Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Now What?

Last night the County Council voted unanimously to approve CB 29, the so called village center redevelopment legislation. This bill and its myriad of amendments establish new guidelines and procedures for the owners of the village centers if they decide to redevelop their properties. A key provision of the bill is the removal of General Growth Properties from the gatekeeper role. Up until this point, only GGP could petition for any changes in the village center even though it did not own any of the village centers. This provision was a holdover from the days before GGP’s predecessor, The Rouse Company, sold out the village centers to Kimco Realty Corporation.

Of course, not everyone is happy. Those wishing to keep Columbia preserved as some sort of relic of sixties planning think the council did not do enough. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun today, some folks think this spells the end of the village centers because it allows a residential component to be added to a redevelopment program. In particular, Lloyd Knowles said “allowing major residential uses in the village centers will mean owners have less incentive to find ways to attract new stores.”

I don’t quite get that. Even Jim Rouse recognized the compatibility of residential and retail uses in village centers. The second village center built in Columbia, Harpers Choice Village Center, included apartments from the very beginning.

Anyway, the passage of this legislation doesn’t mean the village center situation is likely to change anytime soon. The stronger centers like Dorsey’s Search, River Hill and Kings Contrivance are unlikely candidates for redevelopment. The weaker centers like Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills will likely continue to struggle. The one two punch of lackluster retail demand and constriction in the capital markets for real estate projects mean that any redevelopment program for these centers is likely years away.

Still, this is progress. As they say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.