed bringing the capacity to 663 with LEED certified renovations projected to be completed in 2013.
When Savage Elementary closed, a new Elementary School was planned but after its closure the southeast didn't have the growth the warranted a new School until 17 years later. Bollman Bridge has thus allowed Savage to realize its dream not only to have a community Elementary School but Patuxent Valley has allowed Savage to have its own Middle School as well.