Howard County officials presented the preliminary draft of the ReImagine Long Reach Village Center Revitalization Plan at a public meeting in November, culminating months of research, presentations and public engagement.

Working with the Long Reach Village Board, the county has held four meetings since April to ask residents to share their vision for redeveloping the center, which was incorporated in the draft plan.

Previous meetings focused on a market analysis, lessons learned from redevelopment of the Wilde Lake Village Center, conceptual architectural plans and a final planning study to determine the objectives of the draft plan. The plan’s purpose is to document not only those objectives, but also the potential land uses and potential techniques the county may use to facilitate revitalization, presenting multiple concepts for illustrative purposes.

“We’ve really tried to provide you with the information you could use to help provide the best thought of what you want to have happen here,” Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman told residents attending the unveiling. “We’ve had roughly 150 people attending the meetings, and we’ve had more than 300 suggestions of ideas.”

“The draft plan is laying out what we can do, not what we must do,” said Raj Kudchadkar, deputy director of the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning.

According to Kittleman, the county is still working on the Urban Renewal Plan for the center, which will provide a framework for the redevelopment that is required in legislation that authorized the county to purchase a portion of the real estate.

What’s in Play

To recap the process, the Howard County Council passed legislation declaring the plan area to be an Urban Renewal Project in March 2014. That legislation authorized the county to purchase a portion of Long Reach Village Center in October 2014, and the county later acquired the vacant Safeway building this past February.

The administration currently plans to introduce the plan to the county council in December, with public hearing scheduled in January.

“As part of this plan, when the council passes it through a resolution, a Request for Proposal Committee will be formed, and we’ll have community members on that committee,” Kudchadkar said. “This plan doesn’t trump any requirements of the planning process … and we’re not changing zoning or land use.”

The draft plan includes 19.1 acres bound to the north by Cloudleap Court and Tamar Drive; to the east by Foreland Garth; to the south by the Longwood Apartments; and to the west by the Timbers Apartments and Route 175.

Howard County owns 7.7 acres within the plan area, including the in-line retail and upper-floor office space. The plan area also includes property owned by Columbia Association (CA) and several smaller parcels that are owned by separate entities.

“We’re looking at the entire space because the developer may be able to work with the CA on other things,” Kudchadkar said. “This plan will show them all the possibilities within the outline.”

The Wish List

The Long Reach Village Center Community Plan, prepared in 2012, laid out a list of desired components that were echoed in the feedback provided by residents who attended the ReImagine Long Reach input sessions.

Among those components: wayfinding signage; adequate parking; an outdoor plaza that encourages community engagement; space for outdoor art displays; open space for recreation; public transportation amenities; and pedestrian and bicycling connectivity.

The draft plan indicates the need for a mix of uses, with retail and commercial remaining a prominent component. Dining establishments and stores providing food for home preparation were recognized as a priority, and the draft plan notes that most community meeting participants were open to the addition of housing to the use mix, recognizing the foot traffic that new residents would bring for retailers.

Another objective identified in the draft plan is that of improved visibility from surrounding streets, which retailers feel would benefit them.

“Overall, I think it’s a good plan,” said Dr. Charu Mehta, an internist who has practiced at Long Reach Village Center since 1998. “I would like to see more attention paid to aligning with medical uses in the redevelopment. The Village Center could really use a grocery store or at least a drug store.”

Mehta said she would be in favor of reconfiguring the existing retail and office space to allow for better lighting and improved security. “My car was vandalized here twice in the last year,” she said.