It has been more than a decade since a new commercial office building was built in downtown Columbia. But a new project promises to reverse that trend.
"It's starting to become more vibrant, but it was dead. It was dead for 10 years," said David Costello, whose company, Costello Construction, has its offices on the downtown lakefront.
On Tuesday, Costello and business partner Kingdon Gould Jr., a 90-year-old developer and former U.S. ambassador, took a step toward reviving the area by breaking ground on Little Patuxent Square, a nine-story, $75 million mixed-use commercial building to be built on a vacant lot between the lakefront and the Mall in Columbia.
Costello said the project will house 160 condominium units and 160,000 square feet of office and retail space. He said 120,000 square feet have been preleased to a Maryland-based technology company, but did not disclose the name.
The project also will house 740 below-ground parking spaces. It is expected to be complete in July 2016.
A former owner proposed building a 22-story building on the site, but abandoned the plan after encountering financial troubles during the recession. The property sat idle until Costello bought it in 2012 and began working on the project. He said the ground-breaking signifies a new beginning for downtown.
"It means more to me, frankly, as a member of the community than it does as a business person. And I mean that sincerely," Costello said. "I love the fact that it means more people. It means we are bringing people, bringing jobs, bringing commerce. As a guy who sits in a desk 100 yards away, I want to see people."
Gould said he like the idea of developing in Columbia and he thought it was ideal for this kind of project. Gould, who moved to Howard County in 1951, also reflected on watching Columbia develop from farmland into a community of 100,000 residents.
"I think this is the best possible way the area could've developed," he said.
Howard planning board approves North Laurel plans
A patch of woods along Gorman Road in North Laurel is slated to become a new senior community, and it has a name that evokes nothing less than Henry David Thoreau's famous treatise on living in harmony with nature.
The Howard County Planning Board voted July 17 to approve plans for Walden Woods, a 97-home, age-restricted development near Gorman Road's intersection with Skylark Boulevard.
Elm Street Development plans to build 87 townhouses, 10 detached units and a community center on the 18.6-acre plot of land, according to a staff report by the county's Department of Planning and Zoning. The planned senior community will be located just south of Wincopia Farms, a 220-home development also off of Gorman Road that is under construction.
Plans for Walden Woods call for 11.2 acres of open space, although 14.8 acres will be disrupted during the construction process to install underground utility lines, according to the staff report. The community plans also show 430 parking spaces, more than the 274 spots required.
Planning Board member Bill Santos said he thought the parking accommodations were excessive, which is why he voted against the project.
With a carriage-style two-car garage for each town home, "more than 70 percent of the face of the building is dedicated to cars," Santos said. "I felt [the project] really wasn't in keeping with trying to balance different modes of transportation."
Three other Planning Board members voted to approve the project. Board member Phil Engelke was not present for the July 17 meeting.
—Amanda Yeager, Baltimore Sun Media Group
Shaker Drive project set to begin this week
County officials say a developer's project to install public water and sewer mains in the vicinity of the Allview community in Columbia is scheduled to begin on or about Tuesday. The new mains will provide service to new homes for the Stella Glen development. Weather permitting, the project is expected to be completed by mid- to late-August.
As part of the project, Shaker Drive from the Route 29 northbound entrance ramp to Allview Drive will be closed to through traffic beginning Tuesday and continuing through Aug. 19. Traffic will be detoured using Seneca Drive to Beechwood Drive to Allview Drive back to Shaker Drive. Emergency vehicles will have access at all times. In addition, lane shifts are expected during the project. A recorded message at 410-313-3638 will include details and updates.
Howard County Times: Top stories
Questions may be directed to Lisa Brightwell at 410-313-3440, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
—The Baltimore Sun
Police set plans for National Night Out
Howard County police will be at the Harper's Choice Village Center on Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. as part of the county's National Night Out celebration.
The evening is designed to heighten awareness of crime and drug prevention, generate support for anti-crime programs and strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships. Residents are invited to attend.
Harper's Choice Village Center is at 5485 Harper's Farm Road, Columbia. Police personnel will also be visiting other National Night Out sites around the county.
—The Baltimore Sun