Friday, April 13, 2007

Rethinking Wilde Lake Village Green

At least that is what it was originally called back in the early days. Now it is called Wilde Lake Village Center. I have been thinking about Wilde Lake quit a bit lately. Wilde Lake Village Center and I go way back.

Wilde Lake is only the latest village center to lose a grocery store and once again there is outcry throughout Columbia of the need to "save the village centers" by replacing the grocery store and making the village center whole again.

I'm not so sure that this is a good idea.

The Giant grocery store in Wilde Lake was the smallest grocery store in Columbia. It was arguably the worst grocery store in Columbia too. It wasn't always so of course. I remember when it was the first grocery store in Columbia and the village center was a vibrant marketplace with a butcher shop, a cheese shop and even a bookstore.

I also was a patron of the Wilde Lake Giant in the more recent years. The store had an uncanny knack for always being out of what I was looking for. Once they were even out of chicken. What kind of grocery store runs out of chicken?

Now it is gone but interestingly enough the village center still attracts me as a shopper. David's Natural Market is where I regularly purchase my daughters vitamins. I make a special trip to visit Produce Galore for their excellent produce and some of the best sandwiches in town. The only place I buy my running shoes and running apparel is Feet First. I have patronized these stores much more than I ever did the Giant and I still do even though I now live in Ellicott City. The absence of the grocery store has had no impact on my Wilde Lake shopping.

The thing is, demographic patterns have shifted such that a village centers retail role should probably be rethought, especially the older ones like Wilde Lake. Peoples tastes have changed. The modern grocery store is at least four times as large as the Wilde Lake Giant was and they are designed to serve a much larger population base than that of a Columbia village.

Soon, a Wegmans will open in Columbia (not in a village center) and the village center/grocery store model will be challenged yet again. It is time to rethink the village center retail model.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everyone agrees the Giant was bad and was going to have to go sooner or later. Now the question is how is the Village Center transfered into the 21st century so it is relevent for the next 40 years. What is attractive to 20/30 year olds and their families. They are the ones that are going to make the Village Center vibrant, not the 60 somethings that are founding generation.

Eldersburg1976 said...

Wegmans in Columbia? When and Where??

The one in Fairfax is great..

Anonymous said...

You can't call the Wilde Lake Giant a failure. It lasted nearly 40 years, the last 10+ of them with some competition just across the parking lot. So, it's hardly time to "rethink the village center retail model" vis-a-vis foregoing a grocery store in each village center.

Just as Columbia was planned to have an elementary school in each neighborhood, village centers were planned to meet the daily shopping needs of its residents, providing access to the staples: a grocery store/pharmacy, a bank, a gas station, etc.

To suggest Wilde Lake should now go without a grocery store is to the detriment of both those of modest means and those without access to automotive transportation, unless you're now volunteering to be Wilde Lake's on-call chauffeur.

Yet, even that wouldn't do justice to Wilde Lake, whose community shopping area as you noted was the "Village Green". It deserves to continue to have a walkable grocery store in its core to truly keep the village "green".

wordbones said...

eldersburg1976,

Wegmans will open a store on the site directly accross the street from Apple Ford on McGaw Road. The building is currently being used by the HBO series "The Wire."

Anon 11:04

The problem is that village residents no longer support their village grocery stores, at least not in large enough numbers to make them economically viable. Most peope will seek out a store they like even if it happens to be outside of their village or even Columbia for that matter. Most successful village grocery stores depend on this. They simply cannot sustain themselves soley on the population of a typical Columbia village.

Times change, retail adapts.

-wb

Eldersburg1976 said...

perhaps addding more mixed use occupancy (commercial office) would draw more people to the village centers and make them more economically feasible...

this would probably require somewhat dramatic reworking of the centers though to create the space

WB, has Wegmans been officially approved?? Any idea of when it will open?

wordbones said...

eburg,

I am not certain as to where exactly Wegman's is in the development process. I do know that they have begun holding information sessions with community groups.

My best guess is that they are two years away from opening.

Anonymous said...

Does the WLVC become a satalite of the downtown development?

Miss Newburn said...

About a month ago, I asked a long-time employee at David's Natural Foods if they'd seen any fall-off in their traffic with the closing of the Giant in WL. The answer was, "No."

I think the village centers will do well to create more of a focused, destination-based shopping area rather than the early-days version of be-all-to-everyone shopping center. WL, for example, could be a specialty foods center with Produce Galore, David's, Today's Catch and more. Just a thought ... a possibility.

Better yet. How bout some density inside the village center: 6-7 story housing, with offices on the second level and retail on the ground level. Make some cute, efficiencies, artist studios and 1- and 2-BR apts. Ya know: Affordable housing that isn't old and falling apart. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Nostalgia rules in Columbia these days. Sentimentality, not sense, guides the response to the issues of this aging community. This is too bad. Our villages don't have moats around them. We aren't separate countries. If you've ever worked a village election, you will quickly discover that many people can't even tell you what village they live in. People don't have loyalty to a grocery store; there are lots of places to shop, and I don't see a lot of people walking to the supermarket. If getting groceries to the elderly is a problem, figure out the solution to that problem, don't try to bend an outdated model of retailing to fit today's market. Some entrepreneur is figuring out what to do with that space right now. Time to wake up and smell the latte.

Anonymous said...

The biggest threat to the village centers is not some change in society. It is the county's allowing development in Columbia to go unplanned in areas such as Snowden, Dobbin, and Mcgaw.

Retail sprawl, as housing sprawl, was supposed to be what our planned community was going to avoid.

Robin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

My son is moving to an apt around the Columbia Mall and we went to visit him and could not find a grocery store. Saw a WalMart, Target, Best Buy, Starbucks, many many restaurants and office buildings, but no grocery.
A Wegmans would be wonderful.