The Howard County Design Advisory Committee (DAP) is reviewing Kimco’s revised plan for the Hickory Ridge Village Center on Wednesday, February 8th. Their decision may very well determine whether the Village Center survives. Moreover, it’s a decision that will affect all of Columbia and whether our city will take the steps to become truly sustainable.
There is considerable community opposition to adding apartments to the Village Center. Many residents of Hickory Ridge feel just as strongly that the higher density is essential to the Center’s future viability. It is a struggle that has occurred in Columbia before and is likely to continue. I support the following perspective, and it applies to other Village Centers as well.
Dear members of the Design Advisory Panel,
I represent a citizens’ action group of Hickory Ridge residents recently formed to help ensure a viable Hickory Ridge village center, one that would be designed for the 21st century. Our group, Citizens in favor of a Vibrant Village Center (CIVVC), believes that Kimco’s revised plan for the village center offers the best hope of creating a flourishing village center 10 years from now.
We also think Kimco’s revised plan responds appropriately to the DAP’s suggestions at its last meeting. Here’s why:
I support the plan. In the face of continued population growth, suburban sprawl and development of more and more of our natural lands are not sustainable. Higher densities in appropriate locations throughout Columbia is smart growth, will promote public transit, and will serve to improve pedestrian and bicycle amenities. Two of my previous posts about this subject are here and here.
Citizens In favor of a Vibrant Village Center (CIVVC)
Many of us have attended the public meetings Kimco has held and been disturbed by both the tone and substance of the comments made by many in opposition to the plan. The level of uncertainty, fear, and worst-case scenarios has been high in these meetings.
I live in the new Hickory Ridge Village Center that was finally completed in 2022. Locals will remember that Kimco proposed to redevelop the Village Center in 2016 with an initial plan that was roundly criticized for the height and number of apartments being introduced, the parking lot-centric design, the lack of intimacy for the Village Green, and the failure to embrace the future Columbia Association Park. The revised plan attempted to address all these issues, including reducing the size of the apartment building, and was approved in 2018.
Cathy and I were pleased The Apartments at Hickory Ridge Village Center, with all its amenities and high-end finishes, was available after the kids moved out of our single-family home. By moving here from Clary’s Forest neighborhood, we have been able to keep in touch with our friends and pursue a lot of the same activities. Cathy is a Tai Sophia-trained acupuncturist; is able to see her patients in an office here in the Village Center. I work for a nonprofit in Town Center and bike there when I can, traveling mostly on the new Downtown Columbia Trail.
Most of our immediate neighbors are professionals. There are some retirees, a doctor at the Hospital and his wife, a Philosophy professor at HCC, a couple who operate a day spa with two kids, a young lady that does animation for a firm, a plumber and his adult son, somebody that works at NSA. Our friends from over Quarterstaff Road are downsizing and moving here next month.
It’s easy to get to know folks here — the apartment has monthly activities that bring people together. I’m a member of the HRVC Merchant and Resident Advisory Council that works with Kimco to make sure this stays a nice Village Center. Cathy and I also play in the monthly bocce league that meets in the new Columbia Association Park at the end of The Avenue. We have players from the Clemens Crossing neighborhood, and some folks from Sunrise and Harmony Hall retirement homes as well.
We love being able to walk to all the stores here; thank goodness Decanter Fine Wines agreed to remain in the Center. There are Village concerts and other events in the Columbia Association Park, along with a tot lot, trails, and picnic tables. And it is true bliss to to be able to amble out of our apartment and eat at the new coffee shop, dine at one of our favorite restaurants (including a new Argentinian steak house), or hang out on the Village Green. We’ll meet friends or just come down on a whim. And among the shops are two places my wife frequents, a new upscale hair salon for women and a yoga studio and apparel shop.
People dismissed the idea when the apartments were proposed, but we hardly ever use our car. The Apartment has its own pool and fitness center. Cathy and I use our bikes even more with the improvements that have been made to the Columbia Trail system. And the increased density in Town Center and a few of the other Village Centers has enabled buses that come through here every hour. A new transit hub in Town Center makes it easy to take advantage of longer distance transportation.
People were skeptical back in 2016 about the impact a 230 unit luxury apartment building would have on our Village Center. From my perspective, it has made the Center more of a focal point for our community of Hickory Ridge. The apartments have brought greater stability to the merchants, has encouraged Giant to improve their store, and has attracted additional retail. The quality of the stores and expanded amenities have been cause for an even greater diversity of people gathering here and making it a part of their lives. Life at the new Hickory Ridge Village Center is everything I could want.
The neighbors on our cul-de-sac in Clary’s Bright Passage, Hickory Ridge, Columbia, Md. are hosting an ice cream social for National Night Out (NNO) on August 2nd. The block party will be great fun, and serve to strengthen our neighborhood with more connections among neighbors.
Howard County Police will also be participating, a great example of community policing (“to protect and serve”). In light of the recent shootings of Cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge, it’s important we thank our First Responders, that they truly get how grateful we are for their protection.
And we need to do our part to establish partnership. Citizens will feel safer, and it makes it more likely a Cop will hear when he or she has screwed up.
There are over twenty other community-hosted parties being organized throughout Howard County. Click here for the local event near you:
This sketch is based on the drawing Kimco has shown the community, mainly to illustrate the relative locations and heights of the buildings. The existing Giant Food store is at the top of the sketch and the proposed 5-story apartment building, including an interior parking deck, to the right. Existing retail stores wrap around the left side of the Giant. New retail stores to replace the existing building are shown in red on the ground floor of the apartment building and the three new buildings surrounding the parking lot. (The Professor)
Let me say from the outset – I am not a career politician. The last time I ran for elected office was for Student Government President in high school. While I lost that election, I am running for the Columbia Association Board from Hickory Ridge Village for much the same reason as that idealistic teenager. Our elected town officials should not be the same people that get elected over and over again just because they are the only ones who stand for election. Our leaders should be people who are engaged with the community, and are willing to bring that engagement into the decisions made by the CA Board.
Check out my platform. That is one of the commitments I make – to increase the opportunities for citizen engagement with the Columbia Association Board so that decisions we make reflect the best minds of our well-educated populace. I hope to begin that process by engaging the community via social media. Whether you support me or not, like my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter, so you can be involved in the conversation.
The other items in my platform are issues that are dear to my heart: effective planning; expanding our participation with nature, art, and culture; increasing the ability of the Columbia Association to meet the needs of our community by partnering with nonprofit organizations.
I sure don’t have all the answers, but I’m confident that an engaged citizenry will assure that we make the best decisions. My life’s work in nonprofit organizations has been all about collaborating with others in service to the greater good. Please join me to sustain and grow our city and make it the best that it can be. Let me hear how I can help. And please vote for me on April 26th.