With Columbia's 50th birthday less than a year away, it is fitting that the Downtown Columbia Plan for the city's "revitalization" is gaining momentum.
This was evidenced by Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman's submission last week of legislation for affordable housing and financing for public infrastructure to support the implementation of the plan. Mr. Kittleman's proposal will help further the wish of founder James Rouse that Columbia be a "real city."
Much has been accomplished in downtown – the thoughtful metamorphosis of the Rouse Co. headquarters into its new uses as Whole Foods Market and The Haven spa; the opening of The Metropolitan; the current construction of One Merriweather office building and headquarters for MedStar Health; and the long-awaited improvements to Merriweather Post Pavilion – but much more is ahead.
The development underway is intended to produce a Center of Culture and Commerce for Columbia and, indeed, for all of Howard County. Diverse housing options and necessary public infrastructure, such as roadways and structured parking, were anticipated in the Downtown Columbia Plan and are components that should be addressed now.
As a long time Realtor in Howard County, I am especially impressed with the Joint Recommendations on Affordable Housing for Downtown Columbia and grateful for the executive's promulgation of enabling legislation! A sparkling partnership of Howard County government, Howard County Housing Commission, Columbia Downtown Housing Corporation and The Howard Hughes Corp. developed this plan for immediate and long-term affordable housing options, including ownership of mixed income projects by the nonprofit Howard County Housing Commission and providing a funding stream for additional affordable housing.
The joint recommendations represent the best thinking of housing experts and assemble a bank of resources at local, state and federal levels to produce affordable housing that will be available sooner and in greater numbers of homes than simply relying on the Moderate Income Housing Unit program which is dependent upon private development over the course of the entire project. The joint recommendations produce a plan that will work now, and more people will be served.
I understand that county representatives and representatives of The Howard Hughes Corp. will be visiting each of the Columbia village boards and other groups to discuss in greater detail the proposals for both affordable housing and for financing of public infrastructure essential to the comprehensive revitalization underway. Those with an interest in learning more about these critical components of the Downtown Columbia Plan should make an effort to attend.
Linda Odum is a resident of Wilde Lake. She has been a Realtor since 1976.