Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Long Reach Village Center of Nostalgia II: The Master Plan

Now that I've shared my plan of bringing back Columbia Staples such as Produce Galore and Bun Penney to Long Reach Village Center, I think it's time I showed you a physical plan of how I intend to do so. Although I'm basing the redeveloped Long Reach Village Center on the nostalgia of the Columbia of yesteryear, I'm going to demolish the entire Village Center. The Village Center as it stands now is not laid out correctly to be a sustainable Center for the future. Although the County owns the majority of the Center, they will have to acquire three more parcels to make a truly comprehensive redevelopment plan; the Exxon, Delitown, and Richburn Liquors.

First and foremost, the Safeway building and any and all second floor offices will be torn down. The entrance road coming in from Cloudleap Court that currently makes a sharp left turn at the eastern end of the Safeway building will be extended straight to Foreland Garth. On the left side of this new road will be a Retail strip that will contain current Village Center merchants such as Angel Nails, Community Cutz, Subway, Long Reach Beauty Supply, Richburn Liquors, the Police Satellite Office, and Nappstar Hair Salon. The remainder of the site that the old Safeway building sits on will contain the Rite Aid and Produce Galore. These two businesses will be on the ground floor of a building that has 5 floors with the second floor containing the Howard County Center for the Arts. The upper three floors will contain Artists lofts that are live/work spaces. A parking garage will be in the back of the building facing Foreland Garth.

There is only one section of the Village Center that will remain as is; Stonehouse. Stonehouse contains the Villages Offices and the Columbia Center for the Arts. One thing that will change however is the exterior courtyard surrounding the front of it. The way it is now, Stonehouse appears hard to access with the way it is now. Granted, with the demolition of the rest of the Village Center, that may change. However, I want there to be a level, well lit, easily accessible pedestrian pathway from the parking lot to Stonehouse. In addition, the area around said Pathway will be a Village Green with level landscaping that will be the focal point for the Village Center as a whole.

Next we come to the Pad Sites. As of right now, the pad sites are not owned by the County. Since they will be a pivotal part of redeveloping Long Reach Village Center, they County will have to acquire them. First there's the Exxon. I would move it to the swath of land between Foreland Garth and Old Dobbin Lane. This will allow direct access to it from Tamar Drive. Where the Exxon currently sits is where I would build a Bank. Banks are crucial for a Village Center to survive not only for the sake of the Residents, but the other merchants have to make several trips to the Bank every day. Currently, the Liquor Store, though attached to the former Safeway building is also not owned by the County. As noted above, I have relocated it to a new strip of Retail along the extension to Foreland Garth.

Next there's the Delitown parcel which is also not owned by the County. In its place I would build Columbia's first Sonic. Since there are very few Sonics in the Central Maryland area none of which are in Columbia, I think building a Sonic here will be a major draw to Long Reach from all over the region. At the entrance to the Center from Cloudleap Court is where I would put the Bun Penney pad site.

Finally, we come to the bulk of the County owned Retail. Like the rest of the Center, I would have all of this demolished. In keeping with the Mixed Use theme of Long Reach, I would have ground floor Retail with 4 four floors of market rate Apartments above. The Apartments will use a built in parking garage in the back side of the building. Since I relocated all of the existing Village Center shops in the new strip heading towards Foreland Garth, this new building have a chance to bring new Retail into Long Reach be it part of the nostalgic theme of the Center or a brand new business for an entrepreneur starting out.

Columbia has always been nostalgic for the shops and memories that dominated its heyday. When redeveloping a Village Center it's always good to keep that in mind to give Village Centers an edge over chain dominated Retail.     

Monday, March 20, 2017

Long Reach: Village Center of Nostalgia

For the past 10 years, I have been grasping at straws and looking for every possible way to save Long Reach Village Center. To say this has been frustrating is an understatement. For this entire length of time and the some, Long Reach has been losing quality tenants only to be replaced by low quality tenants that don't stay at the Center very long. That was the best case scenario. The worst case is those spaces remain vacant and rotting for what seems like an eternity.
As there have been rumors of new trendy Grocery Stores coming to Columbia like Wegmans and Whole Foods, I have made a case to bring them to Long Reach instead of the high traffic areas they currently enjoy. When Safeway left and the Family Market moved in, I gave them a chance thinking they may usher in a slew of ethnic Restaurants that can't be found along Route 175 making Long Reach a draw for the diverse population not just near the Center but the entire County and beyond.
The Family Market closed after barely one year in operation and with it any hope of the Center becoming an International Food Hub. The area got so bad and neglected that the County bought the Center from its slumlords with the sole purpose of redeveloping it. Many ideas on how to move forward with the Center have floated around. The most popular of which has been moving the Howard County Arts Center to Long Reach. I support this idea however I don't think enough attention is being paid to attracting Retail. That's why I have come up with a plan to redevelop the Center as mixed use Retail-Residential-Institutional with a nostalgic approach to the Retail.
As someone who's grown up in Columbia, I share a common bond with thousands of others who have also grown up here. That bond is nostalgia. So many people here miss the Village Centers of yesteryear before chains started coming to town. Back then, the Village Centers were practically the only Retail for Columbia. This allowed for some truly unique independent Businesses to flourish in the early days. By reopening these stores in a redeveloped Long Reach, I believe this will draw a lot of people back to the Center and will make a great addition to the new Howard County Arts Center.
I have resigned to the fact that Long Reach won't be able to attract a full service Grocer. That being said, I have become intrigued by Wilde Lake's dual anchor model. Wilde Lake has attracted a new CVS and moved David's Natural Market to a brand new building at the front of the center. These two anchors promise that together, they will provide most if not all of the staples found at a full service Grocery Store. With that in mind, I would like to apply that same dual anchor concept to Long Reach.
Although a Full Service Grocer is out of the question, I do still believe that a drug store could be attracted here. Given that there isn't a Rite Aid in the area, I choose them to co-anchor Long Reach. What will the second co-anchor be? Produce Galore! With Rite Aid and Produce Galore, I believe these two anchors will fill the role of a full service Grocery Store. Of course everybody remembers Produce Galore, this nostalgic gem was located in Wilde Lake until 2008. A big draw for Produce Galore was its selection of homemade soups. When Wilde Lake was failing, Produce Galore closed much to the chagrin of its patrons. I think a brand new Produce Galore in Long Reach will bring those patrons back in droves.
The next dose of Nostalgia will be Bun Penney. Bun Penney was one of the first tenants in the Mall and has been a favorite of Columbia Residents for generations. Like Produce Galore, bringing back this old Columbia staple will be crucial to drawing people back to Long Reach. I would have it located at a new pad site at the entrance to the Center from Couldleap Court to welcome people into the Center. Produce Galore and Bun Penney are the two new tenants that would start the ball rolling into encouraging old businesses to re-open in Long Reach but there are plenty more that along with the County Arts Center will turn Long Reach into a thriving Village Center once again.
This post is a more abstract view of the redevelopment. I will write another post that will focus on what will go where and how it will come together as a redeveloped Center. Stay Tuned.      

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sneak Peek into 2017

Here's a sneak peek at what I've been working on with the Columbia Blog. I've been playing around with ideas on "paint." The first is my plan on how to redevelop Long Reach Village Center, the second is creating a Promenade around the southwest corner of the mall, and finally some more redevelopment for the Mall.