As downtown Columbia undergoes a major overhaul, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced a broad vision Tuesday to redevelop a 920-acre corporate park in Columbia into a major "economic driver" for the county and the state.
Kittleman said untapped potential in the corporate park is one of his top economic development priorities as the Republican leader enters his third year as county executive.
The vision, which will be crafted with input from property and business owners and in partnership with the Howard County Economic Development Authority, the county's business incubator and economic development agency, aims to transform Gateway into the top business center in Maryland, Kittleman said.
Gateway sits at the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 175 and is home to more than 400 businesses, including cyber security firms like Tenable Network Security and Oracle, a multinational computer technology corporation based in California. The park employees around 26,000 people.
This fall, a curious figure appeared on Twitter, purporting to stake a claim to one of Columbia's largest office parks. His biography, as necessitated by the social media platform, was short but bold, proclaiming him to be "the patron saint of Columbia Gateway Drive." An additional line offered a few more nuggets: "I'm a gentleman, a scholar and I've been known to ride a horse."
The county will work with the HCEDA to create an "innovation district" where small and big businesses can collaborate to create a "vibrant and dynamic" working environment and a community destination with outdoor concerts, food truck rallies and training sessions for the commercial sector.
Kittleman said he is directing the county's Department of Planning and Zoning and the HCEDA to lay out plans for future development.
About 80 acres of land is available for development. The surface parking that covers almost 20 percent of the park could be redeveloped, Kittleman said.
Gateway was born out of a General Electric manufacturing plant that Columbia's chief architect and founder, James Rouse, hoped would bring jobs for Columbia residents.
But the plant failed despite the construction of large industrial buildings in the 1970s. Rouse bought the land for redevelopment and launched Gateway in the late 1980s.
Kittleman said it was not too early to begin planning for a reimagined Gateway. Discussions to create the master plan for downtown Columbia began nearly a decade ago. Seven years after the passage of that plan, about 10 percent of downtown Columbia has been developed.
The county executive announced his vision to businesses leaders, business owners and property owners Tuesday in a parking lot in front of the Universities Space Resource Association, a nonprofit research organization.