Oakland Mills panel to push for renewal

March 18, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

After weeks of discussion about the fate of the ailing Oakland Mills Village Center, residents there have formed a committee to spur the Rouse Co. to revitalize the shopping area.

The Village Center Steering Committee, formed at a village board meeting last week, will meet for the first time tomorrow, said Erin Peacock, village manager.

The board also formed two other committees -- one to monitor the fate of a large piece of undeveloped farmland adjacent to Oakland Mills and another that will focus on the condition of local schools.

The committees were formed in the wake of three announcements made last month:

The Rouse Co. said the Giant Food store in the village center will close after June 28, prompting fears that the loss of the center's anchor store could lead to the death of the village center itself. Rouse plans to sign another food merchant to the center and will schedule renovations, but no details have been arranged, Rouse officials said.

Elizabeth Smith, longtime owner of more than 300 acres of undeveloped property in the midst of east Columbia, died last month without a will. If sold to developers, the property -- in probate -- could be filled with large tracts of new houses that would most likely be part of Oakland Mills village.

Oakland Mills High School had been designated as the site for one of two new technology magnet schools in the county, but a school board decision not to create the new schools disappointed some residents. The deterioration of local schools has been a long-standing concern in the village.

"It seems like there was a confluence of all these issues arising at one time," Peacock said. "These are challenges, but they are also points that people can galvanize and energize around."

The committee to revitalize the village center is headed by David Hatch, village board chairman. Co-chairs are Virginia M. Thomas and Harold Kassoff, both longtime residents.

Representatives from each street in Oakland Mills may be selected to relay information to the committee and the board, and the committee may join efforts with other ailing Columbia villages to deal with revitalization problems, Thomas said.

"The fact that the Giant is definitely pulling out was a big one," Thomas said. "There is a lot of feeling that they pulled out a long time ago, but now there's the finality of it. We have a drop-dead date and we're not going to have a store for people who need it."

No residents have come forward to serve on the other two committees. The village board is calling for neighborhood volunteers to work on all three committees.

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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