07 January 2007

Wanted: More Palm Trees and Brown Tile?

On Thursday morning (1/4/07), Douglas Godine, the GGP Vice President and General Manager of Columbia, spoke at the State of Columbia Luncheon, sponsored by the Columbia Business Exchange. At this luncheon, he announced plans for expanding the Mall in Columbia. It is way too early to tell what this announcement really means, but it does show some initial similarities to a General Growth Properties project at Natick Mall

Although this announcement is not a complete surprise, it is disappointing. Over the last 18-months, GGP had appeared to be embracing mixed use, evidenced by the hiring of Tom D’Alesandro and a prominent presence at the Mixed Use Conference in November. This announcement of mall expansion is, in my opinion, a step backward.

The details of the announcement were well reported by Tyrone Richardson in an article that appeared in the Sunday, January 7, 2007 edition of the Baltimore Sun.

The Mall in Columbia needs to expand again as plans to redevelop Town Center move forward, according to Douglas M. Godine, vice president and general manager of General Growth Properties Inc., the primary landowner and developer of the city.

"The demand is much greater than the supply, and we want to protect our interests here in Columbia and keep those retailers that may be looking elsewhere and who want to come to Columbia. But we don't have the space for them," Godine said.
"We are addressing how we can expand the mall to add retail shops, and that will take a long period of time, but we are confident that we will get there," he said.
A spokesman for General Growth said the mall has 1.4 million square feet of retail space. Its last expansion was in 2004, when a movie theater, a row of restaurants and an L.L. Bean store were added.

Godine declined to give details of the expansion plans, but he said they will be included in the GGP downtown Columbia plan, which is expected to be unveiled in April.

The project is to include "green" architecture, affordable housing and arts and culture, Godine said during Thursday's annual State of Columbia Luncheon, sponsored by the Columbia Business Exchange.

"Our plan will address some of the important issues that will affect the way people live here," Godine told the audience of about 100 business owners and policymakers.

I also have to question why this article appeared on Sunday. This luncheon was on Thursday morning. I cannot believe that it took three days to get the story in print. What has happened to timely reporting?

Lastly, as we all know, the mall has been expanded a few times. Back in 1978, the first time mall expansion was discussed, HRD officials openly talked about the need to construct a flyover at the Governor Warfield Parkway/Little Patuxent Parkway intersection. Here are a few quotes from the June 15, 1972 edition of the Columbia Flier (page 12). The article was written by Tom Graham:

County officials are planning interim measures to reduce traffic congestion at an intersection in downtown Columbia because the new town’s developer has postponed a million-dollar permanent solution to the problem.

Three years ago, a Howard Research and Development Corp (HRD) official informed local agencies that the developer’s 1973 promise to improve the intersection by late 1976 would be delayed. HRD said the project, an elevated ramp to connect Governor Warfield Parkway and Little Patuxent Parkway near the Mall, would be “deferred until 1978 or later…if development” in downtown Columbia “is delayed.”

Since that time, HRD vice president Douglas A McGregor said this week, plans for new buildings downtown have not been realized, and “we just don’t think it’s necessary to do it today.”

“We acknowledge the responsibility to construct that flyover,” McGregor said, but “it ought to be tied to the opening of the Mall expansion” or some other major building project that wil generate additional traffic in the area.

So thirty years ago, we had a Douglas acknowledge responsibility for building a flyover at GWP/LPP, hopefully the Douglas in charge of development today can follow through.


thecourtyard said...

The "New" Natick Mall looks like it was designed in the 1960's. Yikes!

Tom said...

With all the lack of real conversation and everyone taking such rigid positions so early in this "30 year" process added to the fact that GGP is a for profit corporation this action is not surprising. The Columbia Mall is a crown jewel in their portfolio and they are going to do everything they can to keep it a crown jewel. From their point of view they have to move forward or die. GGP is not going to die. The problem is any Mall expansion will probably just add onto the Mall itself. It probably won't be free standing nor will it be mixed use. This will make any future development around the Mall the much less flexable and make the Mall and even bigger blob in the middle any Town Center type development. All sides need to decrease the rhetoric and get back to real dialogue.