Plans to raise Merriweather's roof get a preliminary green light

The developer that owns Merriweather Post Pavilion came one step closer to modernizing the concert venue Wednesday night.

Officials from Howard Hughes are hoping to raise the pavilion's roof so they can accommodate the giant LED screens and backdrops that have become increasingly common in today's big shows. A higher roof, they add, would help improve visibility for concertgoers seated on the sloped lawn.


Renovations are already underway at the pavilion, which is debuting a redesigned west entrance, a new box office, concession stands, merchandise area and restrooms this summer.

But while those changes could be approved by an administrative, or "redline," approval from the county's Department of Planning and Zoning, other improvements can't move forward without a change to the underlying land use plan.


Wednesday, members of Howard County's Design Advisory Panel, a group of appointed citizens who review architectural plans for the county's development projects, voted unanimously to recommend changing Merriweather's zoning guidelines to raise the height limit on the pavilion from 60 feet to 85 feet.

The lowest point of the roof over Merriweather's stage is currently 33 feet, according to Jamie Pett, an architect working on the project. Pett said theatrical consultants have recommended that the roof be raised to about 65 feet high.

Howard Hughes asked Design Advisory Panel members to increase the pavilion's height limit to 85 feet to create a "loose sweater" that would allow for some leeway in the design process.

The developer also asked to change a zoning regulation that requires buildings to be separated by 25 to 40 feet.

"We have a very controlled environment here and we have some back-of-house facilities with just a simple loading dock... we'd love to make that space a little tighter," Pett said.

With the Design Advisory Panel's approval, architects can begin working on more specific site plans, which will have to be approved by the panel as well as the county's Planning Board.