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.      

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