One of my first heavily researched feature articles that I wrote on my blog was a primer on the controversy surrounding the redevelopment of the Hickory Ridge Village Center (HRVC). I gave equal space to the positions of both those in support of and those opposed to the redevelopment, removed all bias, and just focused on the facts. If you haven't had a chance to read that piece yet and you want the 20,000 foot view on the proposed redevelopment, then I'd encourage you to give it a read. It's certainly an article that I'm proud of and I think exemplifies my goal of the blog; to provide an honest reporting of local affairs that helps to instill a sense of community pride. I also hope that being informed about what is happening in our community reduces some of the fear and resistance towards change and instead replaces skepticism with excitement for the future. And yeah, I know, as I've heard before, I'm an eternal optimist; but you can't fault me for trying!.... Which brings us to today's story...
While conducting the research for the HRVC piece, I learned about another parcel of land that peaked my interest: The land right next to the HRVC. Adjacent to the HRVC is a 3-acre piece of land that is owned by the Columbia Association (CA).
In the past, the Hickory Ridge Village Board and CA had floated proposals to develop this vacant lot into a valuable asset to the community. In 2011, the Village Board made a request to CA to use the land to create a neighborhood park. After gathering input from Hickory Ridge residents, the village board advocated for the park to include bocce courts, a loop pathway, picnic tables, pavilions, a play area, and a multi-purpose field. In the subsequent years, CA supported this effort by providing funding, landscape design, and project planning and management. In 2014, CA had also considered this land for a new indoor tennis center, before ultimately choosing the site where the Long Reach Tennis Center now stands.
Given the uncertainty regarding Kimco's redevelopment plans for the HRVC, plans for this land have been on hold for years. CA spokesman David Greisman explains:
"CA has considered options for this site in the past. However, given the ongoing hearings on Kimco's redevelopment plans for Hickory Ridge Village Center, we will wait for the outcomes of those hearings. Afterward, CA could then look at how to use its land to complement the existing village center or the redeveloped village center when the time comes."
In terms of funding and timeline, Greisman offered the following:
"There is not any funding for this project in either the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which passed in February, or the conditional Fiscal Year 2022 budget. CA's Board of Directors will revisit the conditional Fiscal Year 2022 budget beginning later this year."
Let's hope that at some point after the fate of the HRVC is decided, this parcel of land gets reconsidered for funding and development into a neighborhood amenity. The HRVC zoning board continues hearings for Kimco's proposal for the HRVC on April 1 and April 8; and a decision should hopefully be rendered shortly thereafter. And yes, I recognize, as Greisman acknowledged in his quote, that the development of the CA land is not contingent upon the approval of Kimco's plan, but it sure is nice to imagine at some point in the future a thriving retail environment and housing complex, filled with people, where you can dine al-fresco at a modern bistro or grab some groceries after spending time with family or friends playing in a local park or recreational facility. Perhaps, just maybe, when we focus on how a modernized village center and public park will enhance our quality of life, the future is not so scary after all.