Upcoming Columbia Patch Series: The State of Village Centers

How do you think village centers could be improved?

In the coming weeks, Columbia Patch will publish a series of stories on the 10 village centers that have served as a hub for commerce, community and activities in Columbia, the planned community that .

We will explore the various issues the centers face in the ailing economy, asking questions about whether the village center model can thrive in a world of big box stores and online shopping--perhaps a world developer Jim Rouse couldn’t have begun to imagine when he was planning what was to be a cutting edge city that was deemed in its inaugural ad campaign

In Columbia’s formative years, up until the early 1970s, village centers were patterned after small European towns. They each had a small grocery of about 25,000 square feet, bank, service station, dry cleaner and about a half dozen distinct shops selling products such as cheese, flowers or meat,  according to Rouse Company documents.

Over the decades, some of those village centers have struggled as businesses have left. Most recently, for example, closed last spring after 25 years in King's Contrivance and many shops were shuttered following the exodus of the . 

But in recent months, there have been signs of a rebirth.

Michael's Pub has been replaced by is in the midst of discussing its future and redevelopment. And other centers are shining in their own unique ways: was recently recognized for putting on the top National Night Out party in the country.

Blogger Duane St. Clair is among those who have raised questions about the feasibility of village centers in a Walmart and Wegmans world.

 “The will further weaken the retailers in village centers,” he recently wrote. “If grocery stores no longer bring residents to the centers, how will the smaller retailers in the centers survive? Will village centers have to develop a niche to survive against the big box retailers?”

What do you think? If you are a retailer, a board member, a resident, or just someone interested in the issue of village centers, please email reporter Cindy Stacy at pinetum@dishmail.net with your ideas or post below.

Joan Lancos December 15, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Hickory Ridge Community Association is just completing its Village Center Community Plan where we examined our center and its surrounding area as to what works, what needs to be improved, and where do we go from here. We hope to have our results available to the community in the next few weeks. Joan Lancos, Land Use Liaison, Hickory Ridge Community Association
Oakland Mills Community Association December 15, 2011 at 08:10 PM
The Oakland Mills Community Association produced it's Master Plan for the Village Center in 2007 and the idea and goals in the plan remain the same. A main focus for the community is supporting the Bridge Columbia project to make the short distance between Oakland Mills, Blandair Park and Columbia's Downtown accessible to pedestrian, bikers, and public transportation vehicles. Here is a link to the Oakland Mills Master Plan http://www.oaklandmills.org/pdf/OM_Master_Plan_Final.pdf Here is a link to the Bridge Columbia website: http://bridgecolumbia.org/ Sandy Cederbaum, Village Manager Oakland Mills Community Association
Cindy Stacy December 15, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Hi Deborah, Glad to hear your take on King's Contrivance, where I lived for a couple years back in 1998-99. If you like, send me an e-mail: pinetum@dishmail.net , so I'll be sure to touch base with you when I write about King's Contrivance.
Cindy Stacy December 15, 2011 at 09:49 PM
Hi Joan, I'll get in touch with you when I begin writing about Hickory Ridge. I'm curious to know more about your role as land use liaison.
suzanne Waller December 27, 2011 at 01:11 PM
Re. opening of Wegmans; One thought is that there will be an iinitial onslaught of people going to Wegmans to see what they have, buy their prepared, delicious take-out or eat-in food, and check-out the prices on ordinary items that are found in every grocery store. After that, I think convenience will be an issue. Since most of us lead very busy lives, the neighborhood store will be the store of choice most of the time. In Wegman's favor, I believe it will be a regional store, much like the Mall stores, and people will be coming from East and West, North and South, to give Weman's a huge amount of business., but it may not be essentially local.


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