So, it looks like the 800 pound gorilla in Town Center will be adding a few inches to its waistline.
The Mall in Columbia needs to expand again as plans to redevelop Town Center move forward, according to Douglas M. Godine, vice president and general manager of General Growth Properties Inc., the primary landowner and developer of the city.I'm a little troubled by this because the mall was basically ignored as part of the charrette and, in some ways, it's the antithesis of what the Town Center Master Plan is trying to accomplish. Nevertheless, I'll hold off on my full assessment until I see GGP's plan for downtown in April.
"The demand is much greater than the supply, and we want to protect our interests here in Columbia and keep those retailers that may be looking elsewhere and who want to come to Columbia. But we don't have the space for them," Godine said.
"We are addressing how we can expand the mall to add retail shops, and that will take a long period of time, but we are confident that we will get there," he said.
A spokesman for General Growth said the mall has 1.4 million square feet of retail space. Its last expansion was in 2004, when a movie theater, a row of restaurants and an L.L. Bean store were added.
Godine declined to give details of the expansion plans, but he said they will be included in the GGP downtown Columbia plan, which is expected to be unveiled in April.
The project is to include "green" architecture, affordable housing and arts and culture, Godine said during Thursday's annual State of Columbia Luncheon, sponsored by the Columbia Business Exchange.
"Our plan will address some of the important issues that will affect the way people live here," Godine told the audience of about 100 business owners and policymakers.
The company's plan will be in the form of suggestions for the county's master plan for downtown, which officials expect to unveil this spring.
Meanwhile, Bill Santos takes a trip in the way-back machine and looks at promises made prior to a previous mall expansion.