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.


Nina said...

Living rather close to Columbia Landing - I much prefer it after the County purchased it. It is much, much better managed and is a much better neighbor now than previously. I have a friend from law school who lived there before and after the change - much preferred dealing with the latter as a landlord, and she also said that the mix of people stayed about the same.

I think there are specific issues with the purchase and available monies that set the dates on when Columbia Landing can be redeveloped. It's a long road, but I would love to see it happen. Sierra Woods I believe is owned by Enterprise, and I'd like to see some money put in there as well, though that's a harder sell.

I think the most difficult communities, however, are not professionally managed rental communities (I lived in Lazy Hollow many years ago - loved it, but the Village Center was more vibrant then - and professional managers get rid of problematic tenants). Instead the areas with big problems appear to me to be Long Reach Knolls, Treeover, and Heatherstone. Single unit landlords who aren't professional landlords seem to have worse tenants.

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