Howard County Blog

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wilde Lake Giant Is Closing

The Wilde Lake Giant is closing. The reason given is that it was too small to satisfy consumers desired range of grocery products. This will be a vital challenge for our community to address. The desires of the community for diverse options are growing and Rouse had no way of knowing the scales of stores today when he planned Columbia. Thus we ended up with the new development of the big box store lining the outskirts of Columbia. When addressing the future of the village centers we need to keep in mind the scale desired by consumers and upsize rather than downsize our shopping options in the village centers. Consumers like to try to get all their shopping done in one place and they will go to the places they can do that. If the village centers are downsized they will have less draws and will die off as less and less shoppers use the businesses. If we upsize the village centers by stacking shopping options and adding more shoppers (in the form of residents and office workers) onsite we will draw more people to the village centers and the businesses will thrive.

I wrote a letter to the editor on this, months ago, suggesting that by upsizing the village centers and stacking big box stores on top of grocery stores as is done in Seattle we can relieve some of our growth pressures by getting rid of the big box strip along Snowden River Parkway and build a new village of Columbia there, which will get more bang for the buck off that land and will revitalize the village centers by adding shopping draws that do not compete with existing businesses.

In the meantime HayDuke has a good suggestion on addressing the situation in Wilde Lake:

So, what to do with the space? The story provides no details, but there are two options that I would support. The first is getting David’s Natural Food Market and Produce Galore to join forces and give Columbia it’s first (nearly) full-sized natural food store. The second, which is bound to happen eventually anyway, is to redevelop the entire village center, something we may want to hold off on, however, until the whole charrette thing is done.

The second option is already being pursued. I believe the effort is being championed by forward thinking Mary Pivar on the Wilde Lake Village Board.

I would add that if a grocery store cannot use the space our area could really use an REI camping goods store. I always thought that Oakland Mills should have gone after an REI when their grocery store problems were going on.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or a trader joe's or wholefoods

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Michael Drakos said...

I am wary of bringing Big Box stores, even stacked ones, into the Village centers.

I am NOT in favor of the Strip Mall either, and I do think that we should revitalize and strenghten the Village centers, I think that too much retail and corporate buisness ownership could distract from and even be contrary to the goals and best aspects of the Village centers.

In our efforts to improve what we have, let us not design away the intention behind for our endeavors.

My suggestion is to attract more institutions such as public services, non-profits, and community events as well as transportation links (buses for now). Employers who would provide jobs but without must need for heavy truck access or consumer density.

Examples: Greenbelt's Village Center has a Co-Op Grocery store. Can we attract some educational facilities? Music teachers? Private practise Doctors? What about outdoor theatrical performances, even Indoor ones. Maybe confrence space. We should definatle get some WIFI and public computer work stations. Artist housing and studio space!

Let small buisnesses come to where the people are instead of trying to attract big businessess to lure in more people/traffic. We need to bring the people in the Villages together more than we need to attract new customers to the Village Centers.

The Village center is first and foremost a Civic environment: A "Commons". The Shoppes that are in the village centers are supposed to serve the daily needs of the community: Groceries, Barber, Pharmacy, etc. As they are, they do underperform in both their civic and their "needs" roles. But would adding a Target or a Borders help or hinder this purpose?

I realize the value of stacking and veticality in urban planning, and have been to Chicago, NY and DC and experienced convenient Trader Joe's and Borders' and such tucked nicely into urban blocks, but I think that while this works well in high denisty urban environments, I don't think it's right for the Columbia Village concept.

So, While I am in full favor of revitalizing the Village centers, I think we need to do it in a way that enhances the current form in still reconizable ways, and fosters local public ownership and leadership rather than placing the fate of our Villages in the hands of blind buisness interests.
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This is an edited down repost of my comments to an earlier section on Village center redevelopment, for the full post of my comments, see: this post

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, village centers are supposed to serve the daily needs of the community. Keep them doing what they were meant to do: make daily life more convenient.

Commuting to work is for the birds. Village centers have allowed us to walk and bicycle to restaurants, banks, and grocery stores, to get haircuts, to meet friends and neighbors at community meetings, to get prescriptions refilled, etc.

Keep the neighborhood atmosphere of village centers as long as you can. BigBoxes don't need footholds in our neighborhoods. Besides, they'd only want to consume additional surrounding openspace for larger footprints and larger parking lots. Yuck.

Instead of stacking bigboxes up higher and higher, how about putting them underground and returning the forests and meadows they occupied to their healthy state?

9:43 PM  

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