County panel makes suggestions on downtown Columbia redevelopment

Plans for redeveloping downtown Columbia came before the county's Design Advisory Panel on Wednesday, Nov. 9, and the group made several recommendations, including emphasizing walk-ability.

The first residential and commercial project for redevelopment — next to the Columbia mall — is being spearheaded by Howard Hughes Corp., which plans its first phase to include a maximum of 817 residential units and no more than 76,098 square feet of retail space. The building designs, which have not been done, will determine the actual numbers. More buildings are slated to come in future phases of construction, both in the Warfield neighborhood and throughout the area around the mall, Lake Kittamaqundi and Symphony Woods.

The panel's recommendations only serve to inform the government's future decisions. On Wednesday, the panel's attention went to the design guidelines for the overall project rather than the first phase. Besides walk-ability, the panel suggested paying attention to the transition from Twin Rivers Road, which will be extended into Warfield; and having the signage in Warfield influence what signage in other neighborhoods will look like.

"I think it was all reasonable feedback," Robert Jenkins, Howard Hughes' vice president of engineering, said after the meeting. "We're going to evaluate all their suggestions and accommodate them where we can."

The project is very early in the approval process and still must have future hearings before government boards and committees.

The specific number of buildings to be constructed in the first phase could be three, or it could be more, depending on the designs, Jenkins said.

Documents that Howard Hughes filed with the county government projected one parcel with 14,000 square feet of retail space and 390 residential units on 4.78 acres of land. Another parcel could have 29,680 square feet of retail space and 267 residential units on 2.54 acres. A third parcel could have 32,418 square feet of retail space and 160 residential units on 1.85 acres.

The neighborhood of Warfield is eventually slated to add up to another 1,000 residential units and up to another 283,780 square feet of retail space. In total, downtown Columbia is expected to have a maximum of 5,500 new residential units.

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