Village center renewal outlined

Giant subsidiary has blueprint for Owen Brown

Board member doubtful

May 19, 1999|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Officials at GFS Realty presented a revised plan last night for renovating the Owen Brown Village Center, one that calls for the relocation of several buildings and a greatly expanded supermarket.

The revitalization project, which is not expected to be completed until next year, does not have a price tag. The renovated village center would have space for 15 tenants, about the same number it has room for now.

Stephen Oseroff, vice president and operating manager for Giant Food Services Realty, a subsidiary of the supermarket chain, said the goal is to attract more business to an outdated complex that has been struggling with vacancies for years. The plan includes expanding the current Giant by about 12,000 square feet.

"We're trying to achieve a basic change, and that is to `open' the center in relation to parking and sidewalks," said Oseroff, who presented a blueprint at the meeting of the Owen Brown Village Board.

In that blueprint, one building at the back of the east Columbia shopping complex would be demolished and rebuilt as an attachment to an existing structure.

The Giant, which is the anchor tenant, would expand from about 40,000 square feet to 52,000 square feet. The building opposite the supermarket -- whose tenants include a liquor store, a dry cleaners and sub shop, among others -- would be reconfigured in what is now Giant's parking lot.

Under the proposed plan, the NationsBank would also be relocated to a spot in the current Giant parking lot. The supermarket is not expected to close during renovations.

Oseroff said Giant officials, now in the process of conducting an economic study, should finish their final proposal in the next several months.

At least one village board member, Timothy R. Fouts, doubted whether structural renovations alone will solve the village center's underlying problems: Not enough residents use it and its merchants don't do enough business.

Even with a whole new look, said Fouts, "there are still [going to be] problems with the Owen Brown Village Center [such as] no advertising."

Village residents have watched numerous businesses vacate the center over the past few years -- primarily for financial reasons. Most recently, Parcel Plus, a packaging and shipping store, and Owen Brown Video closed, leaving empty storefronts.

Oseroff said small, independently owned businesses can't survive unless the "trade area" is made larger. "It's still an economic facet that we're all struggling with," he said. "We're struggling with which tenants can successfully operate under today's economic standards."

GFS plans to address the issue of increased signage and visibility as part of the renovation.

"Somehow Columbia has to figure out a way to remind people where everything is," he said.

Columbia Management Inc., a subsidiary of the Rouse Co., which owns all of the village centers in Columbia except the one in Owen Brown, recently spent millions of dollars on renovations in Harper's Choice, Long Reach and Oakland Mills.

"Any time that somebody wants to invest and reinvest in the center and renovate and bring it up to today's standards, that's obviously a very good thing," said Alton J. Scavo, a Rouse Co. senior vice president.

About a dozen residents and officials, including Democratic state Del. Shane Pendergrass and Democratic Howard County Council member Guy J. Guzzone, attended the meeting at the Owen Brown community center on Cradlerock Way.

Oseroff said he has been in talks with several businesses interested in leasing space in the new center, but declined to name them.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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