Search for parking Garage construction in Columbia isn't happening fast enough.

July 13, 1998

IF YOU build it, they will come, is the mystical message in the baseball movie, "Field of Dreams." Maybe, but first you have to build it.

New parking decks are being constructed to serve Columbia Mall and nearby Town Center restaurants. But by the time all the parking space is available, some establishments may have lost customers whom it will be difficult to lure back.

A garage is being built on the site of what was a surface lot at Little Patuxent Parkway and Wincopin Circle. It will double to 280 spaces the amount of parking available for patrons of lakefront restaurants such as Clyde's, the Tomato Palace and Sgt. Pepper's. But the garage won't be finished until September.

Valet parking is being provided in the interim. The long lines of cars sometimes waiting to be parked can be discouraging to people trying to get in a quick meal during a business lunch.

Across the street, Columbia Mall is going through a massive transformation.

Upscale department stores Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor are being added to the mix. To accommodate all the additional shoppers that are expected, two parking decks are being built.

The number of mall parking spaces will increase from 4,800 to 6,000 by Christmas, and to 7,500 by the fall of 1999. But finding mall parking now is a chore. Special events -- such as the July 4 fireworks display or a concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion -- exacerbate the problem.

Town Center is undergoing stiff competition for customers from the restaurants and big-box stores that have sprouted up in East Columbia off Route 175.

The current parking shortage comes at a bad time. But the alternative -- doing nothing -- would be even worse.

Mall merchants and Town Center restaurateurs need promotions and innovations other than valet parking to keep their customer base from eroding. Their proximity to lovely Lake Kittamaqundi just isn't enough.

Pub Date: 7/13/98

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