Harris Teeter Store Coming to Columbia

By Dina ElBoghdady
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 26, 2006

Harris Teeter Inc. plans to begin constructing a store at Kings Contrivance Village Center in Columbia this summer, becoming the first upscale supermarket chain to break into Howard County.

The North Carolina-based chain, which is aggressively expanding in the Washington suburbs, has signed a deal to build a store in Kings Contrivance once the lease for a Safeway store there expires at the end of June. The Safeway and an adjacent vacant building will be torn down to construct the new supermarket, which could encompass up to 56,000 square feet.

"It will be an enormous improvement, a real draw for the village center," said Phil Marcus, who represents Kings Contrivance, near Routes 29 and 32, on the Columbia Association board.

The adjacent building, which once housed a Friendly's restaurant, has been vacant for nearly three years, he said.

The center is owned by Kimco Realty Corp., which revealed its plans to the village board last Wednesday. Kimco officials could not be reached for comment this week.

"Columbia seemed like a great market and a great location. The demographics of the community are important to us," said Jennifer Panetta, a spokeswoman for Harris Teeter. "We're looking forward to bringing Columbia its first Harris Teeter."

Marcus said the new store could draw shoppers from other village centers in Columbia, including customers of the upscale Giant Food stores in River Hill and Dorsey's Search. "It certainly will draw from Owen Brown. Owen Brown's Giant will be hurt," he said.

He said the new supermarket will boost business for other stores in Kings Contrivance. "Harris Teeter's assumption is they can substantially increase the traffic, and that traffic will eventually spill off to other parts of the shopping center," he said.

Construction is expected to begin this summer with the demolition of the Safeway, Marcus said. That could cause disruptions for neighboring retailers. Stores such as Michael's Pub, CVS and Kings Contrivance Liquor and Smoke Shop are expected to remain open, he said.

Harris Teeter is known for full-service supermarkets with coffee bars and sushi stations. Its offerings at the Columbia store have not been determined, Panetta said.

The chain, with nine stores in the Washington area, plans to open its first in Maryland this summer, in Darnestown in Montgomery County.

The company is the latest entrant in the region's fast-changing grocery market, which was once firmly dominated by Giant Food LLC and Safeway Inc.

A spokesman for Safeway said the chain had wanted to remain in Kings Contrivance. "The lease was up for renewal, and we were outbid by a competitor," Greg TenEyck said. "We would have preferred to stay."

Kimco, which is known for revitalizing small shopping centers nationwide, owns six of Columbia's nine village centers. Last year it sold Oakland Mills Village Center to Cedar Shopping Centers Inc. for $8 million after revamping retail there.

The once-languishing Oakland Mills, one of the oldest village centers in Columbia, was plagued by vacancies until Kimco purchased it from Rouse Co. in February 2002.

In 2001, the center lost a 42,000-square-foot Metro Food Market and Exxon station. Attempts to attract a new grocery chain -- including Giant, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods -- had failed. Under Kimco, the center has been fully leased, anchored by a Food Lion grocery.

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