“This will probably piss some people off.”
That was my exact thought as I finished the final draft of my August column for The Business Monthly. I honestly didn’t set out to do that. It just kind of developed that way. My original thought was to relate my past experience with the Columbia village centers to the current debate over CB 29, the village redevelopment legislation. This debate has turned into the warm up act for the larger debate on ZRA 113 the town center redevelopment legislation that is anticipated to go before the council this fall.
My personal history with the village centers begins back in 1971 when I worked in The Cheese Shop in what was then called Wilde Lake Village Green. Back then, the village center contained a cheese shop, a butcher shop, a grocery store, a pharmacy with a soda fountain, a full service restaurant, a barber shop, a beauty shop, a book store, a record store, a liquor store, a tobacconist, a dry cleaner and a bank. The only stores still standing from those days are the barber shop and the dry cleaner. This was before the mall opened.
Later, after graduating college in 1977, I was hired on as the Village Center marketing director for The Rouse Company. My job was to help build and sustain customer traffic to what by then were four Columbia village centers in Wilde Lake, Oakland Mills, Harpers Choice, and Long Reach. Already market forces and demographic changes were pulling shoppers away from the village centers.
This look back got me thinking about the whole Columbia “story” or vision as some would prefer to call it. Yes, Columbia broke new ground in religious tolerance, race relations, secondary education, and healthcare but these changes did not occur in a vacuum. Columbia merely capitalized on these changes. This was essentially a brilliant marketing move.
Not that this is a bad thing. It merely needs to be considered when you hear folks speak of maintaining what was originally planned. What was originally planned was planned to meet what homebuyers and shoppers wanted forty years ago.
You can read this month’s column here.