Thursday, March 20, 2008

Reinventing Wilde Lake Village Green

This is kind of a good news bad news deal.

The good news is that Kimco, the owner of the Wilde Lake Village Center, is willing to make a $40 million investment to remake the oldest village center in Columbia.

The bad news, at least for some folks, is that the future center will not likely have a grocery store.

I think the good news outweighs the bad news in this instance. Kimco Realty Corporation owns interests in 1,973 retail properties in 45 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Chile. They have long standing relationships with just about every major food retailer in the country. If they are unable to attract a grocery store to Wilde Lake it is highly unlikely that anyone else could. They didn’t just rely on their chain store contacts either. They also attempted to get David’s Natural Market and Produce Galore to split the former Giant space giving each merchant an expanded store. Word has it that while David’s was interested, Produce Galore took a pass.

It’s probably time to accept the fact that a traditional grocery store will no longer be part of this village center and be grateful for the fact that at least someone is willing to make a major financial commitment to give the center a new life.

8 comments:

Iconic Xer. said...

I was speaking with my 67-year-old mother this morning; she had just come back from shopping at her favorite local grocery store: the Long Reach Safeway. Why does she like this store? Because it's smaller and she doesn't have to walk as far, sez her. These words come from a rather healthy woman who works on her feet 9-10 hours a day, gardens and dances one or more times per week.

From what I understand, Long Reach's population is about 15-16K, in a Columbia population of about approx. 97K. There are 10 villages in Columbia, so clearly LR has one of the highest population bases. Yet its village-center-based grocery store is … “desolate” is the word that comes to mind.

Here we have a corporate entity (Kimco) willing to invest $40 million in revitalizing a dying village center.

I'd call that good news. Really good news.

Maybe: once all the residential development is put in, there will be a desire/value for a small grocer in the village center. I'd bet there's a high probability of that happening down the road. Holding on to the outdated notion that every village center needs a large grocery store anchor is … well, outdated. Worse, it’s resisting the natural progress and development needed for our decaying village centers. Sez me.

Margaret Pendleton said...

I'm not sure of your source for the statement that Produce Galore took a pass on a Kimco proposal that it share the retail space vacated by Giant Food. In fact, no such proposal was ever received by my husband or myself.

wordbones said...

Margaret,

Thank you for clarifying that point. My source was a colleague. He was obviously mistaken.

Just curious though, would you have considered such a proposition?

-wb

Margaret Pendleton said...

Wordbones,
We probably would not have taken the offer. It would be very difficult for 2 complementary businesses to grow under one roof
without infringing on each other.
Thanks for asking.
Margaret

Margaret Pendleton said...

Wordbones,
We probably would not have taken the offer. It would be very difficult for 2 complementary businesses to grow under one roof
without infringing on each other.
Thanks for asking.
Margaret

Anonymous said...

The developer's claim that including a grocery store isn't a viable option strikes me as odd, when this village center managed to host not just one grocery store for about 40 years, but also concurrently, for a good portion of that time, other similar businesses such as Produce Galore, David's, Today's Catch, a cheese shop, Heavenly Ham, and others.

Even if the developer is right that national grocers in this area are only considering 50,000 square foot spaces (250% larger than the previous Giant), aren't the new buildings they're proposing seven stories tall, totaling far, far more than 50,000 square feet? Space could be found. Two-story grocery stores do exist. Isn't the Harris Teeter in Kings Contrivance going to be two stories?

Instead, Wilde Lake would gain 1,000 "high-end" (none "affordable"?) rental housing units, swelling the village's number of homes by more than 15% and providing the traffic congestion that goes along with it, and lose the possibility of a local, anchor grocery.

I do wonder if General Growth will give its blessing. GGP does need to approve any development proposals within New Town zoning, right? With about 2,200 housing units left to be obtained under New Town zoning (without any increased density zoning being approved) and traffic studies saying increased density will pose huge traffic problems, it will be interesting to see whether cooperation or competition arises between them and whether the public interest is best served.

Thankfully, with this proposal appearing to require public review/approval, there will be opportunities for the public to have input about these proposed significant changes to an important facet of life in Wilde Lake that has provided many basic services to its residents.

I hope Plan B does include a local grocery remaining in the village center. Otherwise, this may be the first of many repurposings of our village centers, relegating us all to costlier, time-wasting, and less 'green', cross-town commutes to obtain our household needs.

Rather than seeing local groceries as an outdated concept, I perceive maintaining local amenities as being both timeless and sensible.

wordbones said...

Margaret,
Thank you for commenting on this blog. Best of luck to you and Kent in your future endeavors. I sincerely hope your next opportunity lies in Columbia or Ellicott City. I suspect it will.

Anon 2:20 PM:

I believe the main challenge to attracting a new traditional full line grocer to Wilde Lake is the proximity to existing stores in Hickory Ridge and Harper's Choice. There isn't enough market to carve up.

That being said, Wilde Lake would be perfect for specialty grocers such as Trader Joe's. I suspect certain ethnic grocers would do well too.

The village centers can and should remain the centers of life and commerce for the village but each one may look a little different. No longer does the concept of full line grocery store, drug store, butcher shop, shoe repair, dry cleaner, etc. fit every village. Nor should it.

Flexibility in planning is the key to making it work.

-wb

Anonymous said...

"I believe the main challenge to attracting a new traditional full line grocer to Wilde Lake is the proximity to existing stores in Hickory Ridge and Harper's Choice. There isn't enough market to carve up."

Then how do you explain so many grocery stores in close proximity to Routes 40 and 29?
3 Safeways (Normandy, Long Gate, Enchanted Forest), SuperFresh, Wal-Mart, Lotte Mart, a few ethnic grocers, Giant, and Mars?

I think it has less to do with proximity to existing stores and more to do with relative convenient access and relative selections allowed by the size of the store when compared to those other stores.

Over the years, more and more red lights have been added in the area of Wilde Lake, making it less and less convenient for those driving from further locations to choose Wilde Lake's grocery instead of choosing a dash to either of the stores you mentioned.

Maybe synchronized traffic lights on Twin Rivers could help people to more efficiently get in, out, and through Wilde Lake?

Yet, the many additional red lights shown in some of the proposals for Town Center could very well worsen Wilde Lake's situation, making it all the more inconvenient to get in to or out of.

If Wilde Lake's store were as large as the stores in Hickory Ridge and Harper's Choice, thereby offering similar breadth of selections, more people living in those equidistant areas would again choose Wilde Lake.

"That being said, Wilde Lake would be perfect for specialty grocers such as Trader Joe's. I suspect certain ethnic grocers would do well too."

I agree that a Trader Joe's or similar grocer, so long as full-service could be a good fit. Other places, of lesser means and facing higher hurdles, have managed to rise to this challenge and retain or regain full-service grocers within their communities. Food for thought.