Suddenly hard to keep up with all the Wheaton redevelopment action. Reminds me of television programs: Gazette articles this week on Let’s Make a Redevelopment Deal (I’ll take what’s behind parking lot number 13, Monty!) and Costco Pressing Its Luck (watch those whammys!). Just Up The Pike discusses Safeway’s Extreme Makeover, and…I can’t think of a good tv show reference, but this is a really good post about redevelopment issues.
First, Wheaton’s Safeway may be all boarded up with no place to go, but at least it isn’t vermin-infested (yet). Take that, District!
Why doesn’t the development company tear down the boarded-up Safeway and get on with it? Or, if they’re not ready to get on with it, why isn’t the Safeway still open? Just Up the Pike asked, but unless they omitted parts of Gary Stith’s answer, they didn’t actually get an answer. I say get on with it, already.
A few other general thoughts, mostly vis a vis the second JUTP post linked above, which is much more informational than anything I have to say:
I love Filippo Leo and Marchone’s (11224 Triangle Lane), but I don’t see how Costco would hurt his business. Costco does not make delicious Italian subs, fresh pizza dough, sopressata, or cannoli (or if they make it at all, it ain’t delicious). Costco could open next door to me and I would still go to Marchone’s for those things, because Marchone’s product is so good. The only local businesses that should fear Costco are Giant and Safeway. Maybe gas stations, but for me time is more valuable than money, so you’ll never catch me in the Costco gas line regardless of price. For the most part, especially with the 14-story apartment behemoth in the works, there will be plenty of consumers to go around. I’m more worried about traffic and the use of public funds that could be spent in more productive ways.
Costco would improve the mall. My first choice would be to blow up the mall and start from scratch with a mix of retail, housing, and office space, all better integrated in a pedestrian-centric way with downtown Wheaton than the current mall is. But if that is unrealistic, then Costco taking the old Hecht’s space at the mall’s South end seems reasonable, traffic issues aside. If you’re going to have the mall, something has to go there, right? They don’t need another clothing store. Nobody needs another furniture store.
JUTP notes that the Costco and Safeway developments are “very big proposals” but only the latest such proposals in a twenty-years-and-counting Wheaton development debate. They are indeed big proposals, and yet in a way they’re nevertheless only preliminary: they are only valuable if they lead to redevelopment of Wheaton’s core, that is, the land bordered by Viers Mill, Georgia, and University, where currently the Metrobuses and “Wheaton Triangle” live. The new Safeway building will dwarf surrounding structures, yet it and a mall Costco are still largely on the periphery of The Core. Housing density near the Metro is great; more retail is fine, even Costco is maybe fine, though I hope we don’t end up with any Red Lobsters in the end. (No whammys, stop!) Wheaton desperately needs commercial office space to balance the housing and retail — think Discovery Channel in Silver Spring — and although I understand the argument that the housing and retail must come first, I am still kind of afraid the office space will never come at all. In thirty years, we may look back and think how silly we were to worry and it all worked out fine. Change is hard. But here and now, we’re confronted with a choice among so many doors, I’m not sure the Monty Hall Problem even applies.