Hickory Ridge Village Center redevelopment moves forward
A plan to redevelop Hickory Ridge Village Center could go before the county’s planning board as early as April as Kimco Realty continues the county’s multi-step approval process for the revitalization of Columbia’s village centers.
The $70 million project, which has drawn community opposition and mixed reviews in public meetings, would add a 230-unit apartment block and re-orient retail in the village center, which opened in the early 1990s.
Kimco’s design and architectural choices got a green light from the county’s Design Advisory Panel Wednesday, after the group of architects, which does not formally approve or reject projects, recommended changes to better match the new center with the feel and look of the surrounding community. The panel applauded Kimco for its revisions.
The latest plan scaled back the apartment building by 75 feet, boosted setbacks on Freetown Road by 18 feet and matched the current Giant Food’s facade to match the surrounding community in response to recommendations by the panel in late December.
Community opposition prompted Kimco to reduce the number of apartment units and the orientation of retail after feedback from nearly a dozen community meetings over the last 18 months.
The company’s latest plan calls for a 230-unit, four-story apartment building, a reduction from the 300-unit, five-story apartment building proposed in late 2015. The plan also brings the nearly 105,000 square feet of retail closer together. The existing Giant will stay and retail facing the current courtyard will shift toward the parking area.
A street, designated as Street B, between the proposed apartment block and a mix of open space and retail drew some concern from panelists, who encouraged Kimco to revisit traffic management and pedestrian flow along the street.
The proposed apartment block sits next to land owned by the Columbia Association, which is envisioned as a park.
Greg Reed, Kimco’s vice president of development, said Kimco is working with CA to determine future plans for the site, much of which could depend on the future of Hickory Ridge Village Center, which he hopes will become a model for the redevelopment of future village centers in a market where the nearly three-decade-old village model needs to adapt to changing retail.
Reed said the Street B was designed to avoid significant traffic near a proposed village green, which residents hope will be protected from traffic flow. In response to the panel’s recommendations, Kimco plans to add signage and use paving materials that ensure traffic flows properly.
“Our goal is to really situate this center for the next 10, 20 and 30 years,” Reed said.
Kimco plans to work closely with the village center board as the development process continues. The board will submit a statement on behalf of the community before the county’s planning board considers the proposal.
Village manager Anne Kulesza said the village board is optimistic now that the panel suggested reducing the size of the apartment block and repurposed the roof of the Giant to blend with new retail. But concerns remain about traffic flow, especially out of Cedar Lane on the far edge of the property; pedestrian walkability; and the road nestled between retail and the apartments and near a proposed bank site.
Based on community feedback, Kulesza said the architectural style of the entire center should be more cohesive with surrounding property like the Goddard School and Sunrise Senior Living.
In an unofficial survey of area residents, the board found about 76 percent of residents disapprove of Kimco’s current plans. The roughly 630 residents surveyed were split on how friendly the current proposal is for pedestrians and the community benefit of an open space area intended as a community gathering greenspace. About half disapproved of the proposed apartment building.
Kimco will submit a preliminary development plan to the county, which will be reviewed by the Department of Planning and Zoning. The plan will then go before the planning board and the zoning board.
The village center is eyeing a 2020 groundbreaking and a full build-out by 2022, Reed said.