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To Make Hickory Ridge Village Center Better, Group Looks Beyond

A committee of village residents and board members thinks additional buildings near the shopping center could bolster business.

Just because the Hickory Ridge Village Center is doing well doesn't mean it can't be even better.

Village officials are satisfied with the center, which opened in 1992 at the intersection of Cedar Lane and Freetown Road. But residents are now looking at improvements that could enhance what is already there – additions that could be made on land nearby.

While other village centers in Columbia have been in flux in recent years, a committee is suggesting new features, ranging from a medical office building to a dog park, to keep the Hickory Ridge Village Center doing well.

“The real goal is the vitality of that site,” said Miles Coffman, chairman of the Hickory Ridge Village Board. “We’ve seen, overall, that we have good usage of it.”

The village center has a Giant Food grocery store as its anchor, along with restaurants, shops and banks. The main section of the shopping center has 18 open businesses and two vacant spaces. A gas station and other buildings are close by.

For the past year, a committee of residents and board members has taken a look not just at what’s on the site, but at what’s around it, while drafting a community plan for the village center. The effort comes out of a Howard County Council resolution in 2009 that encouraged villages to develop such plans.

The committee presented its draft on Tuesday.

“The purpose of the plan is an advisory document,” said Joan Lancos, Hickory Ridge’s land use liaison. “It won’t have any carved-in-stone impact.”

That’s because the shopping center is privately owned, by Kimco Realty Corporation. But a Kimco staffer said he was impressed with residents’ ideas.

“What you put together is tremendous,” said Kevin Allen, a leasing agent for Kimco. “The village centers in Columbia – and we’ve owned a number of them over the years – some of them have gotten to the point where they’ve started to deteriorate. What the village [Hickory Ridge] is doing here is getting ahead of it.”

In putting together their draft, committee members decided that the boundaries of what is considered the village center should reach to buildings and land beyond the shopping center.

Several adjacent properties­ – home to medical and assisted-living facilities, open space, undeveloped land, a daycare facility/preschool, a house and a church – are important to making the shopping center an active gathering place for visitors and for community members in the surrounding neighborhoods, Lancos said.

“We want the [community plan] to enable us to be proactive rather than reactive as development and redevelopment ideas are presented to the community,” she said.

The plan allows for county agencies, developers and future village boards to know what the community is looking for.

“These are the kinds of things we think would be good choices,” Lancos said. “Having everyone on the same page allows for productive conversation towards a common goal.”

The current draft of the community plan looks at what uses are allowed in several areas surrounding the shopping center and suggests how each area could be used.

A Columbia Association-owned open space adjacent to the shopping center, for example, could be used for an athletic facility or a community building, or perhaps for a dog park, a play field or an outdoor exercise area, the committee suggested.

A wooded area north of the shopping center and across Freetown Road could be used for office space, including more medical offices as a natural growth of the nearby health-care facilities, as well as the medical offices near Howard County General Hospital.

Land to the west of the shopping center across Cedar Lane could be offices or a multifamily residential site, the committee suggested. 

Any of these would serve the shopping center, according to committee members.  Not having retail outlets outside the shopping center would keep commercial business contained, and building more offices and homes nearby could mean more traffic to the grocery store, restaurants and shops, they noted.

Residents at Tuesday’s meeting said they were concerned about traffic and wanted more signs to direct people to the village center.

Allen, the Kimco leasing agent, told the group he agreed that nearby development could be good for the shopping center. “Additional office space that surrounds a retail center is a tremendous asset,” he said. “Additional residential is a great piece to support the village center. More bodies and more homes help.”

Lancos said the next draft of the community plan could be ready by the end of June, though she said getting it done by then was an “optimistic” deadline.

“We also hope that over time we will revisit the document and make changes to reflect the demographics of the community,” she said.

Bobbie April 28, 2011 at 11:32 PM
Hickory Ridge is wonderful. Its pleasant and has tons of various senior living aqround it from 600K townhouses for over 55 to 300K homes to assistee living. There are Chinese, Japanese, Moon Luna (Italian), Medeterrain, pizza, a new restrerant that I want to check out. I believe they cook the food while you watch or maybe its mexican..not sure. There is an Ice Cream place, a Chicken restaurant, one of the best wine shops in Columbia. Athletic store, shoe store where you can get your bags and shoes fixed. Barber shop for men, Nail shop, Hair shop, etc. Subway. The Gas station is rated one of the best. They have fixed all my cars now for 18 years. Greatest guys around.
Bobbie April 28, 2011 at 11:41 PM
The one blogger, Turtle Beoulve was talking about Harpers Choice Center. I go to that McDonalds' I honestly do not see a problem. However, Harpers Choice has a ton of low income housing, and they completely redid the village center. Obviously that person did not live here 35 years ago. Its changed for the better in many ways. You have too many kids without a place to go and parents not paying attention to their acrivities. You see NONE of that at Hickory Ridge. As for the fountain. It is on much of the time. I think they turn it off by choice. Its small shopping center but I go there several times a week, and eat in a restaurant there or take out weekly. I love that Giant, Dominos, and get my gas and have my cars serviced at the Sunoco. Its a wonderful village center. If they do anything, I would not suggest athletic center. Traffic would be horrible. I would suggest a tall highrise across Cedar lane next to Harmony Hall or Medical offices across from Harmony Hall.
Brian England April 28, 2011 at 11:43 PM
At the meeting I asked the Kimco rep. some questions, Myles felt he had to step in so here are my questions. 1. Why was the Gas Station sign not reinstalled for many months? 2. Why have you done nothing to improve the Village Center sign visibility from Cedar Lane? 3. Why have you not improved the signs around the center so people know there is a rear entrance and what the businesses are accessible from there. 4. Why have you not asked the county for improved signs or asked the State for signs from Rt. 32. The reason I asked these question is because of Kimco’s track record in Wilde Lake has been poor at best, they have done little to nothing for years to promote the center or done anything to encourage businesses to stay until it is redeveloped. (Neither has the county, EDA or CA) Kimco’s goal in Wilde Lake was to add housing and cut the number of businesses. (See their first plan) They made it clear they wanted to build apartments for rent on most of the site. I sat behind a Kimco representative when he told the Hickory Ridge Village Board that they were going to do what they wanted on their land in the center. I hoped we had moved away from this but I still worry because of their lack of interest in the center over the past few years. They may have plans similar to Wilde Lake VC. If they were really interested in Hickory Ridge VC being successful they would embraced the plan and would of already done things to improve the visibility of the center.
Jessie Newburn May 02, 2011 at 12:57 AM
Oh Brian, For crying out loud. Haven't you heard the will of "the REAL people"? The ones who are tired of (a minority of) residents painting Kimco as The Bad Corporate People? Enough. Move on. Kimco is here to make money on their investment (as they should); clearly the prior design that worked in another era, works no more.
steve sternheimer May 03, 2011 at 07:49 PM
as a participant in the HRVC2 effort, just want to say how grattuifying it was that so many folks turned out for the 4/26 mtg., proving that "citizen involvement" is alive & well. And a special thanks to Joan Lancos for a super presentation--as evidenced by the foregoing blog activity. Steve

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