Village awaits bigger market

Kings Contrivance residents want modernized store


When Hillary Bierce moved to Kings Contrivance almost two years ago, she would travel a few blocks to the Safeway at the village center to do her shopping.

But these days, Bierce does most of her grocery shopping at other Columbia village centers.

"I'm not sure if it's the square footage or the limited numbers of products," said Bierce, who also mentioned some occasional expired foods when asked to identify reasons why she seldom shops close by.

For years, many Kings Contrivance residents like Bierce have hoped for a larger, modernized supermarket at their village center. Soon, they may get their wish.

Kevin Allen, director of retail and office properties for Kimco Realty Corp., which owns the village center, said in an e-mail interview that the realty company wants to have a "prototypical supermarket" of up to 57,000 square feet at the village center -- nearly 17,000 square feet larger than the current building. He said Kimco, a New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based company, could have more details at the end of the year.

A Safeway spokesman said the supermarket chain is aware of the problems at its Kings Contrivance facility and has been seeking solutions.

Safeway recently sent a proposal to Kimco "with something larger and more modern," said Craig Muckle, a spokesman for the company's eastern division in Lanham.

Safeway also is seeking to renew its lease, which expires next year, Muckle said.

In 2002, Safeway Inc. considered expanding the supermarket by demolishing the former Friendly's restaurant adjacent to the building to increase square footage. But plans were tabled when the Rouse Co. sold the village center to Kimco, Muckle said.

The 40,733-square-foot supermarket was built in 1987. Safeway took over the structure in 1999 when Valu Food closed.

Safeway has three stores in Columbia. In 1998, Safeway expanded its Long Reach store after years of complaints about its size from residents and local leaders. A similar, modern store is in Harper's Choice.

Complaints about the Kings Contrivance store have been steady over the years.

"Basically, people in the neighborhood use it as a convenience store -- they don't do any real food shopping there," said Jennifer Terrasa, a member of the Kings Contrivance Village Board.

Terrasa and other local officials have said the supermarket is too small to support the village.

When told about possible plans of a larger and more modern supermarket, local officials replied with relief and optimism.

"We've been waiting for this for quite a long time," said Anne Dodd, the village manager. "The current Safeway is just not sufficient for the population, and we are very excited to have a store that can serve the needs of our community."

Similar reactions were heard from merchants in the village center. Many said they would welcome a larger anchor store that could increase consumer traffic for the center and its almost two dozen stores.

"As a merchant and living in the area, I say bring on a brand spanking new grocery store," said Terry Keighley, owner of a jewelry store at the village center.

Residents agreed that a larger, modernized supermarket would keep them from going to nearby village centers that have larger, more modern stores.

"If you have a better anchor store in the center, it will draw more people," said Heidi Gaasch, a village resident.

And for Bierce, it would mean not traveling as far to do her shopping.

"I've been looking forward to a larger Safeway with a larger selection," she said.

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