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.

1 comment:

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