Autonomous Vehicle Technology coming to Merriweather District

Some famous person once said, the future will be here before we know it.  Well, the development of Merriweather District presages a bright future for Columbia. Rouse’s Columbia was always at the cutting edge of community development. The introduction of autonomous parking, with GREEN building design, and recovery of the surrounding ecosystem as we finish Rouse’s city, makes us a leader once again. 

“Our partnership with Howard Hughes Corporation will transform Merriweather District into the first city in the country to be built for, and operate, fully-autonomous parking technology,” said Anuja Sonalker, Founder and CEO of STEER. “The benefits are infinite.”

Merriweather District Groundbreaking includes announcement of autonomous parking amenity for Downtown Columbia neighborhood [Excerpts]

by Jean Moon (Columbia Patch), April 30, 2018

The Howard Hughes Corporation and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan broke ground today on the first urban, walkable neighborhood to be created within the Merriweather District, celebrating The Howard Hughes Corporation’s continued transformation of the district and the revitalization of Downtown Columbia.

Planned development of Area 3, Merriweather District (image by Howard Hughes Corporation)

The development of a new office building to be anchored by Tenable Inc., one of the largest and fastest-growing cybersecurity companies in the country, marks the latest milestone in Downtown Columbia’s emergence as a vibrant commercial hub for technology and innovation.

In addition, plans were announced for a neighborhood amenity to harness the emerging technology of autonomous parking. The Merriweather District buildings will be powered by STEER technology, the first fully-autonomous parking solution transforming everyday cars into driverless vehicles that self-park. This integration will transform the Merriweather District into the first city in the country to be built for automated self-parking cars.

Aerial view of planned development of Area 3, Merriweather District (image from Downtown Columbia, DTC Partnership)

“The Merriweather District is designed to be a dynamic live-work-play destination with access to unique offerings, great restaurants and an iconic entertainment venue within a beautiful, walkable environment” [said John DeWolf, President, Columbia, The Howard Hughes Corporation.]

https://patch.com/maryland/columbia/merriweather-district-features-cybersecurity-giant

STEER Autonomous Parking Video (click to play)

Level 4 Autonomous Parking Coming to Merriweather District in Columbia MD [Excerpts]

by Bryan Jonston (Auto Connected Car News), May 1, 2018

Click on logo for company website

STEER built the first fully-autonomous parking technology to transform everyday cars into driverless vehicles. The first application of STEER’s technology is a Level 4, highly autonomous and cybersecure parking solution – drivers simply exit the car at a destination, and the car parks itself in a designated parking lot. When consumers are ready to go, just summon the car via a mobile app.

The Merriweather District, a Howard Hughes Corporation project, will be the first high-density, mixed-use neighborhood to adopt STEER and power a truly tech-forward experience for residents, businesses and consumers.

“Our partnership with Howard Hughes Corporation will transform Merriweather District into the first city in the country to be built for, and operate, fully-autonomous parking technology,” said Anuja Sonalker, Founder and CEO of STEER. “The benefits are infinite; Merriweather residents can save time and gas getting to and from their cars; reduce stress and frustration hauling bags of groceries in inclement weather; and corporate partners will benefit from increased employee productivity by saving time and frustration looking for and walking from the parking lot to work.”

http://www.autoconnectedcar.com/2018/05/level-4-autonomous-parking-coming-to-merriweather-district-in-columbia-md/

How Autonomous Vehicles Will Shape Cities

By Brooks Rainwater (National League of Cities), June 1, 2018

Today in America, autonomous vehicles (AVs) are already on our streets, with pilots taking place in cities nationwide. Technology like this can be utilized to make all of our lives better — but even if our hands are off the wheel, we must drive this future together.

Mobility: Tap taxis to tackle isolation

While most automakers don’t plan on selling AVs to the public before 2020, Lyft, Uber and Nutonomy have all started piloting driverless technology in select cities across the country. If you live in a city, your first ride in an autonomous vehicle will very likely be in a self-driving taxi. These taxis have the potential to provide a cheap and inclusive way for people who are isolated—such as the elderly and disabled—to get around.

Prototype Uber driverless taxi (click on image for Uber website)

Sustainability: Weaving a microtransit mesh

If your first experience riding an AV isn’t in a taxi, then it’ll be in a driverless minibus. Unlike the taxis, minibuses have pre-programmed routes and can carry multiple people at once. They will be an economical part of our autonomous future.

A driverless shuttle began operating this fall at the University of Michigan’s Mcity test facility in Ann Arbor (click on image for Mcity website)

Jobs & the Economy: A human touch on robot delivery

You may have expected that a drone would be delivering your takeout burritos, but it turns out robots on sidewalks will probably be doing it first. Autonomous robots will likely be a boon to local restaurants and shops, allowing them to more easily compete with megaliths like Amazon and provide customers with almost instant deliveries.

Autonomous robot (from CitiesSpeak, National League for Cities)

Urban Transformation: Rethinking buses, bikes, and barriers

Just as robots will likely be embraced by local businesses, robots will also likely serve a municipal role. Autonomous street patrol officers and ushers will become a go-between for residents and their built environments, and city infrastructure will become a flexible fabric with which residents can communicate.

Before long, we can expect to see thousands of autonomous vehicles on roadways, autonomous buses and transit vehicles providing rides, and autonomous conveyors shuttling back and forth on sidewalks making deliveries.

https://citiesspeak.org/2018/06/01/how-autonomous-vehicles-will-shape-cities/ 

Volvo pioneers self-driving garbage truck (click to play video)

Featured image at top of post

from the Volkswagen Group, currently testing autonomous parking at Hamburg Airport.

https://www.volkswagenag.com/en/news/2018/04/autonomous_parking_ready_for_series_vehicles_soon.html

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The future of the Columbia Flier Building is uncertain

The Columbia Flier Building is iconic in Columbia, for its unique design by architect Bob Moon, and as the home of the Columbia Flier and Howard County Times for 33 years. Located on Little Patuxent Parkway just down from Howard Community College, the building went on sale in 2012.

With its open floor plans and zoned work areas, some considered it a perfect site for the Howard County Nonprofit Center being planned at the time. Instead, Howard County purchased the building in 2014 during the Ulman administration for the future home of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, an initiative of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

County Executive Kittleman nixed the plan shortly after he was elected in 2015, finding that renovations would cost approximately $7.2 million, almost three times the purchase price. The property has now been identified as a potential site for construction of affordable housing.

Here’s a close-up look at the building, and a glimpse at its history.

Former Columbia Flier Building for Sale [Excerpt]

by Sara Toth (Columbia Flier), July 13, 2012

Main Entrance, Columbia Flier Building (Cushman & Wakefield)

The building, which housed the Columbia Flier and its parent company, Patuxent Publishing, until 2011, opened in 1978 after two years of planning and construction. The Baltimore Sun Co. which is now owned by Tribune Co., purchased Patuxent and the Flier building in 1997. The building has been vacant since February 2011, when the Columbia Flier and its sister publication, the Howard County Times, moved to a suite of offices on Sterrett Place, in Columbia.

Earlier this week, Columbia architect Bob Moon, husband of the newspaper’s then-managing editor Jean Moon, said he designed the iconic building with a vision of youth. Continue reading The future of the Columbia Flier Building is uncertain

The Toby and Hal Orenstein Cultural Arts Center, coming soon to downtown Columbia, MD

On March 1st, 2018 the Howard County Planning Board unanimously approved the site development plan for construction of a New Cultural Center in Downtown Columbia. I’m jumping ahead a bit to be naming it after Toby and Hal Orenstein. She, of course, is the founder of Toby’s Dinner Theatre, the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts (CCTA), and has been a seminal figure in the Columbia arts scene for 45 years. What other name could we possibly give this center that will be the new home for Toby’s and CCTA, other performance spaces, and has been a dream of Toby and Hal’s for decades?

Meet Toby

Since 1979 Toby Orenstein has been the Artistic Director and owner of Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia, MD.

Toby is also the Founder and Director of the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts, Inc. (CCTA). In 1972, at the invitation of visionary developer James Rouse, she created a school for young people who possessed an interest in the performing arts. A special group of those students, The Young Columbians, were invited to the White House and performed a musical tribute to America during the Bicentennial Year (1976). The Young Columbians still perform today at special programs all over Maryland. Continue reading The Toby and Hal Orenstein Cultural Arts Center, coming soon to downtown Columbia, MD

Development proposed for Columbia Lakefront advances the Downtown Plan

The second hearing on the Howard Hughes Corporation proposal for Phase 1 of development of the Lakefront Core Neighborhood, is before the Howard County Planning Board on Thursday March 15. Here’s a collection of images and diagrams that illustrate what Hughes is proposing, along with Columbia Association’s preliminary thinking about how the existing Lakefront Plaza might be enhanced. And an analysis of what the development could mean for Columbia.

The Vision for Lakefront Core

As stated in the Downtown-wide Design Guidelines, the vision for the Lakefront Core Neighborhood is to bring community life and activity back to the water’s edge. Lakefront Core should be a lively, walkable neighborhood connected and oriented to Lake Kittamaqundi. New development should be designed to incorporate outdoor corridors to enhance visibility and access to existing amenity spaces.

The Lakefront Core should be revitalized with new development that may include cultural, retail, restaurant, office, residential, and hospitality uses. The Lakefront Core and the surrounding Lakefront Neighborhood are envisioned to be the potential location for new signature building(s), in addition to the existing former Rouse Company Headquarters’ signature building.

Continue reading Development proposed for Columbia Lakefront advances the Downtown Plan

We need to revitalize the Hickory Ridge Village Center, now

Kimco presented their plans for the revitalization of the Hickory Ridge Village Center to the Howard County Planning Board on January 4, 2018.  Many Hickory Ridge residents, including long-time denizens, support Kimco’s proposal.  The Village Board and most citizens that testified at the hearing oppose it. But the issues raised by the proponents are central to the future of Hickory Ridge, Columbia, and Howard County. To further the conversation, following are excerpts from the testimony of  several supporters who testified at Thursday’s hearing.

Eric Stein, Hickory Ridge

Owner, Decanter Fine Wines, Hickory Ridge Village Center

I am in favor of the plan, because I believe the Hickory Ridge Village Center is failing.  When the Giant opened in 1992, it was advertised as a gourmet Giant. It isn’t. Not today, and hasn’t been for many years.  Today, we have 4 empty bays in the center representing 65% of 1 building, and likely more to come.  Contrary to belief, Kimco, the landlord, hasn’t forced these businesses to leave.  They have left for many reasons, but they will not be replaced until a decision is made on our future, and we’re suffering. Once this plan is approved, we will still have several years of an under-performing center.

Do we remain an outdated design where the merchants face inward and can’t be seen, or do we accept one that gives us a chance to compete with contemporary concepts.  The apartments are not an option, but a necessity.  You can’t do anything without people, and those that have left the center aren’t coming back.  At least not until we offer them an array of businesses that appeal to a newer audience as Columbia’s growth continues. Continue reading We need to revitalize the Hickory Ridge Village Center, now

Latest plans for development of Merriweather District

The Howard Hughes Corporation shared additional renderings of the proposed development of Merriweather District (the Crescent) in downtown Columbia to the Howard County Planning Board on November 17, 2017. Simultaneously, they announced that the headquarters of the international cybersecurity company Tenable would be relocating there.

A look at these images and stories gives us a glimpse of what the Merriweather District is becoming.

View of Merriweather District full build-out looking East West: The three new buildings in Area 1, including the MedStar Building, is near the upper right. The Hickory Ridge Road entrance off of Broken Land Parkway is at the “Area 3” label of the yellow box. The Chrysalis is in the foreground.

Continue reading Latest plans for development of Merriweather District

The future of transportation is “Complete Streets”

Transportation has been in the news a lot lately. Governor Hogan announced his intention to spend $9 billion on a massive highway project. Howard County is holding public hearings on how to upgrade our public transit system. Columbia Association just held its annual BikeAbout. And Horizon Foundation is holding its Open Streets event Sunday October 1st.

We need to think of these aspects of transportation as an integrated whole or else we’ll waste a lot of money without fully supporting our community needs. Contrary to Governor Hogan’s approach, Howard County has committed to a “Complete Streets” policy, and the Open Streets event will demonstrate what that is.  Here I attempt to make sense of it all. Continue reading The future of transportation is “Complete Streets”