The move toward resurrecting the struggling Wilde Lake Village Center is officially beyond the planning stages. Developers seeking approval for the project entered the earliest part of that process this week.
If that process goes smoothly, they said, work to significantly redevelop the village center could begin as early as fall 2012 or spring 2013.
Representatives from Kimco Realty Corporation, which owns the village center, presented a proposal Tuesday for new apartment and commercial buildings and renovations to some existing buildings.
“This is the critical big kickoff,” said Bill Santos, the village board’s chairman, at Tuesday’s meeting.
Wilde Lake Village Center was Columbia’s first, opening in 1967. But the village center’s anchor store, Giant Food, closed in 2006. Many other shops have also closed, leading Kimco and area residents to discuss and debate how to bring businesses and customers in.
Community members who didn’t speak at Tuesday’s meeting can give the village board their input over the next three weeks; materials presented at the meeting are on display at Slayton House.
Kimco has a year from Tuesday to submit an application for the project to the village community association. Wilde Lake’s architectural advisory committee will then review the application and make a recommendation to the village’s architectural liaison.
Geoff Glazer, Kimco vice president of development for this region, said he expects the company’s application to come shortly after the three-week period for residential input.
And getting approval from Wilde Lake’s village architectural liaison is just one part of the process. Kimco also must go before the county’s planning and zoning boards. Its county application could begin later this year, he said.
“Everyone is going full steam ahead,” Glazer said.
The village community association process focuses on Wilde Lake’s covenants. The architectural committee analyzes everything from a proposed structure’s design and appearance and what it is made out of to its location in relation to other nearby properties and whether it is compatible.
Kimco wants the revamped village center to have several buildings that would, in effect, encircle the center’s courtyard and a parking lot. Plans include two new residential buildings with as many as 250 total apartments and parking underneath; a drug store; a bank; a small food store with offices on the second story; and renovations to two of the center’s existing retail/office buildings.
The site of the former Giant Food grocery store and an adjacent building would be torn down, opening up one end of the courtyard and extending one entrance from Twin Rivers Road through the center to Cross Fox Lane.
Comments from board and panel members and residents present at Tuesday’s meeting ranged from criticism of the central parking lot and the location and layout of buildings to concerns over the distance people shopping at the food store might have to walk to their vehicles.
Under the current proposal, shoppers would need to walk across Lynx Lane to get to and from the food store. Glazer said the plans are to slow traffic down on the road, and that shoppers at the Target in the Columbia Crossing shopping center have a similar situation, crossing a road to get to a parking lot.
Glazer said the company had listened to community suggestions before coming in with this proposal, but Kimco would ultimately go with what it thinks is best for its center.
“We may always be able to disagree in how this is laid out. It’s still our tens of millions being invested here,” he said. “We’re the ones today who have relationships with the retailers and understand what it’s going to take to draw them here.”