The consultants hired to study Columbia's economy have developed a series of site-specific recommendations that proposes a slew of retail options, including coffee shops, apparel stores, office space, specialty stores, a live performance venue and a variety of restaurants, for eight of the community's nine village shopping centers.
The recommendations are tailored to each of the eight village centers analyzed in a recent comprehensive market study – Wilde Lake was excluded because it is currently undergoing a comprehensive renovation. The study began in fall 2013 and was commissioned by the Columbia Association in partnership with the Howard County Economic Development Authority and the county's Department of Planning and Zoning.
The site-specific recommendations for each village center were revealed Thursday evening at the CA Board of Directors meeting.
According to Tom Moriarity, lead consultant on the study, the recommendations were crafted based on the area's demographics, which includes age, race, income, and the current retail environment. He said a key factor in deciding the recommendations was the proximity to existing retail and civic uses.
"We tried to respond to things that were there and maybe not fully utilized," he said.
Moriarity said a central theme across the board was the possibility for more restaurants in the centers.
"All village centers, in varying degrees, we think can support more and different food and beverage," he said. "America has gone crazy for eating out. We don't cook as much at home anymore."
Below is summary of the recommendations:
Dorsey's Search: add two to three table service restaurants with outdoor seating, improve pedestrian connections, maintain existing mix of retail tenants.
Harper's Choice: add a men's/women's athletic apparel shop, an athletic shoe shop, a specialty skateboard shop [the CA Skate Park is located in the center] and one or two table service restaurants with outdoor seating.
Hickory Ridge: add an upscale women's hair salon, a coffee shop, a yoga studio, one to two additional table service restaurants with outdoor seating – deli and tapas suggested – and increase offerings at the end of 'the Avenue.'
King's Contrivance: add a bar with live performance venue seating 75 to 150 people, two to three additional table service restaurants – suggestions include tapas, Italian fine dining, a steakhouse and a Belgian cafe – a teen athletic apparel store and a running shoe and apparel store.
Long Reach: add a coffee shop, an art supply store and other arts-oriented uses – the Columbia Center for the Arts is located in the center.
Oakland Mills: add a casual dining restaurant, a catering/party supply store, 3,000 to 5,000 square-feet of office space, a bike rental and repair shop and one to two additional family-style, table service restaurants.
Owen Brown: add two to three table service restaurants with beer and wine, a dessert shop and a bike rental and repair shop.
River Hill: add a men's/women's athletic apparel shop, a athletic shoe shop, two to three table service restaurants, a coffee shop, a specialized medical supply store, a chocolate or dessert shop and a specialty toy store.
In addition to the specific uses, the consultants also recommended both Owen Brown and Oakland Mills consider redevelopment using the model being carried out in Wilde Lake.
The owner of the Wilde Lake center Kimco Realty Corp., which owns five of the eight other centers but does not own either Owen Brown or Oakland Mills, is in the process of redeveloping the shopping center. As part of the redevelopment, Kimco is building two apartment buildings in the middle of the center, making it the first of the village centers to have a major residential development.
Moriarity said that option should be considered for almost all of the centers at some point if Wilde Lake is a commercial success.
"We think a lot of people will be looking at Wilde Lake to see what happens there, and could we do that in other village centers. But it will be based on the precedent and outcome of how that works," he said.
It also recommended that the Long Reach Village Center, which the county government recently purchased and plans to redevelop, be redeveloped in a manner that encourages "activating uses."