Sitting inside her office at Slayton House, Wilde Lake Village manager Kristin Shulder has a direct line of sight to what used to be the heart of the village center.
Like winter, Shulder's view of the center has been bleak — obstructed by the desolate former home of a Giant Food grocery store.
However, with developer and center property owner Kimco Realty announcing plans to break ground on a large-scale redevelopment by mid-May, that view is about to brighten.
"It's very, very exciting," Shulder said. "To think that there is going to be more than 200 apartment units here adding vibrancy to the village center is just great."
In addition to the five-story, approximately 250-unit apartment complex, the overhaul of the center includes the demolition of the Giant Food building, the renovation of the remaining village center buildings, and the construction of a CVS pharmacy, which could replace the Crown gas station by as early as fall 2014.
The first order of business, however, according to Kimco Realty's Vice President of Acquisitions and Development Geoff Glazer, will be relocating David's Natural Market to the former site of Produce Galore.
"This will be a whole new building, with a much more usable and friendly footprint," Glazer said."David's really grew over the last 10 and 15 years and this building will make for a more friendly shopping experience."
Glazer said the new David's Market, which will open the day after the current David's closes, will also have an expanded outdoor dining space to extenuate David's cafe.
"They have wonderful food, so expanding that space is going to be a real draw for people," said Wilde Lake Village Board Chairwoman Joyce Ardo.
While the development process appears to be in the homestretch, Ardo acknowledges it has been a long journey since Giant Food left more than 5 1/2 years ago.
"We are happy Kimco hung in there and agreed to continue to support this. It's not an easy process. ... It's been a lot of work," Ardo said. "That they believe in this community that much is very exciting."
Ardo said some residents have criticized Kimco and the redevelopment project because it does not plan to replace Giant Food with a traditional grocer.
Glazer believes David's and the new CVS will present residents the choices of a traditional grocer.
"David's plays an important role there supplying food resources to the community. Having a CVS and seeing how the drug store chains have evolved really complements David's," he said.
Shulder called CVS a "good match" for what Kimco is trying to put together.
"I think (CVS) sees a lot of potential," Shulder said. "Clearly they see this place as attractive. ... David's has your basics, and a CVS fills in the other parts a grocery store might offer."
The exterior of the 13,000-square-foot pharmacy is being reviewed by the village's design panel, and is scheduled to come back before the village board in April, Glazer said.
Preliminary plans for the building, which have been on display at Slayton House since CVS was announced earlier this month, show a drive-through connected to a new road, which runs parallel to Lynx Lane and connects the Slayton House parking lot to Twin Rivers Road.
The new apartment complex will front onto Cross Fox Lane — across from the Columbia Association tennis courts — and hold 85,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor, according to Glazer. There also will be a parking garage.
"Talking to the residential developers, it will be a combination of the empty-nesters, those who have been in Columbia for years and have watched their families grow up, and the young professional," Glazer said.
Glazer anticipates the apartments will be available for lease in early 2015.
Glazer said Kimco is working to relocate tenants that will be displaced, like Today's Catch Seafood Market, into those two buildings that will be renovated.
Glazer expects interest in some of the vacant locations, which includes the former Kentucky Fried Chicken site near Twin Rivers Road, to develop as activity begins.
"There are not a lot of vacancies, but as leases get signed, we'll share them," he said. "Most of the activity will come when demolition and construction starts."
And for Shulder and Ardo, that day can't come soon enough.
"I think we are on the verge of doing something different," Ardo said. "We have an opportunity to revitalize and rediscover Wilde Lake. I'm very excited about that."