Merchants moving to make room for grocery store Ground being broken today at Oakland Mills center

December 03, 1997|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

Oakland Mills Village Center is starting to look like a ghost town.

In the past few weeks, at least a half-dozen merchants have moved out of the shopping center off Route 175 to make room for a 42,000-square-foot Metro Food store that is to open next fall.

Today, about 30 area residents, including Columbia Association leaders, Rouse Co. officials and politicians will hold a groundbreaking ceremony to start the renovation of the aging village center.

Because of the large grocery store, the space for small retailers will shrink from 33,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet. Only four merchants -- a liquor store, Last Chance Saloon, a bank and a beauty salon -- will not be permanently displaced.

During construction, a dry cleaners and the hair salon will move to an office building near the village center.

A Chinese food restaurant and a pizza shop may return, but the CVS pharmacy, a Hispanic food store, a video store and a shoe repair shop have closed.

"These stores are closing to make room for a larger Metro Food," said Wayne A. Christmannf the Rouse Co., who manages Columbia's village centers. "The anchor store is the lifeblood of the community."

Since the 15-year-old Giant closed this summer, Oakland Mills merchants have reported losing as much as 70 percent of their business. Metro Food, a Richmond, Va.-based chain with 18 stores in Maryland, will invest more than $5 million in the Columbia store and hire about 300 employees.

Although most residents are glad to see the larger food store come to the village center, some are worried about having fewer small shops.

"I wish we had more room for more small retailers," said Alex Hekimian, a Columbia Council member from Oakland Mills. "We don't want it to be a ghost center. We want it to be an alive village center."

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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