Tag Archive | Downtown Columbia

Welcome to Columbia

We already blogged about the formation of The Howard Hughes Corporation, but we haven’t formally welcomed them. So, on behalf of Columbia 2.0 and all of our members, we would like to welcome our new partners to town. Just as we did with GGP, we expect to work with them and hold them accountable to the community as the downtown plan moves forward.

And speaking of GGP, we would like to thank them for all the amazing work they did for us over the past 5 years. They went through some hard times, but never wavered in their support for Columbia. Thank you and good luck as you continue your mission.

And in the “good first move” category, they’re keeping Greg Hamm at the helm. Here’s to a successful partnership with THHC, as we continue to build upon the vision of Columbia.


Tomorrow, Vote for Columbia to Move Forward

What a year it’s been. We’ve seen it all. The historic passage of CBs 58 & 59 by our County Council, the bill signed into law by our County Executive, a failed referendum effort against it, and a huge primary win by Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty over Delegate Bobo’s candidate Alan Klein.

All that’s left is tomorrow’s general election. Columbia 2.0 would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication our elected officials have displayed, not only this year, but for the past 4 years. They put the community’s best interest first, and they locked in a plan that embodies our core values.

Therefore, we are proud to endorse County Executive Ken Ulman and Council members Calvin Ball, Greg Fox, Mary Kay Sigaty, Jen Terrasa, and Courtney Watson for re-election. Here’s to 4 more years of moving Howard County forward.

Art, Culture, and Life Downtown

Since our founding, we have enjoyed a diverse and rich arts scene in Columbia. Culture? Well, that might be in the eye of the beholder, but one thing is for sure. If we want downtown Columbia to be successful as we begin our redevelopment, both the arts and culture must play an integral part.

The photo above is the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which is in the Basque region of Spain. The museum houses modern art and has helped to revitalize the city.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7:15, in another Frank Gehry designed building, you’ll have a chance to help come up with ideas on how best to incorporate art and culture into the new buildings and open spaces that will make up downtown.

Gail Lord of Lord Cultural Resources, will hold a special presentation entitled “Conversation on Art and Culture in Downtown Columbia, “ in the Spear Center at the General Growth Properties building, 10275 Little Patuxent Prky., Columbia, MD 21044.

If you’d like to attend, RSVP: cathyvsmith@verizon.net

See you there!

Bobo, Klein and the Politics of Spin

We’ve had a great discussion over the last few days on this blog about schools downtown. A reader skeptical of the plan asked a thoughtful question, and we provided the facts of the legislation, while an original decision-maker on the issue weighed in with an insider perspective.  This was a substantive, reasoned conversation with a real outcome.

So how disappointing was it to see this article in the Sun today:

Bobo criticizes school board on Columbia redevelopment plan

Bobo asked why the Board was “not reserving a site for a possible new school for the proposed 30-year Columbia redevelopment.”  The Board, of course, replied that the issue had already been evaluated, decided, and legislated, with the result that the board has the right to reserve a site downtown if it deems it necessary, leaving their options open while development occurs so that they can make the best decision when the time comes – taking into account the ongoing needs of the rest of the county.  And Liz, Alan: everyone knows this.

It seems Delegate Bobo has resorted to spewing Alan Klein’s campaign rhetoric – making last-gasp lunges at any issue, regardless of the facts.  It’s embarrassing to watch them make these wild claims that are easily refuted with even a passing knowledge of the unanimously approved plan and the extensive process involved in its creation and refinement.

You’d think a seasoned politician like Liz Bobo would know better than to try to pull off last-ditch shenanigans like this – especially on behalf of a candidate like Alan Klein.  He’s already known for not being well-versed on the issues or the budget (which he admitted to never having read) without his Mentor chopping him off at the knees by making reckless public statements that betray their growing desperation.

We can’t wait to see what ridiculousness they’ll come up with next.

Schools Downtown: If, When, and Where

Today, a reader of A Double Negative” asked a couple of good questions about the plan for schools downtown. Not surprisingly, there has been some campaign-related misinformation floating around about this so we were lucky to have someone directly involved weigh in.  And, hopefully, this will be the last word on the subject.  John Hannay, President of the PTA Council of Howard County, responded in the comments (our emphasis, below):
Mr. Hannay: The line that the downtown development plan contains no provisions for schools is misinformation (if not outright lie) being promoted by Mr. Klein’s campaign. The Plan absolutely contains provisions for schools. I know this because as President of the PTA Council of Howard County I was personally involved in discussions last winter to ensure that the Plan addressed the need for schools.
Last December, an invitation came from Mary Kay Sigaty (who then Chaired the County Council) to the Board of Education (BOE) for a recommendation for how the need for new schools should be handled. The BOE reached out to a number of public education stakeholders (including the PTA Council) for input on the issue. BOE President Ellen Giles and BOE member Alan Dyer were the ones with whom I communicated. I, in turn, consulted with PTA leaders at the three local schools most likely to be affected: Running Brook Elementary (where I currently have a son enrolled), Wilde Lake Middle (where I had a son enrolled…he’s now at Wilde Lake High), and Byrant Woods Elementary (part of the Wilde Lake school cluster).
Out of the various discussions that occurred, the BOE eventually recommended that it be empowered to determine if, when, and where a new school would be needed as development occurred, and that the developers be required to donate the necessary parcel of land to the County School District at that time (if needed). This recommendation was then communicated to Councilmember Courtney Watson (who was then Council Chair) in early January 2010.  This recommendation then became part of the legislation, as one of the 90 amendments adopted.
Is there a specific parcel of land identified for schools in the Plan? No, because as stakeholders considered this issue, we felt it was not in the best interest of children and their parents to lock the school system into a particular place or strategy. Further, the Plan only contains provisions for donation of land, which has been the past practice. Generally speaking developers have not been required to pay for school construction (or additions to existing schools), only donate land, when needed. Funds for school construction come from the BOE’s Capital Improvments Budget, which is funded by local taxes and (to a modest extent) state grants.
The dilemma in all of this is that it’s hard to know at this time what will be needed in the way of schools. It depends on what type of housing gets built where, what the current enrollments are at the existing schools and what the ages of those students are, and what the capacities are for renovations and additions (which are generally less expensive) at existing facilities. That’s why the language that’s in the Plan was developed the way it was. Generally speaking it takes 3-5 years to plan and build a new school. Additions and renovations can be done more quickly.
What’s important in the Plan is that the Board of Education controls when the process for building a new school starts and determines generally where land (if needed) has to be found. The school system has long-established formulas for anticipating when new schools or additions will be needed that are fairly adept at ensuring that facilities are present when needed. If a new high school is needed (not considered likely in the near future), there will generally be more lead time to prepare because when families move into new housing they tend to have younger children.

It is clearly stated in the legislation.  Item 10 in the Downtown Community Enhancements, Programs, and Public Amenities Implementation Chart (CEPPA Chart) says: “10. GGP shall, if deemed necessary by the Board of Education, reserve a school site or provide an equivalent location within Downtown Columbia.”
In other words, we do not anticipate needing a site now, but if we do need it at some point, we’re covered.

Mr. Hannay (and C2.0 wholeheartedly agrees): While I’ve been a fan of Liz Bobo on a number of other issues, I’ve been most disappointed with her behavior on this one…and I’ve respectfully told her so directly.
 What’s important now is that eligible voters (registered Democrats) in District 4 who believe that Ms. Sigaty did the right thing in ensuring responsible downtown development now vote in this election.
It’s one thing to cheerlead on Mary Kay’s behalf. What makes the difference is that support for her gets translated into votes. It’s also important to talk with your friends and neighbors about the need to support Mary Kay. Mr. Klein and his supporters are doing their best to create an impression that everyone is moving toward him. Based on door knocking I’ve done on behalf of Mary Kay in my neighborhood, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. So, talk up Mary Kay, and BE SURE TO VOTE.

She’s Got The Beat

Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty has done an amazing job navigating the choppy waters of Columbia’s redevelopment plan. She has shown incredible leadership by patiently listening to both sides and having the foresight to realize the best path for moving us forward.

Tomorrow, she’s having a fundraiser at Toby’s dinner theater from 4:30pm – 6:30pm, and we’ll be there to support her! Click here for the details, and we hope to see you tomorrow!

Food for Thought

With Columbia’s birthday (June 21) around the corner, we thought it would be a good time to re-visit some of the founding principles of our community by going straight to the source!  So here they are, in his own words:


“To provide a real City – not just a better suburb, but a comprehensively balanced community… It was our goal to produce as many jobs as there were workers here…we wanted people of all income levels.  We wanted to be very open, racially-to provide the full institutional life of cities…

“To respect the land. With sets of overlays we recorded the topography, the stream valleys, the forests, the southeastern slopes, the historic buildings, the special vistas, the quiet tree lined areas.  We allowed the land to impose itself as a discipline on the form of the Community…

“To provide the best environment for the growth of people. It would seem elementary that cities should be planned for people… We want to allow these overlays, these insights about people, to influence the physical plan and the institutions we should seek to stimulate in the community just as we allow the plan to be influenced by the land itself…

“Our fourth goal was profit. This was no residual goal, not something just hoped for.  It was our primary objective…”

It’s exciting to see these goals coming alive again in the “re-generation” of Columbia’s Downtown.  Yay, Columbia!

Liz Bobo: Unequivocal support of GGP’s Downtown Plan

We hear that Delegate Liz Bobo has been making the rounds of various labor leaders in Maryland citing her continued and full support of GGP’s plan to revitalize Downtown Columbia.  The unions’ support of the project is based on the thousand of jobs it will create, and Delegate Bobo is claiming a shared interest in that issue to solicit them for money to fend off challenger John Bailey.

When pressed, she seemed to admit that she had had “occasional concerns” about the Plan, but overall, had always given it her full support.  Huh?  That doesn’t seem quite right.  We seem to recall her relentless undermining of the process by which the Downtown Plan was approved, multiple reports that she hosted meetings in her own home with leaders of the group (TAG) that unsuccessfully attempted to take that approval to referendum, and her husband’s public call for the bills to be withdrawn.

Wonder what Russ Swatek, Alan Klein, Steve Meskin, and the rest of that group think about Liz’s unequivocal support of GGP’s Downtown Plan…

Reporting from the Fringe

Yesterday, I ventured into the Den of Incivility (Russ Swatek’s dining room) to see for myself who’s in charge of trying to kill the world-class plan to save Columbia.

The open house was a call for volunteers to gather signatures for a referendum against the recently passed legislation to redevelop downtown, but I showed up to let them know that we’re not about to let a few nut jobs stand in the way of real and lasting progress here.

I left with several observations, which I will share with you now:

Russ Swatek thinks the east coast is too crowded. I heard him utter those exact words. So it’s no surprise that the CA Board member is leading the referendum. He joked that he was a “professional pest” or something to that effect. Hey, Russ, this is no laughing matter when we’re talking about such a bold plan for our future.

As the spokesperson for the so-called Taxpayers Against Giveaways or TAG (a group reportedly holding meetings at the home of Liz ” No No” Bobo), there may be a real conflict of interest here. In fact, there’s a petition being circulated calling for his resignation on those grounds.

Then there’s Frank Martin, of Turf Valley fame. Google this guy. It seems that there is no lawsuit he doesn’t love, and he spent a lot of time yesterday bragging about how much time he spends in court. He was offering advice to other volunteers in the room about signature gathering. His main problem is the increased taxes from the additional school aged kids that might come along with their parents to Columbia. You know, the kids who grow up to work and live in Columbia, to pay taxes, and to raise their own families. Don’t worry, Frank – if you have it your way, there won’t be a Columbia left by the time these kids grow up.

They all kept insisting that this plan was ramrodded through and that it will burden Howard County taxpayers. Yet when I brought up the EDA and fiscal impact reports that say just the opposite, they quickly dismissed it. The fact is, they just don’t like any development and it wouldn’t matter what the plan was. They absolutely have a right to petition, but this isn’t about giving voters a choice. This is about being sore losers. It’s about delaying a Plan that was passed unanimously by the County Council after thousands of hours of meetings and community input.

What bothers me is, they only need signatures from 5,000 of the 163,000 Howard County voters to get this on the ballot and create another year of delay. That’s right – just 3% of our voters can hold up this thing for the other 97%. I have a hard time letting the fringe say “no” for all of us to an estimated $5.7 billion in total economic activity and 29,970 new jobs in Howard County.

So if you’re reading this, and you understand how much of a boon this redevelopment is for Columbia and Howard County, tell your friends and neighbors that there are a few people out there trying to deny us the complete city Columbia was always meant to be. It’s just not right.

-Brian Dunn

Brian grew up in Columbia and currently resides in Kings Contrivance

Step Down Russ

As you’ve probably heard by now, the same people who tried unsuccessfully to derail the process of passing the legislation to redevelop Downtown are trying to take the issue to referendum. This is annoying because the people of Columbia have spent over 5 years to bring this consensus plan forward. That it was passed by a unanimous vote is an indication of the depth of support it has throughout the community.

But what’s even more annoying is that this referendum drive is being lead by Russ Swatek who sits on CA’s Board of Directors. This is a huge conflict of interest, and C20 joins Jud Malone’s call for him to step down immediately. Using your position to further your own agenda is criminal and we won’t stand for it.

This initiative is a huge waste of time and we expect that the outcome of any ballot will produce the same result.

In case you haven’t heard…

Columbia’s back, baby! We’ve been waiting 5 long years, but the plan to redevelop downtown has been unanimously approved by the County Council.

Yesterday, we participated in a press conference hosted by our friends New City Alliance to mark the historic event.

This redevelopment makes Columbia a trend setter for the second time in its young history. I can’t wait to get started! Let the games begin!

NCA Conference Call, Public Testimony Tomorrow

Today is a big day for the redevelopment of downtown Columbia. First, New City Alliance will hold it’s weekly conference call at 11 AM. If you want the straight facts about where we stand with the plan, you should call in to participate. Participants are free to ask questions.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.

Call in to (605) 475-4800
Access Code: 923292#

New City Alliance, the bipartisan political alliance urging the County Council to implement our community’s consensus plan for a new Downtown Columbia, will discuss its progress Tuesday on a conference call. We will discuss amendments to Council Bill 58 and 59 and what we plan to present in testimony.

Then, public testimony will be heard on CB’s 58 & 59 starting at 7:30 at the Board of Education. If you are available and willing to testify, you can sign up here.