|Proposed Residences in the Warfield District|
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
I'm sure you have all heard about the plans to redevelop the LL Bean building outside the Columbia Mall into an open air lifestyle center. This is the new trend in Downtown Retail across the Country as enclosed Shopping Malls are becoming a thing of the past. Examples of what is being proposed include the Avenue at White Marsh, Hunt Valley Towne Centre, the Rio in Gaithersburg, and Bowie Towne Centre. Owings Mills Mall will be one by the 2015 as well. One way Columbia differs from Retail trends is that their enclosed Mall still does great business despite using a dating Retail concept which is something of an anomaly. I support the new lifestyle center component whole heartily and I think a second one would be the icing on the cake.
The area of the Mall near Sears, the Cheese Cake Factory, and The Movie Theatre has become a happening place in recent years. Before these additions to the Mall outdoor plaza style space was almost non existent around the Mall. One should note that the Lakefront does boast these amenities but not the Retail offerings of the Mall. In the early 2000s when these exterior buildings opened around this section of the Mall it was no surprise that would become something of a Community gathering spot. Could these new Restaurants have hurt the Lakefront?
LL Bean is mostly a catalogue company so the Columbia Mall has had an honor bestowed upon by having an actual Retail store as part of its tenant roster. The placement of LL Bean has proven to be an obstacle to a Mall that just does have enough space for a growing list of Retailers waiting to sign leases. In addition LL Bean has said that although they would like to stay at the Mall, their building is too large for their needs. With that little bit of info it would only seem necessary that LL Bean demolishing their building in favor of a smaller one. With the space created by the demolition of LL Bean, there would then be availability to build a promenade that would act as an expansion to the existing plaza flanked Retailers that haven't been able to get inside the Mall. Hence a Lifestyle Center. And if that weren't enough LL Bean will now have a store that's more appropriate for its needs. Preparation for the new Mall entrance is already underway, J Crew (located at the once and future Mall entrance) is moving to a new location as we speak.
The new lifestyle center in addition to the 800 new residential units going up on the three vacant land parcels near Sears will certainly bring a long awaited vibrant life to Downtown Columbia, well just that one area. The Mall, in all its glory can also act as a hindrance that divides Downtown into two. Don't believe me? Go Downtown and look at the crowd around the Movie Theatre and then take a look at the lakefront and while you're at it take a look at what's going on along Little Patuxent Parkway adjacent to Lord & Taylor it doesn't seem like the same place does it?
My personal vision for the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia would be to see the Lord & Taylor side of the Mall come to life as a means of unifying all of Downtown from the Cheesecake Factory all the way to the Lakefront. The way to bring Lord & Taylor to life, at least in my mind would be to add a lifestyle center not unlike the one that is being planned where LL Bean is. The Mall's owners and developers are quite confident that Retailers are interested in the proposed lifestyle center that I think a second one will be filled easily. In order to make this happen, Lord & Taylor would have to be reconfigured drastically if not demolished completely. If all the anchors of the Mall Lord & Taylor appears to have the smallest crowd. I think if Lord & Taylor became a smaller out building with its current site acting a Mall entrance that would be the perfect beginning for the second lifestyle center.
Now how would the addition of a second lifestyle center unify Downtown? Well, the new entrance created by moving J Crew is directly across from the entrance to Lord & Taylor. If Lord & Taylor were demolished and relocated that small corridor of the Mall would make a perfect "cut through" for Downtown. If the main corridor of the Mall were cut in two and the cut through between what is currently J. Crew and Lord & Taylor were made outdoors and open 24 hours a day to pedestrian traffic, I believe that that will play a huge part in unifying Downtown.
With the proposed lifestyle center gathering steam and appearing to be a hit, it begs the question; why just one?