Thursday, November 18, 2010

guest blog: the problem with the burtonsville giant

While handling constituent correspondence for Councilmember Leventhal last year, I learned that the best response is often (though not always) a speedy one. That's why I was happy to find this response to yesterday's post on the new Burtonsville Giant from District 14 Delegate-Elect Eric Luedtke, who represents Damascus, Olney and Burtonsville. In the following guest post, Luedtke expresses concerns about the grocery store's recent move.

Burtonsville Town Square (former Burtonsville Shopping Center)
Giant moved last week to the new Burtonsville Town Square, pictured above, from across the street.

As a newly elected politician, I find myself the focus of criticism fairly often now. It’s not often, however, that I find myself nodding along. There is a lot of truth in what Dan wrote about the Giant reopening in their new location in Burtonsville Town Square. It’s not a new amenity, it’s not really much progress, and its best feature is that it updates a store that was built in the era of Flock of Seagulls and the Cosby Show.

So it may have been overstated when I said in my remarks that the opening was the first step in Burtonsville’s revitalization. Is it a positive thing to have a newly renovated, nicer store? Certainly. Is it going to lead to some renaissance in the Burtonsville area? Probably not.

In fact, Giant is doing significant harm. Leaving their previous location presented a challenge, one which an experienced property owner like Edens & Avant (the owners of Burtonsville Crossing) should have been able to solve. Except that the Giant’s old lease gives it veto power over any new anchor store in the old location, and Giant is using that power to reject any potential competitor.

I respect Giant and their need to run a profit. I do not respect them placing a stranglehold on Burtonsville in order to maintain a monopoly. Among the thousands of doors I knocked on this summer were many who said of the situation, “That should be illegal.” It may be something to think about, now that I’m a legislator.

But I’m still holding out hope that Giant will be a good neighbor, and give up their veto power on a new tenant. It was that mingled hope and concern that I expressed to a Giant public affairs executive at the opening. He assured me that he would pass on my concerns and let me know who in the company I could speak to about them. I have yet to hear back.

As always: If you've got something to say about East County, say it here! Leave a comment or send your thoughts to justupthepike at gmail dot com.


Steve Ammann said...

Dan, you have no idea how much I appreciate your blog and the open forum it represents. I also appreciate District 14 Delegate-Elect Eric Luedtke's comments as well. I have lived in Burtonsville almost my entire life. I was born here, went off to college, lived in Howard County for a while, and now I've returned to Burtonsville with hopes of raising a family here. I've been to the new Giant and I have to say yes it's modern and new, but nothing to write home about. The aisles are small and the pharmacy is in the worst location possible. Not to mention that the traffic set up is a nightmare waiting to happen. I love Burtonsville and I'm excited to see a new shopping center, a new roof on the Bedding Barn, and even new pumps at the 7-11, but I agree that these are minor to the changes and upgrades it needs. We need people to think outside the box. We needed to listen to the ideas of the charette that were listed a few years ago. A giant moving across the street does not make a new shopping center, especially if the old Burtonsville crossing falls into despair. I could be happy about this if the old shopping center was next to get a refurb. Tear the whole thing down and do something different. Maybe mixed housing with work locations. Maybe new restaurants. I've said it before but I will say it again- they need to move Burtonsville elementary and create a real town. We could have homes and shops and a place to go. Burtonsville has become a cut through and unless we do something to attract people then we'll never give people a reason to stop and enjoy.

Morty Abzug said...

Aren't there already laws banning anti-competitive behavior at the Federal level? Sounds like this should be referred to the Justice Department.