Wilde Lake residents still want a grocery

Like actor Bill Murray in the movie "Groundhog Day," Geoffrey Glazer, vice president for development of Kimco Realty, seems doomed to relive the same moment over and over — whenever he visits the Village of Wilde Lake in Columbia.

"Why are you so stubborn and decided not to have a grocery store?" Constantine Philippedes asked Glazer, to loud applause from a large segment of the roughly 100 people seated behind him. "You insisted again and again and again, no grocery store. You're not going to do it," Philippedes predicted.

"You are difficult and impossible," he concluded, sitting down in Slayton House's auditorium.

Glazer came to Wilde Lake's community center again Thursday night to present his latest version of Kimco's plan for rebuilding the half-empty village center, only to find himself confronted with the same complaint he has heard at countless meetings before, as the plans have changed over several years. Thursday night's session was the second of two required community meetings before plans can be submitted to the county.

After a 30-minute slide-show presentation by architect Bryce Turner, who said he and Glazer have made "relatively minor changes," like moving a planned drive-through bank a bit, Philippedes stood up and asked the first question, rasing his voice as he went on.

Glazer replied, "I feel like a broken record," before explaining again that he's tried to find a grocery store that would take over space formerly occupied by a Giant supermarket that has been empty for years.

"There's not a viable play for that," he said, using a shortened version of the explanation he's offered repeatedly over the past few years: No supermarket will take over 23,000 square feet in a small shopping center away from major roadways, in a retail world where 55,000 square feet in a high-traffic area has become the norm.

Glazer said his firm will probably submit plans by late spring or early summer, and hopes to get approval and start work in mid-2012.

Kimco first presented this plan in July. It calls for construction of 220 apartments in two five-story buildings with shops on the first level and parking underneath. The apartment buildins would be built at the southern edge of the 9-acre center, near existing tennis courts across Cross Fox Lane. The plan calls for demolishing the former Giant building and the small stores in front of it, along with the existing Crown gasoline service station. That would be replaced by a large pharmacy, and a new, larger building for David's Natural Market would remain.

The idea is to open up the present courtyard by removing the Giant and arranging the new buildings around a landscaped parking area that would use brick and stone pavers to meet Maryland's strict storm-water absorption standards. The village green would remain intact in that initial plan, and a 27,000-square-foot retail/office building would replace the building where Produce Galore once stood. David's Natural Market would be the featured retailer.

That is a major change from the company's initial idea to demolish virtually the entire center and build 500 apartments and 50,000 square feet of retail space. That proposal caused a furor among residents and resulted in years of delays and creation of a new rezoning process for village centers.

Tina Horn stood as she did in July and said she wanted to repeat what she said then. "Thank you for spending this much money on our little village center. I was not here in 1969," she said, referring to older residents who often recite how long they've lived in Wilde Lake before speaking. "I will be here in 2049," she predicted, " and I like this" plan.

Robert Tennenbaum and Cy Paumier, two architects involved in Columbia's birth, criticized Turner and Kimco's plan. "Don't be fooled by this plan. This is the same plan we've seen over and over again. It's eye candy," Tennenbaum said about the drawings of people frolicking in a tree-lined stone plaza.

Judy Templeton said she has worked in the area around the center for 28 years, and she cheered Kimco's plan. "I don't know why the community is resistant to change," she said. Steve Dakos added another sentiment heard before. "Just do something," he said.

"We'll keep plugging along," Glazer said.


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