Last night, I attended the Columbia Association Planning and Strategy Committee meeting to hear Kimco representative Kevin Allen discuss the Columbia Village Centers. For the record, Phil Kirsch, the current CA Board member from Wilde Lake serves on the Planning and Strategy Committee. Other than Phil, no other Wilde Lake slate candidate (Marando, Pivar, Simons, Mikkelsen) attended this informative meeting with Kimco.
Kevin began his discussion with a brief history of the Columbia Village Centers. He stated that the early Village Centers had relatively small grocery stores and as Columbia grew, new Village Centers had larger stores and those Village Centers that renovated saw an increase in the size of their grocery stores. As this happened, the larger grocery stores began to “poach” customers from each other. In addition, the Giant placed outside, but immediately adjacent to Columbia at the former Palace 9 movie theatre site has been problematic for the Village Centers.
Turning to the Wilde Lake Village Center, Mr. Allen stated that due to the uncertainty surrounding Wegmans, the uncertainty of Town Center development, and the relatively close proximity of the Safeway in Harpers Choice and the Giant in Hickory Ridge, potential grocers (both major national retailers and smaller regional establishments) have been reluctant to sign a lease.
Given this persistent response over the last eighteen months, Kevin said that Kimco started looking at other ways of investing in the property. He stated that their concept right now is a mixed use retail component of approximately 50,000 square feet, an office space component, and a residential component.
The meeting then progressed to a question-and-answer phase. Planning and Strategy Committee member Phil Kirsch stated that his wife did not like shopping at Safeway (in Harpers Choice) and Giant (in Dorseys Search) because they were too big. He followed this up with a question about the viability of a small grocery store. Kevin replied that Kimco would consider putting a small grocer in Wilde Lake, but a typical (50,000 square foot) grocery store was more than likely out of the question. He also stated that plans for Wilde Lake are evolving and most ideas are still on the table.
Evan Coren then asked about David’s Natural Market. Kevin replied that he had talked with David earlier in the day (Tuesday) and David did express an interest in having a larger presence in the Village Center. Kevin went on to say that he had seen David’s grow from a 3000 square foot storefront to its current size, and he would work with David’s.
Phil then countered with a question about attracting people to the Village Center, he asked why people would come to the reconfigured Village Center. In response Kevin stated that Giant had pulled out of Wilde Lake because they were not satisfied with sales and that some merchants in Wide Lake today are exceeding the sales of Giant before it left. Looking to the future, Kevin then expressed a desire to have restaurants, and smaller anchor stores in Wilde Lake. Later in the evening, I asked Kevin if the close proximity of Cheesecake Factory, Chammps, and the other restaurants nearby would result in restaurants being shy about signing a lease in Wilde Lake. Kevin said that he would like to see local restaurants in Wilde Lake, not national chains.
Questions were then opened up to the audience. Jay Bonstingl (a Wilde Lake resident) asked if Kimco was really committed to the concept of the Village Center as the “heart and soul” of the community. Jay went on to say that he had viewed renderings from Kimco and in his opinion, he saw upper income housing that did not take into account Slayton House.
Kevin answered by saying that the renderings were only concepts and the design will evolve and change. Kevin went on to say that Kimco is looking for input from the county and the Wilde Lake Village Board, and that Kimco has heard “let’s not lose sight of the core of the village.”
Upon reflection, many topics regarding the Wilde Lake Village Center were discussed. There were plenty of revelations, and at least for me, some new information was brought to light. I just wonder how the Wilde Lake Village Board slate candidates (Marando, Pivar, Mikkelsen, and Simons) are going to “enhance and protect the Village Center” if they continue to miss these types of meetings.