Rouse hopes parking will increase diners A sixth restaurant is expected to open at Lake Kittamaqundi

September 18, 1998|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Developers of a new parking garage on Wincopin Circle believe it will serve two purposes: not only add spaces for vehicles but establish Lake Kittamaqundi's restaurants as the center of Columbia dining.

That area "is beginning to become a mass of restaurants," said Alton Scavo, senior vice president of the Rouse Co., which built the $2 million facility. "I think it is an enhancement to the downtown area."

The two-tier garage, which opened Sept. 8, offers 386 free parking spaces for five restaurants and two office buildings. A sixth, 150-seat restaurant will be selected by November for a space at the top level of the garage.

Before the garage was completed, patrons used a valet service, paid for by the Columbia Association in the afternoon and by four of the restaurants at night.

The short-term goal for the deck is to alleviate the parking problem for the office workers and restaurant patrons, particularly in the afternoon, when they competed for spaces.

"Before the lot, it was pretty much a hassle," said Jenni Gladstone of Pikesville, who works in the office building west of the garage.

Sam Obado, general manager of Sgt. Pepper's, said lunch receipts fell 25 percent during construction.

"There was a remarkable drop, especially during lunch," Obado said. "You want to walk in without wasting time. But if it takes an hour to find parking, that kind of defeats the purpose."

Obado said he and others are counting on the garage to revive their lunch business. "It's a big relief for my guests," he said.

Rouse has additional plans. Scavo said he believes that the growing number and variety of restaurants could make the area the first choice of patrons, and that convenient parking is one of the most important ways to create that market.

"It's part of the huge economic growth happening here," Scavo said. "We lose sight of it because it's happening every day."

Downtown development

It is all part of Rouse's $200 million effort to develop downtown Columbia. Its plans include renovating The Mall in Columbia and adding houses and apartments around the mall.

Rouse also plans to add a Nordstrom's this year and a Lord & Taylor next year, and add two parking decks to the mall garage.

But restaurant managers along the lake say the changing market is forcing them to re-examine how they operate.

Competition

"Any business is not going to be happy about increased competition," said Karen Flannery, a manager at Clyde's, which has been at the lake site for more than 20 years. "If anything, it has helped us focus" on how to attract customers.

Scavo believes his company's plans will create a new type of downtown area -- one that is spread out and benefits everyone.

"The downtown [area] is by no means complete," he said.

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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