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Columbia

As you probably know, my hometown of Columbia, Maryland is a passion of mine. I grew up here, I am raising my family here and I volunteer my time as the Columbia Council Representative from Kings Contrivance on the CA Board of Directors.

Back in 2008, me and a group of family and friends came together to start Columbia 2.0, which engaged a younger generation in the debate for the future of Downtown Columbia. We had fun hosting events, making videos and getting our growing group involved directly by testifying before the County Council. We like to think we did our part to make sure younger voices
were heard through this blog and later our fb page.

The past few years, we’ve been pretty much inactive because things were happening so fast all around us, and we stopped to enjoy it for a minute. We ate and shopped at Whole Foods. We did yoga at Haven on the Lake. We moved into the Metropolitan, and this year we got to experience a beautifully renovated Merriweather Post Pavillion.

All of these projects have made a such a positive impact Downtown. You can feel it when you’re there. There’s people, there’s movement and there’s an energy that had been missing for a while. Everything seems to be connected, and it’s cool to witness.

But now, with important legislation being debated by the County Council, we felt compelled to re-activate the Columbia 2.0 network. We are going to be more active online and in person to hold our government and the developers accountable to our community vision. After all, that’s how we earned the title of Best Small City on the Planet Earth. Here is a video of some of the people that make it so great!

-Brian

 

Yes to Downtown

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Last Thursday, I testified in favor of the joint recommendations on affordable housing and the tax increment financing legislation for Downtown Columbia. Below is my testimony. Feel free to comment.

Good evening, Council Chair Ball and members of the Howard County Council.

My name is Brian Dunn and I live at….in Kings Contrivance. Aside from college and a few years in Boston trying to convince my girlfriend (now wife) to move back to my hometown of Columbia, I have lived here my whole life. My parents were in that second wave of pioneers that came here looking to live the Rouse vision, and we certainly did. My experiences growing up here have shaped the person I am today.

I am here tonight to speak in favor of the Joint Recommendations on Affordable Housing and the Tax Increment Financing legislation.

I have listened to a lot of testimony and read newspaper stories, blogs and facebook posts about these two issues. I have spent over a decade engaged in advocacy for the revitalization of Downtown Columbia. The highpoint was the unanimous passage in 2010 of the General Plan Amendment that established the Downtown Columbia Plan.

That plan addresses just 380 acres in the center of Columbia and will include residences, office buildings, stores and restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, cultural and civic institutions, as well as parks and other natural amenities. It will be transformative, and I can hardly wait.

As we look at the housing and TIF proposals, I ask myself a simple question: Will they advance the fulfillment of the revitalization of Downtown Columbia?

We can see that development is underway, that The Metropolitan is completed, and One Merriweather is making great progress, that other buildings have been started, but only somewhere between 5 and 10% of the plan has been completed.

To accelerate the revitalization, new and improved roads and public parking are critical. (Public parking for Merriweather Post Pavilion is long overdue.) Tax Increment Financing is a community used public financing tool, and we should use it now because the development it will support will generate enough new revenues to not only pay the debt but also fund other civic amenities in Columbia and elsewhere in Howard County.

As for the Joint Recommendation on Affordable Housing, it is obvious that the best solution is the solution that will work, that has the backing of the people needed to make it happen. The Joint Recommendations on Affordable Housing are the product of the county, the Housing Commission, the Columbia Downtown Housing Corporation and The Howard Hughes Corporation. All the players have agreed the recommendations will work and endorse them as a practical, efficient, effective way to provide more housing units at a quicker pace than would be provided if we depended upon the ups and downs of future residential development.

I thank you for all you do to advance the Downtown Columbia Plan and urge you to approve the Joint Recommendations on Affordable Housing and the Tax Increment Financing proposal.

-Brian

Numero Uno

Yesterday, Columbia was ranked #1 in Money’s “Best Places to Live in America” for 2016. We’ve made the list before, but this is the first time we’ve actually topped it.

As someone who grew up here and is now raising my family here, I couldn’t be more proud of my hometown. It was fun scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday, as I read countless posts from old friends expressing similar feelings of pride over the ranking.

Of course, we Columbians have always known our town is the best, but it’s nice to have it official, if only for the next year!

-Brian

 

2 Hours to go

Late notice, but if you’re from around here, you probably already know that there’s a blog party at Union Jacks tonight from 5:30 to 7:30. Click here for more info. See ya’ll there.

-Brian

A World Class Plan for Symphony Woods

By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard about CA’s bold and innovative, “Inner Arbor” plan for Symphony Woods. If not, please read about it here.

First, let me say that I think Michael McCall has hit a home run with this plan, and I hope we can see his vision come to fruition as soon as possible. I’m glad CA realized that this was their chance to give Columbia something truly special, something that could be enjoyed by everyone in our community for generations to come.

The Inner Arbor plan masterfully incorporates art, music, theater, food and culture into the natural setting of the woods. It provides a place where people can gather to enjoy the myriad of events that will take place there. It will not only be a regional and national  attraction, but I predict it will be an international one as well.

I really have a hard time believing anyone could find fault in this plan, but we all know there is a small group of people amongst us who have vowed to do whatever it takes to sabotage real progress in Columbia. Some of them showed up last night and expressed anger at the process and their perceived notion that the plan was hatched in secrecy.

Former Boardmember Russ Swatek even went so far as to submit what has now become known as “The Swatek Memo”, which is a rambling 19 point document, “related to Symphony Woods development spanning the direction of CA, the process being employed, and the plan itself.”

If Russ and Company continue to rally against this plan, they will once again be showing their true no growth colors. Last night I testified in favor of the plan to the CA Board, and I encourage you to do the same. You can write to the entire CA Board here.  Let them know you support moving forward on the Inner Arbor plan!

-Brian

Update: Greenberries New Sign is Up!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about working with Greenberries to design, fabricate and install a custom LED channel letter sign. Yesterday, we installed it, along with one that we also fabricated for their neighbor, Edible Arrangements. Have a look:

And speaking of Greenberries, check them out getting some love from Fox5 in DC.

Owner Rachel Baliff has really tapped into something special with Greenberries. There was a constant stream of mothers, fathers, grandparents and of course children coming and going all day yesterday. I even signed my almost 5 year old daughter up for a cooking class next week!

I am absolutely thrilled to see a Columbia store doing so well, and I wish Rachel and her delightful staff all the best moving forward. Who knows, maybe they’ll outgrow this space like they did their old space, and I’ll have to help her out with another sign! And if you find yourself over near Oakland Mills or Snowden River Parkway, please be sure to stop in and check out this unique children’s boutique.

-Brian

Brand New Sign For Greenberries

Exactly one year ago today, Greenberriesan upscale, eco-chic children’s & maternity consignment boutique, relocated from The Kings Contrivance Village Center to it’s new home in the Snowden Center off Oakland Mills Rd. I took notice of the move for a number of reasons, mainly because I live in Kings and noticed right away when they left. I was relieved to hear that it was not because they didn’t make it, but that they had actually outgrown the space. So I was happy for them, but sad to see them leave our village center.

A short time after that, I was driving on Snowden River Parkway heading west toward Oakland Mills Rd when I happened to look over and noticed that there was a small vinyl banner hanging on the facade of the building to my right. I was driving too fast to notice what it said, but the next time I drove by, I was going slower and noticed that it was a Greenberries banner. Now at least I knew exactly where they had relocated.

But I am from Columbia, and I knew about them before I happened to glance over and notice the banner. The point is, it wasn’t so hard for me to find them. But I would wager that it’s almost impossible to find them if you’re not even vaguely familiar with the area. Compounding the problem was the huge new signs for 2 other Snowden-facing tenants immediately to the left of Greenberries.

I understand the importance of visibility for a business such as Greenberries, and with my background being in digital printing and signage, I approached Rachel Baliff, the owner of Greenberries and inquired if she was planning on getting a permanent sign.

Obviously she knows the importance of visibility too, and said that she had already begun planning for it. What came next was a seemingly endless process of waiting for approvals, designs, more approvals and permits, but I am proud to say that my company, CompletelyDunn, is a mere 2 weeks away from installing a custom, state of the art, LED channel letter sign for Greenberries. So when you’re driving on Snowden River Parkway, be sure to be on the lookout for it!

And if you have children, or grandchildren, be sure to get out and support this wonderful store!

-Brian

Oh Yeah!

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Whole Foods is coming to town. My commentary? John DeWolf is the man. On behalf of everybody here in Columbia, I say thank you John!

-Brian

Goodbye Emily

Yesterday, I attended the Howard Hughes Corporation’s event that sought to re-imagine what could be done with the Rouse (now Howard Hughes) building. It was a beautiful day, and everybody was in good spirits talking about what the new Downtown might look like.

My mood dimmed when I bumped into a friend who told me that Bring Back the Vision Founder Emily Lincoln had passed away over the weekend. The irony struck me that here we are envisioning the changes that Emily fought so hard for, only to find out she is gone.

I always enjoyed speaking with Emily because her passion to see Columbia become the city it was always meant to be really resonated with me personally. She was passionate about the changes that we’ve all been advocating for and she yearned to actually see them happen. To know that she won’t makes me very sad.

Emily was one of the first people I spoke to about getting involved in the downtown debate. A mutual friend had suggested I give her a call, and after speaking with her, I could tell she was one sharp woman. Her dedication definitely influenced me to learn all I could about the plan that was being shaped for Downtown.

I will miss Emily, and I hope that her family finds peace in this difficult hour.

-Brian

Her Bio:
Emily Lincoln, long time resident and friend of Columbia, died in her home on February 26, 2012.  The daughter of Genevieve and Roger H. Taylor, she was born in Springfield, Missouri, on March 11, 1939.   Ms Lincoln had one son, John Taylor Lincoln.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she was an honors graduate.   After graduation she joined the staff of Senator Stewart Symington in Washington, DC.   She moved to Howard County in 1969.

Recognized as a tenacious and devoted advocate of Columbia, Emily is best known for organizing Bring Back the Vision, an advocacy group that works to promote the thoughtful redevelopment of downtown Columbia.  The group’s many accomplishments include providing forums for a community conversation about the future of Columbia. These forums included presentations by Roger K. Lewis architect, urban planner and author and Rollin Stanley urban planner, among others.

Emily received her professional license as a Realtor in 1977.  She was instrumental in conceptualizing and founding the Howard County Real Estate Masters Club. She led the organization in a joint project with The Columbia Foundation and The Columbia Bank to supply affordable home purchase opportunities to low income families.  As a Realtor, Emily understood the issues of affordable housing and was a tireless advocate for the development of housing opportunities within Howard County.   She was an Associate Broker and member of the REMAX Hall of Fame.

Emily was a founder and President of the Howard County Economic Forum, Board member of Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland (FCS) and Chair of the Howard County Advisory Board of FCS.  Emily also served on the Howard County Commission on Aging. She was a graduate of Leadership Howard County.

Emily was a leader in the transition of Columbia’s Family Life Center through its merger with Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland. While serving as chair of the Howard County Advisory Board of FCS, she led the effort to expand operations and establish a satellite office of FCS in North Laurel. This entity` evolved to become the North Laurel-Savage Multi-Service Center providing a variety of human services to a portion of the county, long under-served.

Emily is survived by her son John, grandsons Braeden and Gavin, of Charlotte, NC, sisters Nancy Graff of Cape Coral, FL and Genevieve Shryer of Springfield, MO and brother Roger H. Taylor II of Liberty, MO.  She was predeceased by her parents and sister Carolyn Burridge of Baltimore, MD.

A life celebration was held at Emily’s home.  The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Emily Lincoln Family Fund established at The Columbia Foundation at 10630 Little Patuxent Parkway, Century Plaza #315, Columbia, MD 21044

Time to Party

The other day, I got to thinking that there hadn’t been a HoCo Blog party in a while. So I emailed my good friend and Hocoblogs co-founder Jessie Newburn and said, “Hey now. What would you think of me co-hosting a blog party with you?” And she wrote back saying, “You got it. When and where?” And being from Kings Contrivance, I said, “Corner Stable.” She said, “Sounds good. Lemme just take a look at the place.” I said, “Cool.” And just like that, it’s on. Click here for the details. Registration not required, but strongly recommended. Hope to see you there! There might just be one or two surprises in store!

-Brian

Kelly Casey Van Horn for Board of Education

The race for Board of Education just got a little more exciting for my entire family yesterday when my cousin, Kelly Casey Van Horn threw her hat into the ring. And although I am biased, I think she makes an excellent candidate.

You see, Kelly has a passion for education. She taught 3rd grade for 8 years in the Fairfax county public schools system, so she is familiar with the rewards and challenges of being a classroom teacher. This passion also led Kelly to further her own education, and she holds a masters degree with a concentration in new professional studies. In addition, she was a private tutor for a remediation program for the school for students who did not pass the state standardized test.

As an experienced teacher, she would be an insightful voice for public education. She has a two year old and a one year old, so she has a long term vested interest for hcpss for at least the next 20 years. She believes redistricting/overcrowding is an issue that needs to be resolved and wants do her part to ensure that the Board works for students, parents, and teachers alike.

This is an exciting new chapter in Kelly’s life, and the Board of Education would be lucky to have her. I hope you will consider giving her your vote.

-Brian

Ignite Columbia

 

On Wednesday night, I moderated a panel discussion sponsored by CA that addressed the question of how to get younger and more diverse people interested in serving on the Village and CA Boards. The panel consisted of, Regina Clay (current Wilde Lake Village Board member) Candace Dodsen Reed (Director of Constituent and Community Affairs for Howard County Executive Ken Ulman), Sean Harbaugh (Assistant Director of the Columbia Association’s Open Space Management Division) Summer Romack (former Owen Brown Village Board 2003 through 2011) and Kecia Rome (Vice-Chair of the Owen Brown Village Board).

Fist, I asked them why they serve. I wanted to get a sense of what drove each of them to take that first step to volunteer their time. Each gave their reasons, but the prevailing sense was that we all love this community and want to see it thrive for many generations to come.

Then I wanted to know what they thought CA and the Villages can do to make governance participation and community leadership more attractive to younger and more diverse residents? That really stimulated the discussion and they came up with some great suggestions such as utilizing technology to make it easier for young families to know what’s going on around here, getting to know your neighbors better, and for CA to take their message directly to residents through a, “road show” type campaign.

We only scratched the surface in the 45 minutes we were allotted, but it was really cool to be a part of such a stimulating discussion. Thank you to CA for inviting me. This panel came up with some excellent suggestions that I hope we can implement sooner rather than later.

-Brian