Monday, January 16, 2012

Back to Center

Although the focus of tomorrow nights Pre Submission Community Meeting by GGP will be what is proposed to be built at The Mall, the more interesting development to me is what is coming down.

From what I have been able to ascertain, L.L. Bean is interested in a smaller store and GGP is interested in opening the Mall up and establishing a direct connection to the lakefront. L.L. Bean moves into the new lifestyle center and GGP gets back prime real estate right in the middle of the action. The Warfield Neighborhood Plan identifies the area directly in front of the existing store as an amenity area called Warfield Plaza. According to the Downtown Columbia Design Guidelines, this area is envisioned accommodating “intense and planned public events such as frequent markets, small concerts, festivals, fairs and similar.”
“Additionally, the plaza should function equally well for outdoor dining, shopping, walking and informal activities.”

Presumably GGP would want to build on that by reopening the old main entry.
The mall center court would regain its true center court status. The original mall was your basic dumbbell design with an anchor on each end. The department stores had their own entrances and The Mall had its own as well in the middle. Over the years, through various expansions and renovations, two out of three of these original points of entry were closed off.

It is still easy to see where they were if you look close enough.
At the end of the corridor that is now part of a Chicos store, there was a pinball arcade called The Boardwalk. The entrance led out to the top of a two level parking deck.
The space where J. Crew now sits was once the busiest entrance. The Columbia Association staffed a Member Services Center there.

With the L.L. Bean building out of the way, this space opens up again with lots of possibilities. Think of a corridor of restaurants and shops leading right down to the lakefront.

It will take awhile for this to come to fruition though. I suspect that the earliest we’d see anything happen in the physical space would be sometime in 2014. First they have to build the new building and that could take up to eighteen months from now, if all goes well.
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