Monday, December 30, 2013

Columbia Landing Apartments; The County Owns It Too!

With all the talk that's been generated about the County's purchase of the Verona Apartments in Oakland Mills, it can be very easy to forget that the County owns another Apartment Complex whose circumstances are similar to that of the Verona and its surrounding Community. In the Village of Long Reach there sits a sprawling distressed Apartment Complex now known as Columbia Landing (nee Bentana) yet when the County purchased this Complex several years back, there was talk of redevelopment in the future like there has been with the Verona. I'm here to introduce such talk in hopes that it will spur reinvestment and redevelopment in Long Reach much like I have introduced for the Verona and Oakland Mills.
As I have mentioned in my previous post, Long Reach Village Center is in a crisis state. I threw most of the blame to the Center's current owners America's Realty LLC. Although they deserve a good portion of the blame the state of the lies within the deteriorating housing stock surrounding the Center. There are numerous distressed Rental Communities as well as Town Home and Condo Communities that have given way to Rentals rather than ownership. This lack of sustainable housing surrounding the Village Center has attracted a perceived criminal element that has kept Shoppers, Quality Merchants, and Residential investment at bay.
So, what can be done to help? Usually to get private money to invest in a distressed Community, public money has to do it first. Since the County has owned Columbia Landing longer than the Verona (pictured above), it can apply for redevelopment assistance funds at an earlier date. If the County's truly serious about its commitment to Long Reach, they will begin to see that redevelopment for Columbia Landing is the best and possible only option to get Long Reach viable again. The County may be able to get financial assistance as early as 2018 if they use the same methods of acquiring funds that they appear to be doing with the Verona.  
My question to the County is this; Why aren't you actively pursuing redevelopment options with Columbia Landing in the same manor you are with the Verona? Although I don't work for the County I think I can attempt to answer it at the same time. In 2008, the year the County purchased Columbia Landing, the economy had tanked, and it was a good two to three years before the Plan Howard 2030 Plan bad been drafted. The Plan Howard 2030, emphasizes redeveloping aging Rental Properties not unlike Columbia Landing. Between 2008 and today, the County has successfully redeveloped Guilford Gardens into Monarch Mills (pictured above) and is currently redeveloping Hilltop and Ellicott Terrace into Burgess Mill Station. My guess is that Columbia Landing got lost in the shuffle. 
If you remember my post on the Verona, you will see that I championed a full redevelopment of all the Rental Properties in Oakland Mills and even a few poorly aging Condo and Town Home Developments. I feel the same redevelopment is needed in Long Reach and Columbia Landing should be used to get the ball rolling. When the scent of redevelopment is in the air, my hope is that other aging Rental Property Owners will be shamed into redeveloping their properties too. Eventually, Lazy Hollow, Sierra Woods (pictured above), Longwood House, and Shalom Square should redevelop in conjunction with Columbia Landing. 
Like Oakland Mills, Long Reach has some non Rental Properties that have a high amount of Renters and Foreclosures according to Public Records. In order to give Long Reach a full face lift, Long Reach Knolls, Heatherstone, Long Reach House Condos (pictured above), Jeffers Glen Town Homes, and Treover Condominiums should look into partial if not full redevelopment. That may be a hard pill to swallow and a lot to take in but sometimes in order to keep a Village viable, some part of it have to be rebuilt. The synergy created with this new development will no doubt lure an exciting new mix of shops to the ailing Village Center.
With all the talk of redevelopment of the Verona in Oakland Mills, one must remember that the County owns Columbia Landing as well and that the County can and should redevelop Columbia Landing first. The future of Long Reach is hanging on the line.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Long Reach: Village Center In Crisis

As you are all well aware, Long Reach Village Center is in crisis. The departure of the short lived Family Market in June has left a 55,000 Square Foot hole in the Retail Offerings. It's an all too familiar song and dance that Columbia's Village Centers have seen; An Anchor Tenant leaves and other stores begin to follow suit. Wilde Lake is currently attempting to pick up the pieces after its Anchor a Giant left in 2006 and redevelopment has been the only option to keep the center viable once again. Is this the only option for Long Reach?
One reason I consider Long Reach to be a Village Center in crisis is due to the lack of attention the Center's owners are giving to the ailing Center. After all, they're still making money off of a fully leased Center. When Safeway left Long Reach in 2011, it didn't terminate its lease. Safeway was the Family Market's Landlord while Safeway still continues to pay America''s Realty (The Center's Owners) rent. One doesn't have to look far throughout the Center to see that America's Realty is the textbook definition of a slumlord.
All one has to do is look at the Business Plan that America's Realty's President Carl Verstandig touts to find the slumlord mentality, "Buy distressed Shopping Centers", do "cosmetic improvements", and back fill vacant storefronts below Market Rate. It's obvious America's Realty doesn't care what caliber tenants occupy the Shopping Centers they own. If I were a Business Owner shopping around for Retail Space and I saw one of America's Realty trade mark "below market rate" signs, I would take my Business elsewhere. I don't appear to be alone, the only new tenants to come to Long Reach in the past several years are better suited in West Baltimore. I've blogged extensively on and driven and walked through West Baltimore so I feel qualified to make such a comparison.
Next, we have the claim that when America's Realty buys a Shopping Center (most likely one that's distressed) that they will make cosmetic improvements. Well Mr. Verstandig, it's been about two years since you've purchased Long Reach when are you going to get around to that? Long Reach Village Center is in dire of a make over in the short term and if it has any hope whatsoever of attracting a new Anchor Tenant(s) a full redevelopment may be in order. I'm also very upset that America's Realty has not been a part of the Long Reach Community. The Village Board and Residents alike are very concerned about the future of their Village Center (as well they should be) but attempts to reach out to America's Realty have been unsuccessful.
The underlying theme of this post is that Long Reach Village Center needs a full scale redevelopment in order to get from crisis mode to that of a viable Village Center that attracts Residents from the ENTIRE Village if not all of Columbia. Where in my brief summary of America's Realty does it mention this? It might be time for Long Reach to be put on the market and have a Management Company with a better track record of redeveloping Shopping Centers and moving them forward into the 21st Century.
Sadly the Rouse company no longer exists, they're responsible for redeveloping Harpers Choice and Oakland Mills. Kimco did a partial redevelopment of King's Contrivance after it lost its Safeway and attracted a wildly successful Harris Teeter in doing so. Kimco owned Oakland Mills at the time Food Lion signed on to Anchor the Center after Metro Food Market didn't turn Oakland Mills into a Shoppers as they had done with their more profitable stores. Today, Wilde Lake Village Center is hitting the wrecking ball thanks to Kimco and will soon be home to a CVS Pharmacy as well as a new David's Natural Market as co Anchors. 
Given that the Rouse Company no longer exists, it's time that America's Realty sells Long Reach back to Kimco. Kimco puts forth the necessary money for the redevelopment that's required at Long Reach as is evident at Long Reach and the clout to attract Anchors like they did when they owned Oakland Mills and more recently, King's Contrivance. 
Now, what would a redeveloped Long Reach look like? The truth is, I don't know exactly. I can tell you that the Center should have more of an open feel such while maintaining a Courtyard at the same time. This is obviously easier said than done. I would like to use the dual anchor method that's being being tested at Wilde Lake. I think the now vacant Safeway/Family Market building would have to be demolished in favor of two smaller stores one that's similar to that of an H-Mart which is a chain of International Grocers that has the long term sustainability that the Family Market lacked and team with a Pharmacy not unlike the CVS that is set to open at Wilde Lake. Perhaps a Rite Aid or a Walgreens.
Another part of the Center that has got to go is the Exxon Gas Station. That seems to be a hot bed for crime and drugs despite there being a Police Substation right across the parking lot. Speaking of the Police Substation, it appears no to be able able to deter crime like it used to. It still needs to be there but I feel it should be better staffed and be of greater assistance to Residents.
Although Long Reach Village Center is in crisis today, it doesn't mean that it has to be tomorrow. I'm also aware that the Village Center is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to redevelopment in Long Reach. Perhaps America's Realty should get that memo, assuming they're even aware of the crisis.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2015 Redistricting: Bring on the High Schools

In 2012 and 2013 it was Elementary Schools, in 2014 It was Middle Schools, and in 2015, in order to recreate a balanced feeder system and relieve over and under crowding, it's time to redistrict High Schools. In the plan I'm about to set forth all 12 High Schools will be effected. Fortunately, the County is planning ahead for a 13th High School in Elkridge in the next 10-15 years which will be needed by then if not sooner. However, it will not be open by 2015 or immediately thereafter so this plan will be sustainable until its opening. So, without further ado, I present my redistricting plan for 2015.
First I start with Atholton, in the coming years crowding will rear its ugly face as students from Pointers Run and Emerson enter High School. These students will remain at Atholton though. Instead I have opted to redistrict the Hawthorn Community out of Athtolton and into Wilde Lake. Upp until 2002 Wilde Lake served the Hawthorn Community and it was redistricted to Atholton thinking Atholton would be UNDER crowded by the opening of Reservoir. This was not the case and given that Hawthorn attends either Bryant Woods or Running Brook Elementaries. this creates a flawed feeder system at the High School level. With Hawthorn back at Wilde Lake High the feeder system for Wilde Lake Middle will be as follows; All Students from Bryant Woods and Running Brook will go to Wilde Lake High and only students from Clemens Crossing attending Wilde Lake Middle will attend Atholton.
Another tweak for the Athtolton district is Crest Road above Route 216. This area currently attends Reservoir. This is a small feed of the Hammond Elementary District that attends Reservoir. With the redistricting from Hammond Elementary into Fulton in 2012 this is the only part of Hammond Elementary still attending Reservoir. This redistricting will allow students attending Hammod Elementary to attend either Atholton or Hammond HS instead of the current three. I was hoping the ENTIRE area redistricted from Hammond ES to Fulton would then be redistricted to Lime Kiln in 2014 but now only a portion of the effected area was done. This would have eliminated a feed into Reservoir from Hammond MS. My plan fixes this "oversight" but apparently the County has gone on a different path.
Next we have Centennial. There are a few week feeds between Centennial and Mount Hebron that I will attempt to fix. First there's Worthington, the entire Worthington district was redistricted back into Mount Henron from Cdentennial in 2005 when Marriotts Ridge opened. This made the Middle School serving Worthington (Ellicott Mills) feed into three High Schools (Centennial, Howard, and Mount Hebron.) By redistricting Worthington from Mount Hebron BACK to Centennial, Ellicott Mills will only feed into two High Schools.
To make up for the loss of population from the Worthington Community, Mount Hebron will receive the River Mills Community from Centennial. This corrects a feed from Veterans. Right now, Veterans Students who attend Ellicott Mills will attend Centennial. But if you attend Dunloggin, you will attend either Centennial or Mount Hebron. By redistricting River Mills into Mount Hebron, the small feed from Veterans to Dunloggin to Centennial will be eliminated and all Veterans Students attending Dunloggin will attend Mount Hebron.
Another part of Centennial that needs addressing is the Wheatfield Way Community. This Neighborhood is very close to Howard and I can't for the life of me figure out why this was ever redistricted out of Howard. This also creates a very small feed of Waterloo into Centennial. By redistricting this Neighborhood back to Howard it will eliminate this small feed and the High Schools it feeds into as Howard or Long Reach and no longer Centennial.   
The last part of Centennial I will attempt to address is the Oak Lea Court Community. This area attends Manor Woods Elementary BUT attends Centennial. This was a small oversight I'm sure but this very small area is the only part of the Manor Woods District that doesn't attend Marriotts Ridge. That is why I'm electing to eliminate this small feed by redistricting Oak Lea Court from Centennial to Marriotts Ridge.
Next we come to Glenelg, there was a small part that was redistricted here from River Hill a few years ago which I think was a mistake. First off, the crowding that was supposed to occur at River Hill never came to fruition, second, this makes a very small feed of the Dayton Oaks District that attends Glenelg. In my 2014 Redistricting plan I opted to send the entire Dayton Oaks District into Folly Quarter and not having that entire feed feed into River Hill would defeat the purpose of having all of Dayton Oaks feed into River Hill. I would like to have the ENTIRE Folly Quarter District attend River Hill but in order to make that happen Glenwood would have to have a larger building for that amount of redistricting. If a replacement Glenwood with a 662 capacity were built I would champion the redistricting from Folly Quarter to Glenwood.
Next we come to Hammond. As part of the 2012 redistricting, parts of Bollman Bridge and Patuxent Valley as part of the 2014 redistricting now attend Reservoir instead of Hammond. Bollman Bridge and Patuxent Valley have both had all their High Schoolers attending Hammond. It used to be that only the Patuxent Valley part of Forest Ridge attended sans a small part of Emerson and then Murray Hill Students from Forest Ridge would attend Reservoir.As of 2014, the entire Forest Ridge District will attend Patuxent Valley. Therefore, in order to stay true to all of Patuxent Valley attending Hammond, the remainder of Forest Ridge not attending Hammond, should be redistricted there.
Also as part of the 2014 redistricting, a small part of the Patuxent Valley District just beyond Oakland Mills Road was redistricted to Owen Brown/Lake Elkhorn. This makes the portion of Owen Brown/Lake Elkhorn attending Hammond larger however I think it appropriate that all of Owen Brown/Lake Elkhorn attend Oakland Mills HS instead of Hammond. That is why the entire Oakland Mills Road/Guilford Gardens Community should be redistricted to Oakland Mills.

Next we have Howard, there has been a lot of growth in this area and it will need relief before the 13th High School opens. That is why I have elected to redistrict the lower Hanover Road area, Barrington Court, and the last remaining section of Locust Park to Long Reach, which can sustain the growth until High School #13 Opens.

Adding to Howard will be the Wheatfield Way Community which was discussed in the Centennial section.

Next there's Long Reach, all the redistricting here is addressed above in the Howard Section.

The Centennial section includes my proposed redistricting for both Marriotts Ridge and Mount Hebron.

The Hammond Section addresses Oakland Mills

Both Atholton and Hammond address Reservoir

Atholton also addresses Wilde Lake
That concludes my 2015 redistricting plan. The fact that I justified many of the proposals by eliminating small feeds from Elementary and Middle Schools and redistricted to keep Students attending High School with the same Students they attended Elementary and Middle School with shows the necessity of this plan. After 2015, I don't see a need for any more redistricting until 2019 when I would like to open four new Elementary Schools all at once. Stay tuned for that post! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

2014 Redistricting: Not Comprehensive Enough

The Howard County Public School just finished a new round of redistricting for the 2014-2015 School Year. This was done in conjunction with the new Middle School (MS#20) set to open that same year. The Middle School Districts were tweaked to relieve overcrowding in the Northeast and Southeast portions of the County which is the purpose of MS#20.  (Note in the maps MS#20 is referred to as Oxford Square my preferred name for it)
However, there are still issues with feeder systems and lingering problems with balanced enrollment and capacity that I feel still need to be addressed. That is why I have come out with a plan that will address these issues at primarily the Middle School level and a little bit at the Elementary level that is truly comprehensive. I will break up each region of the County and address their needs individually.
First there's the Southeast, here I don't really have complaints. I think the move of the Murray Hill Road area from Patuxent Valley to Hammond MS fits perfectly with the 2012 move from Atholton ES to Hammond ES.
I also agree with the move of the Guilford Elementary District from Patuxent Valley to MS #20 as well as the move from Patuxent Valley to Owen Brown (Lake Elkhorn) This allows for Guilford to only feed into two Middle Schools instead of three
This leaves Patuxent Valley open to provide relief to the over crowded Murray Hill. It was decided that the Forest Ridge feed to Murray Hill would close and all Students from Forest Ridge will attend Patuxent Valley. 
Another move I'm happy with. This got rid of a small section of Emerson that attends Murray Hill Middle and Hammond High as well. In 2015 some changes will have to made on the High School level.
In the west, there is a lot of open capacity. For quite a few years there's been talk of closing the aging and under populated West Friendship Elementary. I say do it already!  Bushy Park is also under capacity and can absorb West Friendship with relative ease. This will eliminate an old building that dates back to 1925 as well as fully utilizing a brand new School that opened in 2007 that was always under capacity. 
On the Middle School Frontier, the west also has capacity to spare. That's why when I read that that only part of the Fulton ES/ Hammond MS feed would be eliminated I was a tad confused. The reason being that they didn't want to have over crowding at Lime Kiln. I agree that moving kids from one crowded School to another is not a good move but the western edges of the Lime Kiln District can be moved to under crowded Schools to create a good feeder system.
First there's Clarksville MS. Enrollment is dropping at this School and is projected to continue this trend. That's why I have opted to redistrict a large portion of what was redistricted in 2012 from Fulton to Pointers Run to Clarksville MS. The only part of Pointers Run remaining at Lime Kiln is the portion attending Reservoir HS. 
On the same note, in 2012 part of Fulton was moved to Dayton Oaks. Dayton Oaks had been another large new School built in the west that hasn't had the growth originally projected. This move from Fulton has been a big help. However, the School is split between two Middle Schools. As a result, in order to stop potential overcrowding at Lime Kiln, I have opted to redistrict all students from Dayton Oaks currently in the Lime Kiln District into Folly Quarter, where the vast majority of Dayton Oaks Students attend Middle School. Like Clarksville MS, Folly Quarter is under crowded and can absorb additional Students with relative ease.
Next, there's the Northern region of the County. There is projected to be significant over crowding at the four Northern Middle Schools (Burleigh Manor, Dunloggin, Mount View and Patapsco) in the coming years. This may result in Capital Projects being done (I hope it does) but in the mean time, we can redistrict to balance out feeds.
With this past year's redistricting, St. Johns Lane and Holliefield Station no longer feed solely into Patapsco. There are small feeds to Dunloggin in each School. As a result I have opted to redistrict the Kaiser Park/Howard's Ridge Community to Patapsco. 
The same move will occur to the Ellicott Grove/Governor's Run Community. After this, both St. Johns Lane and Holliefield Station will feed solely into Patapsco. 
In order for Patapsco to handle this influx of new Students, I have opted to redistrict the feed that was redistricted at the Elementary level from St. Johns Lane to Waverly from Patapsco to Mount View. This will restore the feed that all Students attending Waverly will attend Mount View.
Finally we come to Burleigh Manor. Some tweaking to the Burleigh Manor District is necessary to balance out the numbers at Dunloggin and Mount View. 
Therefore, I have opted to redistrict the Chatham Gardens Community from Burleigh Manor to Dunloggin and the Brantwood/King's Gift Community from Mount View to Burleigh Manor.
Next we come to the northeast. This is where the most drastic redistricting for 2014 has occurred. Rather than redistricting a larger portion of Elkridge Landing to MS#20 and back filling it with Bonnie Branch Students, I have opted to leave most of those Students at Elkridge Landing and redistrict only the Belmont Station and Oxford Square Communities to MS#20.
The real relief for Elkridge Landing is west of I-95. The Lynwood Square/Rockburn/Shady Oak Communities will all be redistricted to Bonnie Branch. Obviously, the Communities of the Rockburn Township and Grovemont will remain at Bonnie Branch as a result. 
The most drastic change occurs with Mayfield Woods. As of right now Mayfield Woods has a large population and is currently over crowded with projections predicting that the population will grow drastically. As a result I have opted to redistrict a larger portion of Mayfield Woods to MS#20. In addition to the new Route 1 Communities, I have included the Deep Run Mobile Home Community to be included in MS#20's District The Old Highgate Road Community will remain at Mayfield Woods.
I purposefully over redistricted from Mayfield Woods so I can in turn redistrict other Students to Mayfield Woods, Students living in Long Reach to be exact. Some Long Reach Students already attend Mayfield Woods but currently there's an island that consists of Phelps Luck, a little bit of Locust Park, and a little bit of Kendall Ridge that attends Bonnie Branch and is slated to remain there. Instead, I have opted to redistrict this island to Mayfield Woods to get rid of the island and have Phelps Luck ES feed only into one Middle School; Mayfield Woods.
Seeing as the West Columbia Middle Schools are fine as they are given that Wilde Lake MS will be rebuilt, our last region of the County is East Columbia. One crowded School in the northeast that was not addressed was/is Ellicott Mills. 
Enrollment has been sky rocketing at Ellicott Mills and is projected to continue doing so. As a result, I have opted to redistrict the Mont Joy, Columbia 100 Parkway, and Glenmont to Oakland Mills MS. This was done to up enrollment at Oakland Mills to so that when it comes time to renovate Oakland Mills, the County feels the need to build a new Oakland Mills MS just like they're doing with Wilde Lake. 
Also in East Columbia is Owen Brown/Lake Elkhorn MS. Currently this School is under crowded. This has been partially addressed by redistricting a small portion from Patuxent Valley but it wasn't enough. To fix this, I have opted to redistrict the Sewells Orchard Community from Oakland Mills MS to Owen Brown/Lake Elkhorn. 
That concludes my 2014 Redistricting Plan. I feel that it addresses the problems of feeder systems and over/under crowding Countywide. The 2014 plan put forth by the County may not be comprehensive enough, but I feel that this one is.