Listed under “Proposed local bills for the 2020 Regular Session of the Maryland General Assembly” is the following Bond Initiative Requests: Howard County Long Reach Village Center Revitalization, Ho. Co. 40-20. Here is the description of that bond initiative:

There is a well-documented need in Howard County for commercial kitchen stations that can be used by food businesses (e.g. caterers, food manufacturers, food truck operators, etc.) on an as-needed basis. The county-owned Long Reach Village Center is an Urban Renewal site and is currently around 20% occupied. To revitalize the site and provide economic development support to these businesses, the County is rehabilitating Village Center space to create a Long Reach Commercial Kitchen. The kitchen will offer prep stations for food business, classroom/education space and community meeting space. Bond funds will support capital construction costs.

The amount requested from the state for this initiative is $100,000.

The county has indicated that this is a “matching fund” so the county (I believe) would also need to invest at least $100,000 to this initiative.

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Howard County Government has a Long Reach Rising page (https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Planning-and-Zoning/Community-Planning/Long-Reach-Rising) where you can find out more about what is going on to improve that village center.

Here is some interesting facts about Long Reach Village Center (LRVC):

In October 2014 Howard County purchases a portion of the LRVC (excluding the former Safeway building). In February 2015 the County purchases the Safeway building resulting in county ownership of 7.71 acres in the LRVC urban renewal area.

December 2016 – April 2017: Request for Proposals (RFP) – The County issued an RFP and selected a private development firm to redevelop the LRVC.

July 2017: CR98-2017 – The County Council approves a redevelopment concept plan as the urban renewal project for the LRVC July 7, 2017.

September 2017- June 2019- The LRVC Urban Renewal Project approved by the Council begins the zoning and land development review process, but is unsuccessful in completing the process due to challenges delivering the approved concept plan.

Today: The County-owned portion of Long Reach Village Center consists of the following:

    • 12,923 square feet of office space, which is currently 15% occupied
    • 36,741 square feet of ground floor retail space, which is currently 23% occupied
    • Approximately 53,000 square feet of vacant flex space that was currently used as a grocery store

Other properties located at the Village Center, not owned by the County, are: Columbia Association Arts Center, Stonehouse, a retail pad site, liquor store, gas station, and an interfaith center for religious use.

I hope the Commercial Kitchen idea gets funded…it sounds like an excellent idea.

I also think county government has been trying to get this area going for quite some time…investing a pretty significant amount of time and money…and yet we still have reported 15% office space occupancy and 23% occupancy with retail space (the county owned portions)…and that is not even including the most significant space (grocery store) noted as still vacant.

Is it time for our elected officials to rethink what is happening with that space? I am not advocating for it to go away…just rethink what is or is not working and possibly come up with a new plan.

I am not sure the items listed (Continued beautification, Arts/Education/Economic Empowerment leasing strategy and a Commercial Kitchen) in the short-term plan are enough to significantly move the needle on occupancy.

Have thoughts…let me know in the comments.

I very probably will be following up with my contacts in Howard County Government to get additional information about the long term plans for LRVC.

Scott E