Thursday, October 06, 2005

Improving shopping center improvement

Despite putting on a pretty good show in May, General Growth clearly has not become an acolyte of the New Urbanism movement. Sure, the Town Center master plan they created--which is soon to be forgotten--had many New Urbanist trappings--notably an expressed desire for pedestrian access, mixed uses, and compact neighborhoods. However, one silly master plan is not enough to change an entire corporate leviathan, as evidenced by a new proposal that is cruising (not-suprisingly) through the county approval process.

General Growth faces little opposition to its plan to build a Lowe's store at Gateway Overlook Shopping Center on the north side of Route 175, just west of Interstate 95.

The Chicago-based mall developer, which purchased Rouse last year, is doing utility work and paving roads there as it awaits approval for the store from the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning.
So, it's back to the standard suburban shopping center development we've grown to know and hate in Columbia. A close look at the Snowden River Parkway Big Box District (SRPBBD) reveals a set of loathsome shopping centers that I characterize as such not because of some elitist dislike of suburban banality, but because of the fact that shopping at Snowden Square, Dobbin Center, or Columbia Crossing I and II is less excruciating than the colonoscopy I was forced to endure this morning. And it's not just me who feels this way. I don't know a single person who actually finds shopping in SRPBBD pleasant, and I've even heard merchants complain about the centers' poor design. Now, it looks like we're getting yet another one to add to the annual Christmas shopping circuit, which might be just enough to finally push me (and many others) over the edge.

What is more curious than annoying is the fact that there will be a Lowe's in this new shopping center, which is within spitting distance of a Home Depot and Expo Design. It seems to me like the eastern Columbia home improvement market might be over-saturated. But, what do I know? Well, I know I miss Hechinger's (sp?).


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