Columbia Association could begin saving for new headquarters

After years of talking about finding another location for its headquarters, the Columbia Association could finally be putting money aside for its new home.

The CA board's planning and strategy committee voted 3-0 on Monday, Feb. 6 to recommend adding $1.9 million to its conditional 2014 fiscal year budget, money that could go toward the cost of a new headquarters. The board is scheduled to vote on the budget later this month.

"We've in essence stated a commitment to making this happen," said board chairman Michael Cornell.

CA has hired a real estate broker to help find its next headquarters, which could be a new or existing building.

"The intention is to own," said Susan Krabbe, the association's chief financial officer. But, she added, "We're going to evaluate all options."

CA has been at 10221 Wincopin Circle overlooking Lake Kittamaqundi in downtown Columbia since 1992. It leases about 21,000 square feet on the first and second floors of what was originally known as The Teacher's Building, named for its original owner, the Teacher's Insurance Annuity Association.

Rent for the office space runs about $520,000 a year, according to Krabbe.

Cornell, who represents River Hill, said he feels it would be better for CA to own its new headquarters.

"For the amount of money that we're paying to lease, we could build equity in an asset," he said. "That assumes that real estate values aren't going to drop."

One reason CA is looking for a new headquarters is that the building on Wincopin Circle may one day not exist.

"The long range plans for the redevelopment of Town Center don't include this building after a certain point, a point that we don't know right now," said Phil Nelson, the association's president.

The building is owned by the Howard Hughes Corp and is amid one of several sections of downtown Columbia slated for redevelopment.

Whether the building will remain has not been decided, as the planning for that area is still in its early stages, according to Bob Jenkins, vice president and director of engineering and construction for Howard Hughes.

CA's lease expires at the end of August 2015, with an option to renew for another five years.

"The preference would be to stop leasing and get into something sooner rather than later," Cornell said. "But if waiting allows us to make a better move, a better decision and get a better facility, I'd be willing to wait.

"We're not in panic mode," he said. "We don't have to be out by the end of the month."

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