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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Redeveloping the Long Reach Village Center

      Last Thursday evening the first scheduled public meeting was held to get public comment on the redevelopment of the County owned Long Reach Village Center.   If you were unable to attend you can hear the presentation at this link.  Additional public meetings will be held on May 28, June 11 and September 17. Each meeting will be from 7 to 9 p.m. at Stonehouse and will allow time for presentations as well as comments and questions from those attending.
      What made the Village Centers relevant in the earlier days of Columbia may no longer be relevant with the changes in our retail choices today.  The village centers all came out of a "cookie cutter" model.   A grocery store, gas station, pizza shop, drug store and dry cleaner were the common retailers of the centers.  The grocery store anchor model may no longer work in some villages.  This is particularly true in Long Reach with Wegmans, BJ's and Costco all located close by.  Whole Foods also is just a couple of miles away.
      A variety of issues were raised in the public comment session.  The one that has changed the usage of the village center is the issue of safety.   The seemly regular robberies of the Exxon Gas Station in the Village Center is hurting the image and usage of the Center.   On a personal note I recognize that I have not visited the Center in a long time since my dentist moved to a different location and the Howard County library closed their branch in the Village Center many years ago.  
      Much of the presentation was directed at how to revitalize the Center with new retail establishments.   One logical direction might be to identify arts and crafts retailers to complement the Columbia Arts Center in the Stonehouse.   With the County owning the village center the development of the village center for community services should be looked at.  Even though the Family Market was not successful the idea of a center with an ethnic flavor in retailers and services (i.e Foreign Information and Referral Network, FIRN) might be a different way to utilize the center.  I would imagine that the County would like to turn the center back over to the private sector and get out of the ownership of the center but maybe the center offers an opportunity to serve a public need instead of a retail need which may no longer be needed.

P.S.
    The Village Center issue is one that I have blogged on before a number of times.  To see those blogs I have some links.
Blog 2014

Blog 2013

Blog 2011


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3 comments:

Adam Paul said...

The shopping center at Centre Park is another big challenge for Long Reach, drawing away many customers from the older village center and leaving very few nearby who won't (or can't) use the other options. Even those who don't drive may walk or take the Red bus to Columbia Crossing. Long Reach is to me the most challenged of the Village Centers.

I visited Long Reach once in the late 90's and found it to be a really nicely done focal point for the community, and felt the same on returning in the early 2000's. A couple of years ago after Safeway closed, I had to pass through there on a Saturday and it had a much more tired and run down feel. It no longer seemed like a place one wanted to go, but a place you went if you had to. Hopefully, it can find a niche for this community.

Harry Schwarz said...

I would love to see the Nonprofit Center located here that ACS/Citizen Services has been developing. The synergy with the Arts Center would be exciting and it make's a very strong anchor. It's also got to include services/merchants important to the community.

Susan M. Smith said...

As I read your blog I was just thinking the same thing as Harry Schwarz - I agree, the proposed Nonprofit Center might be a good addition. It would bring a steady base of office uses and employees with a strong Columbia/Howard County focus. The village center is near enough to major transit and retail that workers and visitors could benefit from those amenities. Additionally, a village center is much more human-scaled and approachable than a location in one of Howard County's business parks,another plus in my view. I also think a non-profit center would be good tie-in with the existing arts facilities. I support efforts to build on the village center's existing arts focus - my daughter danced from pre-school through high school at Cindee Velle's dance studio located in Stonehouse. Stonehouse was her and my "second home" and we had a wonderful experience. I'd very much like to see the village center become more welcoming to the families and students who utilize the arts facilities and would love for participation in the local arts programs increase.