Kimco, the owner of Wilde Lake Village Shopping Center, has submitted a petition to amend the New Town Zoning in Columbia (ZRA-102). Kimco is seeking to end the “gatekeeper” role of Columbia’s developer in approving any redevelopment plans for the village centers. As it now stands, Kimco must first get General Growths approval for their redevelopment plans before they can submit them to the county. In their petition, Kimco claims that the “existing regulations do not permit the redevelopment of the Village Centers to respond to changing market conditions. As a result of the current regulations, the Village Centers can not be redeveloped and reinvestment is therefore discouraged.”
That’s a bit of a stretch.
Back in March, when Ken Ulman announced his legislative initiative to support this type of change in Columbia I was generally supportive of the notion.
I’ve since changed my mind. The more I studied Kimco’s plans for Wilde Lake and their track record with the eight village centers they acquired from The Rouse Company, the more convinced I am that they are somewhat lacking in the whole Columbia vision thing. Once they gained control of the eight centers, they sold off Oakland Mills and Long Reach and kept Hickory Ridge, River Hill, Dorsey’s Search, Harpers Choice, Kings Contrivance and Wilde Lake. While I generally applaud their efforts to reinvest in Wilde Lake, I have now come around to conclude that their plans for 500 apartment units in that center are a little out of whack with the village center concept, even an evolved village center concept.
GGP on the other hand, has a pretty strong interest in maintaining the Columbia franchise. In addition to Town Center they also have significant land holdings in Columbia Gateway. It is in GGP’s best interest to see that the Columbia “brand” stays strong and that means relatively healthy village centers. I suspect that GGP has been a little disappointed in Kimco’s stewardship of the village centers so far so it is no surprise that Kimco would prefer to have them removed from the approval process.
I think I’d rather see a private developer who has “skin in the game” in the role of gatekeeper for the Columbia concept than to leave that function entirely in the hands of local government.