Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One size may no longer fit the Village Center model

I have done one blog on the decline of the village centers and have been reading some other blogs on this issue. Frank Hecker has written how village centers have changed, Columbia's Future wrote about the Owen Brown Village Center and the Wilde Lake Village Center. The factor that seems to be weakening the concept of the village center as a place for village residents to shop is the development of other shopping choices like BJ’s and Costco. The addition of Wegman’s will further weaken the retailers in village centers. If grocery stores no longer bring residents to the centers how will the smaller retailers in the centers survive? Will village centers have to develop a niche to survive against the big box retailers?

In earlier posts I have talked about how we are seeing diversity in restaurants of every ethnic type. In addition I have noticed the growth of the ethnic grocery stores. The HowChow blog has posted on the wide variety of ethnic grocery stores in our area. I have tried many of these small stores and have enjoyed trying items that looked interesting. Some items became favorites and others were “interesting” tried only once. Where once you had to travel to other countries to taste the items that you can now buy locally. Most of the owners of these markets are helpful in telling you how to use the unknown items. With the increasing ethnic diversity in Howard County I would expect this trend of ethnic merchants to increase.

The only problem with the ethnic grocery stores is that they are spread out across the county and usually in hidden locations that are not visible from the road. Wouldn’t it be interesting if one of the village centers became a hub for these grocery stores? You could go from the Mexican market to the Indian market to the Asian market. Combine this with some ethnic restaurants and an ethnic craft store and you have something that would draw people from all over the county to a village center. Add an ethnic festival and entertainment in the warm months and you have a village center as a cultural center. Maybe even a location for the Foreign Born Information and Referral Network office and the African Art Museum of Maryland.


Anonymous said...

Glad to see you echoing the idea of a "global village center" that I floated in my blog post. One key question is, which center might be best suited for this concept? Do you have thoughts on this?

Hoco Connect said...

Wilde Lake would have seemed like a good choice as the model that set the tone for what Rouse originally thought a village center should be. Wilde Lake could have developed the model for the new concept. I think the fact that Kimco is the manager of the Wilde Lake Village Center and that the planning has gone so far makes it unlikely that it could be done there. The Long Reach Village Center is maybe a better choice as their future does seem shaky with Wegman's moving in in 2012 and the possible loss of Safeway to the competition. There maybe time to plan a new concept with Long Reach before they get to the point that Wilde Lake is now.

Karen Lynn said...

This is an idea that Oakland Mills included in its master plan. See page 11 of the OMVC Master Plan: http://www.oaklandmills.org/pdf/OM_Master_Plan_Final.pdf

duanestclair said...

I am surprised I didn't think of OM. It would be a logical choice because it already has an international fair and a good international restaurant. I love the ideas in the Master Plan. The space where the gas station was seems to have little chance for development. Housing for artists and others to display their creative works would be interesting there. I am not sure if the Food Lion would be able to kill the idea that included ethnic grocery stores. That is why I thought of Wilde Lake and Long Reach if the Safeway left.