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Reconstruction of Columbia Flier building into entrepreneurship center begins

Howard County officials smashed through the walls at the old Columbia Flier building Wednesday, to symbolically prepare it for redevelopment as a business incubator. (Luke Lavoie & Jon Sham/Baltimore Sun Media Group video)

The multi-year redevelopment of the iconic Columbia Flier building into the headquarters for the Howard County-based Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship began this week with a ceremonial wall-breaking led by officials from county government and economic development authority.

The approximately 30,000 square-foot building was acquired by the county government for $2.8 million in May with the intention of converting into a home for the MCE, an extension of the county's Economic Development Authority that connects entrepreneurs to ideas, financing and other resources.

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The building is expected to open in the fall of 2016, with design occurring through the summer and construction beginning next fall.

"This building is all about innovation, excitement and energy. It has terrific open spaces for collaboration," said County Executive Ken Ulman. "I can imagine years in the future when young entrepreneurs will be working together in this space, building the businesses of tomorrow. I think we can all agree this will be a very fitting home for the jobs being created for the 21st century."

The building, constructed by local architect Bob Moon in the mid-1970's, previously housed the Columbia Flier newspaper and eventually other community newspapers operated by Patuxent Publishing Co. -- which was eventually purchased by the Baltimore Sun Media Group, now a subsidiary of Tribune Publishing Co.

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The building, located at 10750 Little Patuxent Parkway, has sat vacant since February 2011.

At the ceremony held inside the building Wednesday, officials took turns taking a sledge hammer to one of the building's interior walls. Prior to demolition, officials noted how the reuse of the space is in keeping with the building's roots.

"This building was constructed during the growth phase of the Columbia Flier. It embodies the entrepreneurial spirit," said Howard County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, whose husband worked at the Flier.

She added: "It's so exciting to see it being transformed into something that is new, innovative and the best. In its day, the Columbia Flier was the best in community journalism. With that history, with that spirit, with the vibes of this building, it promises for all who pass through it that they will have the opportunity to be the best."

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Larry Twele, CEO of the EDA, said the building's unique, open floor plan and angular glass exterior give the MCE "a cool space to attract talent, drive innovation and collaboration and better serve our clients."

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