Home Archived Articles Advances in Long Reach, Downtown Columbia

Advances in Long Reach, Downtown Columbia

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Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and members of the Long Reach Village Center (LRVC) Evaluation Committee have announced the selection of the Ellicott City-based Orchard Development team to purchase and revitalize the center.

Orchard’s plan proposes a Village Green, community space with a pavilion, approximately 75,000 square feet of retail space, medical office space, a food service incubator and vertical garden.

Residential housing incorporated into the design includes 132 units of market-rate multi-family housing, 120 units of senior multi-family housing and 52 for-sale townhomes.

Offering a purchase price of $2.5 million, Orchard expects to close on the sale no later than the first quarter of 2018 and plans to deliver the first use for the property in the first half of 2020.

“This redevelopment plan will help us achieve economic sustainability for this center, making it a vibrant community gathering place with amenities, services, and areas for artists and writers,” Kittleman said. “Orchard has presented a proposal that delivers on the stakeholders’ suggestions and the key features they requested.”

New Chapter

Long Reach Village Center entered a period of decay following the loss of its Safeway grocery anchor in 2011, unable to compete with newer retail, dining establishments and upscale grocery anchors in nearby Dobbin Center and Snowden Square.

As other retailers left during the ensuing years, vacant storefronts and a slow procession of lower quality merchants rotating through the center became the norm. In 2014, an independent study placed the vacancy rate at 65%.

Howard County government intervened in 2014, purchasing 7.7 acres of the blighted property for $5 million with the intention of revitalizing it.

With feedback collected during community engagement meetings, the county completed a Reimagine Long Reach Village Center Plan and issued a Request for Proposal in January of this year, which elicited four proposals.

“We are now about to write the next, exciting chapter for our Long Reach Village Center,” said Howard County Council Vice Chair Calvin Ball, who represents the Village of Long Reach. “While this process has taken longer than anticipated, I’m looking forward to a reimagined space that will breathe new life into the heart and soul of Long Reach and serve as a safe and vibrant focal point for the community.”

Year ’Round Veggies

It’s “not exactly” Orchard’s strategy to pursue RFPs, said Orchard Chairman and CEO Earl Armiger, but the more this team learned about the project, the more appealing it became, he said, “particularly because of the challenge.

“This is an opportunity to do something great and extraordinary, and that’s what we set out to do,” Armiger said. “We knew what Long Reach did not need: the major retailers that are elsewhere in the Columbia area. What Long Reach could use is what the county needs: an energy-efficient project, medical facilities, housing for seniors and gathering spaces. Our plan came about because of the work [the community] put into it.”

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the project is the vertical garden, a three-level hydroponic system with trays that move vertically on a conveyor belt to receive equal sun distribution. An open frame also allows for “easy harvest of the vegetables,” said Cecily Bedwell, an urban design planner for Baltimore-based Design Collective.

“We’ll be able to produce food all year round,” said Jason Jannati, co-founder of energy-efficiency company greeNEWit, who served as an independent consultant for Orchard’s proposal team. “The growing footprint is equivalent to about half an acre. We think we can grow about 100,000 pounds of produce a year; that’s our target.”

The bulk of the produce is destined for people who live in the community.
“We see schools, local restaurants and some of the other food distribution companies as potential clients,” Jannati said.

Orchard will partner with the Power 52 Foundation, co-founded by Baltimore Ravens legend Ray Lewis, to provide workforce training for local community members interested in working at the garden as a pathway to a career in agriculture.

“We see this as a big economic driver for the area,” Jannati said.
The Howard County Planning Board approved Orchard’s proposal on May 18, and will forward the proposal to the County Council for a public hearing and final approval.

According to Armiger, Orchard expects a three-to-five-year build-out, targeting the second quarter of 2020 for the move-in of first users, with final build-out between 2023 and 2025.

“I think it’s quite fitting that during Columbia’s 50th anniversary, the largest and one of our most established villages will lead the way in revitalization, redevelopment, and reimagining what we can be,” Ball said.

Downtown Progress

The news from Long Reach was followed by a grand opening a few miles away on May 24, when Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Kittleman and other elected state and local officials participated in a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the opening of the $80 million Little Patuxent Square building in downtown Columbia.
Developed as the result of a handshake agreement between longtime friends Kingdon Gould, Jr., and President David Costello of Columbia-based Costello Construction, the nine-story building features 158,000 square feet of Class A office space, 10,000 square feet of retail, 160 luxury apartment residences, a rooftop pool and a 6,000-square-foot open-air courtyard with a putting green.
The building is designed to meet LEED Gold criteria with an eye-catching façade, composed of an elaborate curtainwall system that is accented by metal wall panels and natural stone.

“It is indeed the kind of building and the kind of future that I know I was thinking about, and my colleagues were thinking about, when we passed the Downtown Columbia Plan,” said County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, who represents Downtown, adding that Costello “[has] set a standard for what we need to be doing.”

Confirmed tenants include Howard Bank and Optum, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, which has 344 employees who will begin occupying 130,000 square feet of Little Patuxent Square’s office space in June. Additional tenants will be announced in the coming months.

Pre-leasing of studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments has already begun at Lakehouse, the 12-floor residential component of the development that overlooks Downtown and Lake Kittamaqundi.

“There’s a lot of energy going on in Columbia with the 50th anniversary coming,” Kittleman said. “I can’t think of a better way to continue to celebrate than with Little Patuxent Square opening up and being part of this landscape of this vibrant renewal and rebirth of Downtown Columbia.”