Friday, February 24, 2006

New website, thoughts on malls and birthday wishes: Try making sense of this one...

It's no secret how I feel about the Columbia Flier's awful website. Which is why I was so excited to see it's new digs.

That was sarcasm.

The new site is just like the old one, only the beige tabs on the left are now gray. And, instead of consolidating these tabs and making the site more user-friendly, they've decided to add a few more just to keep things confusing. Keep up the good work, Patuxent! (Again, sarcasm.)

With that cattiness out of the way, let's move on to the actual content. With the very important date of February 24 upon us, however, today's post is limited to one story, a story that's not even really relevant to Howard County.

General Growth Properties Inc., which owns and operates the Columbia mall, has been awarded a contract to provide management and leasing services for Laurel Mall in Laurel.

The company's announcement of the management contract comes on the heels of the Feb. 10 purchase of Laurel Mall by Somera Capital Management, of Santa Barbara, Calif., in a $31 million deal.

Laurel Mall was put up for sale a year ago after it was placed in a court-ordered receivership for defaulting on more than $60 million in loans.

Somera, which owns 47 properties valued at more than $1 billion, won a bidding war for the mall from 10 other potential buyers.

Hopefully, General Growth can work some of its magic in Laurel, someplace that actually needs it. But what's more interesting is the desire of local officials to demolish the mall in favor of something that sounds remarkably like what we're planning for Columbia.

Although some Laurel officials had hoped the mall's buyer would tear down the property and replace it with a mixed-use complex of stores, sidewalk cafes, restaurants, housing, a cinema and offices, Somera officials said they plan to redevelop the existing structure.

Too bad they want to stick with what they've got and not just start over. While Columbia's mall is actually pretty nice, it is an impediment to realizing the full goals of the Charrette. A giant barrier to cross-town connectivity, the mall forces us to move and plan around it, which is really not a very good situation.

But do we really want to give up our climate controlled shopping?

I know, I'm not really saying anything here. It's just a quick post to keep you reading. More on Sunday, including tax cuts, Town Center architecture and whatever else pops up between now and then.

Before I go, however, a big Happy Birthday to the lovely, talented and beautiful Abbzug, whose patience, understanding and insights make this blog possible.

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