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Howard County set to open new Roger Carter Center

In his seven years as Howard County Executive, Ken Ulman has been a part of many significant projects in the county, including a new development near historic Ellicott City.

Ulman praised the new construction during a tour earlier this week of the Burgess Mill community. When completed, the development off Ellicott Mills Drive will include a mix of affordable housing and market-rate housing, a new Roger Carter Center and 122 more public parking spaces for the downtown area.

"Of all the things I've been involved with as County Executive, this is one of the things I am most proud of," Ulman said of the development. The project takes a giant step toward completion this Saturday, June 15, with the scheduled grand opening of the $15 million community center.

"I remember coming to the community, talking to the residents early in my term and hearing a lot of complaints about the state of the housing. We had to do something with it, and we were able to reinvest in this community and turn it into something we are proud of."

The community concept calls for 378 apartments, a state-of-the-art replacement for the Roger Carter Center with an indoor swimming pool under a retractable roof as well as three parking garages, one of which will be used to support downtown Ellicott City.

The first phase of the residential component of the development, which is not yet complete, calls for 198 residential units, 91 of which are affordable housing. Of the 198 units, 127 have tenants. According to Housing Director Tom Carbo, only 18 of the 198 units remained to be leased as of Monday. The first phase of construction is expected to be completed in October.

"We had many folks say, 'How does mixed income really work? Will folks move into market rate housing next to workforce housing at affordable rates?' This proved that if you do a project at a high quality, you weave in amenities, that it will work." Ulman said during the tour.

The apartments, which include one-, two- and three-bedroom units, offer three different layouts with monthly rents of $1,225 to $2,200 at market rate. Of the 91 affordable housing units, 45 are offered at a 30 percent discount, 40 are at 50 percent and 6 are at 60 percent.

Carbo said all the units are interchangeable, meaning any unit can be leased at either the affordable rate or market rate. There is an underground parking garage for residents.

The second phase, which is expected to start construction later this summer, calls for 75 units to be built on the site of the current Roger Carter Center, and will have 45 affordable units. It is expected to be completed in Spring of 2014.

A 378-space parking garage, which is part of a third phase that will add 105 more apartments, will replace Lot F, located near the intersection of Frederick Road and Ellicott Mills Drive. Residential parking will take up 152 spaces. The garage will add 122 public parking spaces, according to county spokesman David Nitkin.

Nitkin said the third phase, which also includes the renovation of Granite Manor off Fels Lane, is still in the design phase and cost estimates and design plans are not yet available.

The combined cost of the center and the first two phases is $70.3 million, according to Nitkin.

According to Carbo, residents of the previous development, known as Hilltop, were relocated during construction and offered the option of moving into the new development.

Carbo said residents still living in the old buildings will be relocated and offered an opportunity to move into the new development.

"We have a policy of not dislocating residents," he said.

According to Nitkin, the Tiber Hudson residential community adjacent to the new project on Mount Ida Drive will remain.

State-of-the-art amenities

The new 46,000 square-foot Roger Carter Center boasts state-of-the-art amenities, including a 28-foot rock climbing wall, a six-lane 25-meter swimming pool with a retractable roof and sliding glass doors, a gymnasium with six basketball hoops and two volleyball courts, an outdoor basketball court, a walking track, an aerobics room, children's activity rooms, multi-purpose rooms, an outdoor terrace and a fitness room with cardiovascular equipment and strength training equipment.

Annual membership packages for access to the center's gymnasium and walking track start at $25 for residents and $50 for non-residents. The annual "Fit4U" membership package, which offers full access, is $575 for couples (two adults living in the same household), and $300 for individuals. Monthly memberships are $40 for individuals and $75 for couples. There also are three-month and six-month membership options, and discounted rates for adults over age 59.

The Fit4U package also offers access to the Gary J. Arthur Community Center in Glenwood and the North Laurel Community Center.

County Council member from Ellicott City Courtney Watson noted the relevance of the center to the greater Howard County community.

"This community center will serve so many more people than it was able to serve before in its previous location," Watson said. "It's not just the (Burgess Mill) community. It's not just Ellicott City. It's greater Ellicott City and all over the county."

The old Roger Carter center, which Ulman said was "way past its prime," was built in 1953 as Fels Lane Elementary School and was rededicated as a community center in 1976. It is named after the late Roger Carter, the first black member of the Ellicott City Rotary Club, and the owner of the Carter Bus Company, the first black-owned transportation business in Howard County. Carter died in 1982, six years after the original center was opened.

"We either needed to dramatically reinvest in that community center or we needed to build a new one," Ulman said. "I can't wait until Saturday morning when we stand here and welcome residents. I can't wait to see their eyes light up when they see the features in this wonderful community."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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