At a time when any discussion of the economy usually includes the phrases "recession" and "slowdown," the building industry appears to be going strong in the Columbia village of Hickory Ridge.
Heavy machinery and construction workers are smoothing the ground for new single-family homes in the southwest Columbia community. In addition to the housing construction, grading work is being done to pave the way for the 16-acre Hickory Ridge Village Center.
The Howard County Planning Commission last month recommended approval of site-development plans for the Rouse Co.'s seventh village center, which is to contain a Giant grocery store, shops, a bank, a service station and offices.
Rouse hopes to get final approval from county officials in the next few weeks and open the 98,250-square-foot center in the spring of 1992.
Gerald Brock, vice president and senior development director at the Rouse Co., said the center selected Giant as the anchor store at the behest of area residents.
Brock said the company has not yet signed on tenants for the other shops and services, but that he doesn't expect any problems. He said the slumping economy will have little effect on the new village center because the area's population has grown enough in recent years to support it.
"If you've got a Giant Food, you're going to bring a certain amount of people to the center," he said. "There will be a capture rate for the daily and weekly services that people are going to use.
"We find that there is a high degree of loyalty to village centers, partially because they're convenient. We're optimistic that we'll be able to lease the space and get good quality tenants."
Plans call for Giant to build a 55,000-square-foot "gourmet" store that will carry a line of pre-cooked items to cater to members of two-income households who don't always have time to prepare meals.
Brock described the architecture for the new village center as "transitional," which he said incorporates elements of traditional and contemporary designs.
The retail shops are to be built in a "V" shape in front of the grocery. Three acres at the 16-acre site have been pledged to the non-profit Columbia Association, which maintains the town's open spaces and community facilities, for future development.
Brock said the development firm wanted to wait until Hickory Ridge had enough people before it built a village center there. It has become the largest village in Columbia, but its residents now use the neighboring Wilde Lake or Harper's Choice village centers for food shopping and dry-cleaning service.
"With the development in the 1980s of Clary's Forest, which is probably the oldest neighborhood in Hickory Ridge, that provided more population density," he said. "While it was a large land area before, there was relatively low density."
James Loesch, Hickory Ridge's representative on the quasi-governmental Columbia Council, says the new village center can't open soon enough.
"I think it's probably long overdue," Loesch said. "I understand from a development perspective that this is driven by market demand, but the fact of the matter is that in our vicinity there's nothing available. . . . Our village has the population base and the income to support a center of its own."
Loesch said some board members suggested that the center include a barber shop that caters to blacks because there are no black barbers in Columbia. Brock said the company would see whether it could sign on a black barber for the facility.
Loesch also wants the developer to attract a restaurant that would give the center, and the community, a distinct identity.
"There's no distinction in having a McDonald's," he said.
* Following are recent commercial real estate transactions:
* Interior Elements, an office furniture store, has leased 12,800 square feet at 8730 Greenwood Place in Savage, according to KLNB Realtors.
* Computer Science Innovations, a diversified high-technology firm, has leased 9,009 square feet of space at the National Business Park in western Anne Arundel County, according to the KMS Group Inc.
* National Computer Services Inc. has leased 9,800 square feet at Owings Mills Commerce Center, according to W.C. Pinkard & Co.
* Karen Jacobs, D.D.S., has leased 1,800 square fet at 117 Water St., according to W.C. Pinkard & Co.
* Terrific Promotions, trading as Dollar Bills, a discount variety store, has leased 3,540 square feet in Merritt Manor Shopping Center, located at 1197 Merritt Boulevard in Dundalk, according to KLNB.