The Columbia Association broke ground Wednesday morning on a $4 million lakefront wellness retreat to be built on the ground floor of the Rouse Co. building in downtown Columbia.
The outdoor ceremony was attended by approximately 100 people and held on the building's east side overlooking Lake Kittamaqundi. It signaled an official beginning for the 27,000-square-foot facility that the Columbia Association has touted as a "one-of-a-kind" regional destination with a distinct focus on mind-body wellness.
"Nobody in the country is doing as many mind-body activities as we will be doing right here," said Rob Goldman, vice president and chief operating officer of the Columbia Association. "It's possible because of the great combination of a wellness-oriented community, an incredible location, an iconic building and a partner known for their wellness orientation as well."
Goldman said the retreat will feature three major components: three mind-body movement studios, each with different environmental conditions and features, that will house a variety of classes, like Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Kung, Barre; a wet-wellness area, which will have a steam room, salt-therapy room, cold plunge, tropical shower, pool and large hot tub, and a wellness spa, which will be operated by the local spa the Still Point.
The facility is expected to open at the end of this year. The building, which is owned by the Howard Hughes Corp. and recently underwent a $25 million renovation, will house a 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market on the main floors.
Andy Stack, chair of the CA Board of Directors, which approved the project, said the idea to create an innovative fitness option meshes well with the mission and values of the association.
"It is really fitting that CA is building this new wellness center," Stack said. "I doubt if there is anything else like it around, and I can certainly say there is no other wellness center that has the great location, here on the lake, good neighbors and good partners."
Milton Matthews, newly hired president of CA, echoed Goldman and Stack's sentiments, and he added that he hopes the facility will draw residents from other parts of the county and beyond to the area.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman talked about how the project fits within the greater scope of the redevelopment of downtown: a process which the county began planning nearly a decade ago and is beginning to come to fruition.
"I was thinking as I was sitting there of all the positive things happening in Town Center, and I was realizing that its a bit of a challenge for me to remember them all, which is a great, great challenge to have," Ulman said.
Ulman named most of the projects planned or under construction downtown, most of which are being done Howard Hughes. Their projects include the construction of a 380-unit mixed-use apartment complex called Metropolitan Downtown Columbia, the construction of a multi-use pathway connecting east and west Columbia, proposed renovations to Merriweather Post Pavilion, the addition and renovation of lakefront restaurants Petit Louis Bistro and Clyde's of Columbia, respectively, and Haven's future neighbor, Whole Foods.
Other non-Howard Hughes projects include a nine-story office, residential and retail project called Little Patuxent Square, the renovation and expansion of the Mall in Columbia and the Inner Arbor Plan, which will build in arts park and district on 36-acres of CA-owned property called Symphony Woods.
Ulman said this project is important to extending the vitality of the lakefront area.
"This is particularly important. For those of us who know downtown as well as we do, activating the lake, making sure it is active, making sure it is vibrant. ... is really, really exciting," he said.
Mary Kay Sigaty, the Howard County Councilwoman representing downtown Columbia, said the project embodies the mission behind the revitalization plans.
"We didn't want we already had, we wanted to make new opportunity," she said. "Haven on the Lake is giving us a new opportunity to see ourselves in the whole picture of wellness."