Tag Archive | The Redevelopment of Columbia Town Center

I Support CA’s Inner Arbor Plan. Do you?

If so, please sign this petition. The goal was to get at least 300 signatures by this Thursday, when the CA Board is scheduled to discuss and vote on the plan. I think there’s something like 226 right now. Please click the link, sign the petition and encourage your friends to do the same. This is too important to our future to delay.


p.s. Here’s what we can continue to expect of Symphony Woods if we don’t act:


Oh Yeah!


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!


Downtown Drama

Last night, I attended the pre-submission community meeting for GGP’s proposed new development at the mall. I’ll let you read about the drama that ensued here.

One of the things that kept coming up during the question and answer portion of the evening was the fact that the documents and renderings displayed around the room were hard to understand.


Let me get this straight. You’re not an architect, planner or engineer, but you expect have a good understanding what’s going on in complicated site drawings? Really?

I heard a lot of negative comments, but one in particular really made me angry.  A woman named Ursula Kondo, who I remember from her LTE’s opposing the beautiful new Walgreens at the corner of 175 and Thunder Hill Rd said, “This is a waste of time.”


Let me get this straight. You’re seeing these documents before they are submitted to the county, yet you think this is a waste of time?  Really? Isn’t MORE community involvement one of your mantras?

Look, it is clear to me that the same tired old voices are trying to remain relevant and will stop at nothing to derail or delay the progress we need downtown. If we thought the opponents of change that tried so desperately to stop the plan before would magically disappear, last night’s drama at HCC is proof that they were just laying low for a while.

Those of us who fought so hard to get the plan passed cannot just sit by and let these people dictate the terms of this process. Stay tuned….


Bigotry Trumps Civility

Last Thursday night, I attended the Zoning Pre-Submission Hearing conducted by the Howard Hughes Corporation. After their presentation, they opened the floor to questions and comments. At one point, Joel Broida, one of the more vocal opponents of the redevelopment grabbed the mic and made a comment that literally left my mouth open wide.

Here’s his quote from The Columbia Patch article: “Renters don’t have pride in the community,” he said. “They aren’t the ones to pick up that piece of paper someone dropped.”

Instead of commenting on just how wrong I believe his statement to be, I will instead ask you to read this post by Bill Santos over at Columbia Compass. He sums it up more succinctly that I could ever hope to.

However, I would like to add one thing. It is obvious that Mr. Broida is so against change that he would violate core values of inclusion and diversity we hold dear here in Columbia, just for the sake of complaining. And that’s just sad.



Getting Closer to Shovels in the Ground

We fought long and hard for the changes that will be coming to Downtown, and now we’ll finally get to see the plans for the first project! Tonight at 6:30, Howard Hughes Corp. will present its plans for 817 residential units and more than 76,000 square feet of retail space. The meeting will be held in room 400 of The Rouse Co. Foundation Student Services Hall at Howard Community College. Hope to see you there!


Columbia 4.0?

We started Columbia 2.0 in 2008 as an outlet for a younger generation of Howard County residents to engage in the debate over the future of downtown Columbia. We were among the first to embrace new media and social networking to reach our audience. We started this blog, as well as a facebook page and twitter account.

We taught ourselves video production, and we rallied supporters to testify in favor of the legislation that was eventually passed. Looking back, we did some great things, but admittedly, there were some things we could have done differently. That’s what happens when you take risks and learn on the fly.

So now that we’re 3 years in, it’s time to take a step back and try to imagine where the next wave will take us. To find out, I recently spoke with social media expert and current member of Howard County’s Leadership Program, Nichole Kelly.

As one of the country’s preeminent Social Media Consultants, she preaches the importance of measuring social media in a meaningful way. Kelly feels the upcoming downtown redevelopment is a perfect example of how key stakeholders can maximize their intended results.

I asked Nichole what recommendations she would have for Columbia 2.0 to not only get to the next level, but to stay ahead of the game:

“Now that you have successfully engaged a younger audience on the future of downtown Columbia, the big question is whether or not you can mobilize them to help downtown Columbia become their local hotspot. The reality is that many young people still make the trek to downtown Baltimore to hang out with friends rather than staying here in Columbia. I would recommend building a social media strategy around showing your audience why it’s cool to stay in Columbia and hang out locally.

As construction begins, you can work to change the perception of downtown Columbia in the mind of the county’s young adults and you can do this in a way that you can actually measure whether or not it works. The beauty of social media tools is that you can create campaigns that encourage users to tell you where they are. A popular tool many young adults used is called Foursquare (link). You can put together local events in area bars and restaurants and tell people to use this application to ‘check-in’ if they attend. Done well…you can actually show the rise in restaurant revenues from your target market over time and once the construction is complete you will have a loyal audience to support our local businesses. That’s a win for the future of downtown Columbia and a win for our local residents.”

Now here’s a woman that gets it! It’s no surprise she is nationally recognized for creating social media strategies that deliver results. Recently she teamed up with Hootsuite for a whitepaper series that talks about how to measure social media to core results. The next whitepaper will be available for download on Wednesday followed by a webinar on Thursday. I know I will be tuning in, and if you’re interested in how social media can help you, your business or organization, I suggest you do the same!

-Brian Dunn

Getting it Done for All of Us

We sat down with the Columbia Association‘s Jane Dembner the other day to talk redevelopment, village center master plans and how CA is building relationships for the good of its stakeholders.  It is truly exciting to see everyone coming together on our community’s plan!  Thanks, Jane, for all your hard work and your vision.

Tomorrow’s Downtown

Phil Engelke is a local architect and urban planner who has worked on projects all over the globe. Last week he was kind enough to walk around Columbia’s underutilized downtown with us to talk about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as we begin our redevelopment.  Thanks, Phil!

Back in March of last year, on a much nicer day, my sister and I went to the lakefront in hopes of interviewing people there about what they wanted to see Downtown.  The only problem was, there was no one to interview…

Shifting Into High Gear

It looks like the new execs at the Howard Hughes Corporation have made some big changes here in Columbia.  We don’t know what to make of them yet.  All we know is that this project needs to keep moving forward.

From the comments in the Sun article, it looks like both our elected officials and the new Howard Hughes leadership understand that the momentum of the community’s plan is intensifying.

The new CEO of the corporation, David Weinreb, said, “We’re shifting into high gear now. This is the time to be making bold moves.”

County Executive Ken Ulman and members of the county council stressed the enforceability of the plan, regardless of land ownership.

“This points out exactly what we’ve been saying for the last three years,” Ulman said. “The plan is the plan. It does not depend on ownership. They can embrace the plan and build the downtown … or not. On the one hand, it feels like we’re starting over with new people, but we’ve got a plan to protect the interests of Columbia and county residents.”

County Councilwoman Courtney Watson was more blunt. “We don’t have to approve the rest of the process unless the company performs. I think we’re in the catbird’s seat,” she said.

Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty can take much credit for insisting that the legislation be written for any developer of downtown, not just General Growth Properties, who happened to be the developer at the time.  We should thank her for her foresight.

As David Weinreb said, it’s time to “shift into high gear.”  For over five years now, we’ve been engaged in a comprehensive planning and creative process.  Now, we’re looking forward to the process of building the vibrant, connected, and walkable downtown we’ve envisioned.

Cultural Diversity in Columbia: It’s A Good Thing!

Next up on the agenda for the Downtown Plan?  The drafting of a Cultural Master Plan for Downtown, as required in the legislation.  Hired for this purpose at the developer’s expense is Lord Cultural Resources, the largest cultural planning firm in the world, with an impressive resume that includes The World Trade Center Memorial Museum in New York, the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

As part of the process, a Cultural Advisory Committee has been meeting extensively with the community to get their ideas on what that plan should look like.  Since September, there have been two large community-wide public meetings and four focus groups (one each for teens, young professionals, parents of young children, and older adults).  Following that, a survey went out via e-mail so that anyone who is interested can participate.

The survey is here, and the message that went out with it reads:

It is important that your voice be included to ensure that a wide range of ideas and perspectives are shared with the Advisory Committee.  Please share this link with your organization’s database as well as family, friends and others who might be interested in providing their input.

For me and Columbia 2.0, it is truly exciting to see the nuts and bolts of the plan coming together.  But, it seems not everybody views this as an opportunity for inclusion.

Recently, I witnessed an individual from the Columbia Association camp dismiss the Cultural Advisory Committee’s efforts to reach out to the community as disingenuous, after a community member had expressed excitement about receiving the survey to participate.

This attitude is really disheartening.  We should be encouraging community participation, not repressing it. Can’t we expect someone associated with CA to promote involvement and diversity in a public plan?

There’s something very wrong when the people who represent our community question the value of participating in it.

– Brian Dunn

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.

Talking Culture

Last night I attended a focus group at Union Jack’s with other young professionals about the role culture will play as downtown is redeveloped. It was a loose, laid back, candid conversation about where we are and where we want to be. There were lots of great ideas floated, and it is good to know that such an emphasis will be placed on this as things heat up. Here are some highlights of the evening, featuring Dave Bittner, Trevor Greene and Tim Singleton:

– Brian Dunn