After 25 years of maintaining and improving Columbia, the Columbia Association's headquarters will finally be at the center of things.
Tomorrow, offices of the association will begin moving from Owen Brown village to a new home in Town Center.
"It's something that I think a great number of citizens have been asking for for a long time -- a true focus for the community," said Columbia Council Chairman John Hansen.
The former Teacher's Building on Wincopin Circle was vacated by the Ryland Group, which moved into a new Ryland headquarters at Broken Land and Little Patuxent parkways.
The building will be more than just the new home of the association and its tenant groups, the Columbia Forum, Columbia Foundation, Columbia Festival of the Arts, Columbia Birthday and Columbia Volunteer Corps.
It will also serve as a place to greet new arrivals to Columbia, just as the Rouse Co.'s Welcome Center in the next building did before it was closed in December 1989.
For those not satisfied by the welcoming slide show the association has prepared, the Columbia Archives will be housed in a nearby office with additional information on the city.
The new offices will have a small room for Columbia Council meetings in its public access area, as well as a support center where other city non-profit groups will have the use of a photocopier and computer.
And unlike the current offices on the third floor of the Lakeview building on Broken Land Parkway, all the association's affiliated non-profit groups will be on the ground floor.
The building is being renamed the Columbia Association Building, said Pam Mack, association vice president for community relations. The building is familiar to Columbia residents by its old name, the Teacher's Building, after its owner, the Teacher's Insurance Annuity Association.
The new first- and second-floor offices will total 18,300 square feet, which is about 4,000 more than the association rents in Owen Brown.
The Rouse Co. is renting the space to the association at $18.25 a square foot for the first five years, $23.25 for the next five years and for $25.75 during the last five years of the lease. In addition, the association will have an opportunity to buy into the Rouse Co.'s long-term lease of the building from Teacher's.
Creation of a "town hall" in Columbia's downtown was cited as the main reason for the move when it was approved by the council in April 1991, but the move is "a long way from doing that," said David Tucker, who was co-chairman of the Columbia Forum's Downtown Work Group and now directs the Columbia Forum.
"As an interim step toward some kind of Columbia-wide facility, I think this is a good one," he said. "Is it a place where you have town meetings? No. Is it a community center? No."
The new building will be the association's sixth home. Its first two locations were "The Bungalow" in Wilde Lake and Century Plaza at Governor Warfield and Little Patuxent parkways. In 1975 a financial crisis forced the association into the public works garage on Banneker Road. Its most recent two homes were in the Columbia Medical Plan headquarters, and Lakeview, where it has been since 1988.