Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mall Master Plan I: The Lord & Taylor Plaza

Back in 2012 I wrote a post suggesting that the Mall should demolish and re-open Lord and Taylor to make a second Lifestyle Plaza directly across from what was then, the soon to be opened outdoor Plaza that replaced LL Bean. I love that idea but I'm afraid it isn't that practical but I still want to create a similar outdoor plaza on the other side of the Mall to bring life to what I consider to be the Mall's Outback.
The Mall parking lot, in the instance of the other four Department Stores, is very accessible to them. With Lord and Taylor, the opposite is true. There are parking decks that lead into the store itself and that side of the Mall but how does one get there from say; the Lakefront? When looking at Lord and Taylor from Little Patuxent Parkway, there are no connecting sidewalks, no pathways, or no exterior connecting roads that welcomes you to Lord and Taylor. Or the Mall in general for that matter. The only way to get there is to walk down Little Patuxent Parkway to find the J.C. Penney entrance or the Macy's entrance. Or you could walk through the grass on the steep hill to Lord and Taylor or the adjacent Mall Entrance and risk injury. 
That other Mall Entrance near Lord and Taylor has been mostly forgotten. While Bun Penney was still open and Lord and Taylor had yet to be built, that was a different story. When looking at the area, you can see why. Although I like trees, the trees at this entrance make it seem unwelcoming and in the way. There's also no real connection to the lone Merrill Lynch building. When comparing this to the newly opened plaza on the other side of Mall, it feels like two completely different places.
So what does this Mall Entrance have going for it? A great line of sight. Well, if you get rid of the trees all over it you will. That line of sight makes a straight shot into Wincopin Circle which of course leads right to the Lakefront. I would also like to point out that Wincopin Circle is in the midst of large scale redevelopment currently. A long vacant plat of land is getting a mixed use high rise, the American City Building will be redeveloped as a similar concept, and most likely there will be redevelopment of the parking deck where the vacant Copeland's was. This will no doubt bring life to Little Patuxent Parkway across from Lord and Taylor. But will it make a connection to the Mall?
This is where the Lord and Taylor Plaza will be built. The redevelopment on Wincopin Circle, the rebirth of the lakefront, and the integration of the Merrill Lynch building and connecting the Mall to all of it shows how crucial it is to all Downtown. The Plaza will extend outdoors from the current Mall Entrance just like the current Plaza does. It will connect to the Merrill Lynch building on one side and it will extend to Little Patuxent Parkway and Wincopin Circle with shops on either side that are a mix of those already in the Mall and newcomers to Columbia.
The side of the Plaza that Lord and Taylor is on will be more difficult to build additional shops. Lord and Taylor impedes on that area so either Lord and Taylor will have to expand towards Macy's to reclaim that square footage, or they would have a smaller first floor. Department Stores (especially Sears lately) have been shrinking the size of their stores lately so Lord and Taylor doing so for the construction of the plaza wouldn't be out of the question.
The Retail spaces in the plaza would be for larger size stores (like Pottery Barn) that can't find space in the mall since the few vacant store fronts in the Mall are very small. Like the existing plaza, it will have large Restaurants at the end welcoming you into the plaza. The Restaurants I would put is California Pizza Kitchen and Phillips Seafood. The plaza walk way would extend to Wincopin Circle where a traffic signal and pedestrian signal will cross Little Patuxent Parkway. That same stretch of Little Patuxent Parkway will gain sidewalks as well.
Although this second plaza is a very large development plan, it is only the first of many in a series of a Master Plan for Columbia Mall to keep it competitive and a regional shopping destination for decades to come. Stay tuned for more.