Residents give GGP proposal mixed reviews

The Baltimore Sun

In the first foray out to one of Columbia's villages since unveiling their master plan, officials at General Growth Properties Inc. received praise and pressure from residents curious about how redevelopment will unfold downtown.

"You already put a lot into this," said Andre De Verneil of Long Reach. "I'm impressed. I would encourage you not to be timid. It's Town Center; not another village center. That's going to be your big fight - density. There are several groups out there that really envision Town Center as being a suburb."

The comments were made Monday at Stonehouse in the Long Reach Village Center during the first of 10 village center meetings that General Growith will hold in the next two weeks to gather comments and ideas from the community.

GGP employees and officials from Howard County and the Columbia Association outnumbered the seven citizens who came at noon to learn about redevelopment expected to span three decades.

Former D.C. home

De Verneil described a former home off Dupont Circle in Washington, where he lived before moving to Columbia.

"You have bookstores, you have restaurants," he said. "That really is my model of what Town Center should be."

In questions that ranged from issues of density to height to transportation, residents, largely from Long Reach, asked GGP officials to provide more details on the master plan expected to go to the county in June.

Bob Carto , of Deering Woods in Harper's Choice had questions about the proposal that calls for a bridge for cars that would cross over the end of Lake Kittamaqundi. But generally he was happy with what he had heard. "I like your plan; I will say that," Carto said. "What I've seen is exciting."

He encouraged the developers to set up guidelines so that when residential units are sold during a later phase, they could be bought at reasonable prices and restrictions put in place to prevent subletting.

"You either live there or sell, and if your children inherit it, they either live there or sell," he said.

In addressing residents' concerns about the impact on development of what they called rising crime, Barbara A. Nicklas, General Growth's vice president of marketing for master-planned communities, said that mixing retail, residential and office uses offers a good solution.

"When you mix the uses, it doesn't have these pockets of darkness," she said.

She assured residents that current plans for office buildings downtown are in the 10- to 12-story range and that the height will be appropriate to Columbia.

Other meetings

Here is a list of the other GGP community meetings:

*Tomorrow: Dorsey's Search, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Linden Hall.

*Saturday: Wilde Lake, 10 a.m.-noon, Slayton House.

*Monday: Owen Brown, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Community Center.

*Tuesday: Hickory Ridge, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Hawthorn Center.

*May 21: Oakland Mills, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., The Other Barn.

*May 22: Town Center, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Oakland Manor.

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