Columbia Association (CA) recently reopened Columbia Swim Center, following the completion of phase one of a three-phase project. It is just one of multiple construction projects going on in and near the Wilde Lake Village Center.
The village center, Columbia’s first, has been under redevelopment for a few years. Some of the new apartments are now available for lease in a building that will also have a retail component on the ground level. As work continues, the existing businesses remain open.
Wilde Lake Village Center is a perfect example of understanding that your business model may have to adjust with time. As the community changed, Kimco Realty recognized that what was once successful would now need to evolve in order to achieve success again. Introducing housing, with its captive audience of potential customers, is an excellent decision.
The village centers were intended to be exactly what their names describe; they were supposed to be a destination point for the immediate area. But Columbia and Howard County grew, and residents became more willing to drive farther for their wants and needs. The centers increasingly found themselves in competition with businesses in other areas of the community, and even with businesses elsewhere in the county.
In some cases, the village centers have struggled as the community changed. In other cases, the owners are proactively seeking to keep their centers healthy, with a focus on accommodating the changing interests and habits of residents and others.
Redevelopment in a community is inevitable — and necessary. Wilde Lake has been the most visible example among the village centers, and Long Reach is in the earlier stages of its turnaround. Meanwhile, conversations continue about the futures of the village centers in Hickory Ridge and Oakland Mills.
We’re moving toward the next phase of Columbia’s history, the next 50 years for the community. Sometimes that means building new, as we see with the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia into a more vibrant urban core; sometimes that means renovating aging structures or replacing them altogether.
In Wilde Lake alone, the new middle school is set to open in early 2017. Wilde Lake High School was knocked down and rebuilt two decades ago. Columbia Swim Center has two more construction phases to come. CA just replaced SplashDown with new, faster water slides. Next summer, the second phase will upgrade the locker and changing rooms, and improve the lobby and hallway areas. The third phase, which will take place in summer 2018, will feature the replacement of the roof over the main pool.
Once everything is done, the village center and its immediate area will have numerous new features: residences, a refreshed shopping area, an updated indoor aquatics facility, CA’s Wilde Lake Tennis Club, one of the community’s three interfaith centers and the vibrant Slayton House, which is home to the village community association, an art gallery, theater shows, classes and more.
Wilde Lake was named after Frazar Wilde, whose Connecticut General Life Insurance Company invested $23 million into the new community. Now, 50 years later, CA and other stakeholders are investing in the future — both in that village and throughout Columbia.
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