Howard Co. to buy Columbia Flier building as headquarters for business incubator

Howard County will purchase the iconic Columbia Flier building as a new headquarters for its Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, County Executive Ken Ulman announced Thursday. The county has an agreement to purchase  the building for $2.8 million.

"This is a perfect match," Ulman said in a statement. "MCE and its tenants will benefit from the energy in the heart of Columbia. And one of Columbia's signature buildings will get a new use that honors the innovative spirit of its past."

The contemporary-style Flier building, located on 2.16 acres at 10750 Little Patuxent Parkway and designed as the home for the Columbia Flier newspaper in the mid-1970s by local architect Bob Moon, has been vacant since February 2011 when the Flier and other community newspapers, including The Howard County Times, moved out of the building. The community papers, part of the former Patuxent Publishing Co., are now owned by Baltimore Sun Media Group, which is owned by Tribune Co.

Renee Mutchnik, director of marketing for BSMG, confirmed the sale on Thursday.

The Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, a business incubator initiative of Howard County's Economic Development Authority, is currently housed in the old Bendix building, on Bendix Road in Columbia. The center provides a work space for almost 100 resident and affiliate fledgling businesses, according to the county.

The Bendix space will be used for other government operations after MCE's move, county officials said.

MCE Executive Director Julie Lenzer Kirk said in a statement that the new headquarters will be a "place to collaborate and thrive, and take these businesses - and Columbia itself - to the next level.

"When I first walked inside this building, I knew it was the right place," she said.

Though the building will undergo interior renovations to accommodate MCE, Ulman said the building's exterior architecture — which features an angular roof and large glass and metal panels — will remain.

"Just like with the former Rouse Company headquarters that is becoming a Whole Foods on the lake, Columbia is honoring its past as it moves into the future," Ulman said. "Smart re-use of exceptional properties, along with sustainable new development, will help Downtown Columbia reach its potential."

Funds for the acquisition will be drawn from the county's fiscal year 2014 budget.