Proposed Wilde Lake Village Center project taking shape

The long-awaited reinvigoration of the Wilde Lake Village Center continues to inch nearer.

Kimco Realty Corp., which owns the village center, on Monday presented its latest plans, detailed designs for a pair of five-story residential buildings that would bring between 220 and 250 apartments to the center. Those buildings are part of a project that could begin work next year and see tenants move in within three years.

The village center, Columbia's first, opened in 1967. The center's anchor, a Giant Food grocery store, shuttered in 2006, and the center has become increasingly vacant.

The years-long process of trying to revitalize the center has not been without its obstacles, but it has had its benefits, too, Kimco official Geoff Glazer said.

"As painful as I say this process has been at times, I do believe what we have today is a stronger plan than we've had before," said Glazer, a vice president with the company, at Monday's meeting of the village's architectural advisory panel. "A lot of things have evolved with comments we've had from the community."

Kimco heard plenty of comments from the panel, members of which complimented how plans for the residential building had evolved, while still noting their concerns over items such as the distance between the buildings and nearby sidewalks.

The panel, a volunteer group of experts, will make a recommendation to the village board's architectural liaison, board Chairman Bill Santos, who will decide whether to approve the proposed buildings or to hinge that approval on some modifications to the proposal.

Carl McKinney, the village community association's covenant adviser, said he expects a decision to be made before new village board members are elected in April. Only two of the five board members are seeking another term.

"This board would like to have this dealt with while they're still in office," McKinney said. "They're not trying to put one over on anybody. It wouldn't be fair for a new board to come in, not have any background on this and have to make a decision."

Some elements of Kimco's proposed project, including construction in other parts of the village center, were approved in May. Other buildings, including a proposed drug store, have yet to come before the community association.

Kimco also is going through the county approval process. The project will come before the Planning Board on March 29. Glazer said he was hoping for the county approvals by early 2013.

"If everything goes as scheduled ... we're in here breaking ground March of '13," Glazer said.

Tenants could move in by late 2014 or early 2015, he said.

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