Does Columbia still believe in Affordable Housing?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development states that housing is affordable if it costs no more than 30% of family income. Affordable housing for all economic groups is a bedrock principal in Columbia. Nonetheless, the three newest apartments in Columbia – – Alta Wilde Lake, The Metropolitan, and Lakehouse (Little Patuxent Square) — are all Class A or “luxury” apartments. This is evident by the ways the apartments describe themselves, and it’s easy to see by their starting rents that they are unaffordable to the secretaries, sales associates, builders, maintenance workers, cooks and waiters that make it all happen. 

The Downtown Columbia Plan anticipates construction of 6,250 residential units that will be priced however the market will bear. The February agreement by the County and Howard Hughes Corporation requires there be 900 affordable apartments built downtown, but advocates say only about 500 units will create new family opportunities; 400 units duplicate what is already available in other Columbia Villages. And we’re further increasing the stock of high-rent apartments with Kimco’s proposal of “luxury” apartments at Hickory Ridge Village Center. Continue reading Does Columbia still believe in Affordable Housing?

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Columbia Lakefront Design Guidelines being considered by Design Advisory Panel

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. The existing Lakefront Plaza amenity space shall retain its identity as an important historic and symbolic gathering place in Columbia. Iconic sculptures such as the People Tree and The Hug are landmarks in the community and should be retained within the Lakefront area.

One of the objectives for the development of Downtown Columbia is to create a vibrant, walkable, and economically sustainable community in which to live, work, and play, by creating dense and compact mixed-use neighborhoods. A
sustainable neighborhood should create an urban ecology through an integrated green infrastructure network that includes trees, vegetation, and amenity spaces.

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=hLLFe9LkP84%3d&portalid=0&timestamp=1496683188759

Design Advisory Panel

by Russ Swatek, Howard County Citizens Association

The Design Advisory Panel (DAP) is meeting in the Ellicott Room on Wednesday June 14, 2017 7pm at the County offices to address the Howard Hughes Corp (HHC) newly proposed Columbia Lakefront Core Neighborhood Design Guidelines.

Passing these proposed Guidelines past the DAP is just the first part of their journey to the Planning Board and on up the chain to eventual approval/ disapproval. The DAP recommendation of approval/disapproval will go along with it and be considered by future entities in their deliberations of the proposal.

  1. These proposed Guidelines are intended to be a total replacement of the existing Columbia Downtown wide Design Guidelines for the Lakefront Core Neighborhood.
  2. The footprint of the Lakefront Core Neighborhood is proposed to be expanded to include the current American City building with its parking lot and the Copeland restaurant/parking structure areas.
  3. The maximum allowable building heights for the additional areas proposed to be included in the Neighborhood are to be raised from 9 stories to 15 stories. This new area is on the east side of Little Patuxent Parkway.
  4. The Wincopin Circle street is proposed to be extended southward from its current location to run between the current American City building with its parking lot and the Hug Statue / Columbia Association Lake Kittamaqundi amphitheater area and then on past Whole Foods.

 

Plans for Columbia Lakefront Core Neighborhood

The Lakefront Core Neighborhood, surrounded by the larger Lakefront Neighborhood, is located between Lake Kittamaquandi and Little Patuxent Parkway and is bounded by Wincopin Circle to the north and the access drive to
Whole Foods/ former Rouse Company Headquarters to the south.

 

Lakefront Core Neighborhood – Connectivity

The Lakefront area has been isolated from other areas of Downtown Columbia due to the design of Little Patuxent Parkway and topography. The Downtown Columbia Plan proposes three new amenity space corridors extending east
to west that will enhance connectivity between the lake and other downtown destinations.

Lakefront Core Neighborhood Active Frontage Plan

As described in the Downtown Columbia Design Guidelines, Lakefront Core is envisioned as a lively, walkable neighborhood connected and oriented to Lake Kittamaqundi where residences, offices, shops and restaurants as well as entertainment, civic, and cultural uses are all integrated.

Lakefront Core Neighborhood Building Height Plan

In character with this vision, buildings range from 1 to 15 stories in height with shared parking facilities and parking facilities integrated either wholly or partially within individual buildings.

Amenity Space, Downtown Columbia

Open spaces, such as plazas, promenades, and greens, are incorporated within the neighborhood, providing connections back to other Downtown destinations and views to the lake. Natural areas flank and buffer the lake, providing trails and shared-use paths that connect to a larger pedestrian and bicycle network.

More info and share your opinion

by Russ Swatek, Howard County Citizens Association

The Design Advisory Panel (DAP) is meeting in the Ellicott Room on Wednesday June 14, 2017 7pm at the County offices to address the Howard Hughes Corp (HHC) newly proposed Columbia Lakefront Core Neighborhood Design Guidelines.

The newly proposed Design Guidelines are at:

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=hLLFe9LkP84%3d&portalid=0%C3%97tamp=1496683188759

The DAP agenda can be found at:

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Planning-and-Zoning/Boards-and-Commissions/Design-Advisory-Panel#

If you have any thoughts about these proposals, then please submit them to the DAP.  The DAP does not take public testimony at their meetings, but written input can be provided in advance of their meetings by using their web input form at:

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Planning-and-Zoning/Boards-and-Commissions/Design-Advisory-Panel/Submit-Comments-Form

or by emailing your comments to: dap@howardcountymd.gov

Note that any comments should be there before Tuesday night so the DAP members have a chance to read them prior to their meeting.

The BRT is coming to US29 in Montgomery County. Should Howard County be next?

Howard County has few transportation options for people traveling into DC. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) may be a relatively inexpensive option.

Montgomery’s bet on an ambitious Bus Rapid Transit system hinges on Route 29

By Luz Lazo (Washington Post), May 13, 2017 – ABRIDGED

Montgomery County’s years-long plan to build a 14-mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line on one of Maryland’s busiest commuter corridors appears to finally be moving from idea to reality.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who has championed BRT as the county’s next major transit undertaking, included $21.5 million for the project in his capital budget. A County Council committee earlier this month signaled its support for the BRT project, voting to send the plan to the full council for approval of funding for the design phase, putting the project one step away from construction — and closer to a 2020 opening.

The plan as it stands would put buses on shoulder lanes for a portion of the route, but also in regular traffic. This decision, which sacrificed earlier plans to have a reversible HOV lane in the southern portion of the route, cut capital costs by more than half to $31.5 million. Officials say the money will pay for new stations, buses, and new bike and pedestrian infrastructure. The county’s portion will be matched with a $10 million federal grant.

For the complete article, go to:  https://is.gd/cgXjJC

What is Bus Rapid Transit?

by Institute for Transportation and Development Policy – ABRIDGED

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a high-quality bus-based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective services at metro-level capacities. It does this Continue reading The BRT is coming to US29 in Montgomery County. Should Howard County be next?

Which version of the Hickory Ridge Village Center is likely to survive?

The Howard County Design Advisory Committee (DAP) is reviewing Kimco’s revised plan for the Hickory Ridge Village Center on Wednesday, February 8th.  Their decision may very well determine whether the Village Center survives. Moreover, it’s a decision that will affect all of Columbia and whether our city will take the steps to become truly sustainable.

There is considerable community opposition to adding apartments to the Village Center.  Many residents of Hickory Ridge feel just as strongly that the higher density is essential to the Center’s future viability.  It is a struggle that has occurred in Columbia before and is likely to continue. I support the following perspective, and it applies to other Village Centers as well.

Dear members of the Design Advisory Panel,

I represent a citizens’ action group of Hickory Ridge residents recently formed to help ensure a viable Hickory Ridge village center, one that would be designed for the 21st century.  Our group, Citizens in favor of a Vibrant Village Center (CIVVC), believes that Kimco’s revised plan for the village center offers the best hope of creating a flourishing village center 10 years from now.

We also think Kimco’s revised plan responds appropriately to the DAP’s suggestions at its last meeting. Here’s why:

Continue reading Which version of the Hickory Ridge Village Center is likely to survive?

Commentary: Approve the Plan for Hickory Ridge Village Center

Kimco’s proposal for redevelopment of the Hickory Ridge Village Center is to be considered by the Howard County Design Advisory Panel next Wednesday December 7. Like the rest of Columbia, the issue of increased urbanization at this central community hub is at the heart of controversy.

I support the plan. In the face of continued population growth, suburban sprawl and development of more and more of our natural lands are not sustainable. Higher densities in appropriate locations throughout Columbia is smart growth, will promote public transit, and will serve to improve pedestrian and bicycle amenities.  Two of my previous posts about this subject are here and here.

Some residents of Hickory Ridge formed a group to support Kimco’s revised plan for redeveloping the Hickory Ridge Village Center. Their argument below is one that could easily apply to all of Columbia.

Citizens In favor of a Vibrant Village Center (CIVVC)

Many of us have attended the public meetings Kimco has held and been disturbed by both the tone and substance of the comments made by many in opposition to the plan. The level of uncertainty, fear, and worst-case scenarios has been high in these meetings.

The purpose of CIVVC, then, is to foster a rational dialogue about the merits and Continue reading Commentary: Approve the Plan for Hickory Ridge Village Center

Suburbia is not Sustainable; Appropriate Densities are Better

Residents of Columbia, Maryland are objecting to the increased urbanization that is developing in the Downtown. Alas, it means cutting down a lot of trees that long-time Columbians have gotten used to. But suburbia is not sustainable, and perhaps Jim Rouse, the founder of Columbia, knew this. He always intended that Columbia have a real downtown and he set aside the land surrounding Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, known as the Crescent (pictured above), for this purpose.

Increased densities in appropriate locations throughout suburbia, such as the Crescent and the Village Centers in Columbia, are the right thing to do. Here’s why:

Some Background

More than half of Americans live in suburbs, and about 75 percent of postwar construction has happened in the suburbs. That is a lot of people, and a lot of Continue reading Suburbia is not Sustainable; Appropriate Densities are Better

Current Plans for Development of the Crescent Neighborhood in Downtown Columbia

A primary goal for Crescent is to create a sustainable, urban live/work neighborhood overlooking Merriweather-Symphony Woods. This neighborhood will be unique to Downtown Columbia, with tall office and residential towers set on the periphery within new development parcels on the high ground between lower, environmentally-sensitive areas.

One of the neighborhood’s greatest assets is its natural setting with preserved and enhanced woodlands and tributaries to Symphony Stream and Little Patuxent River. And, while the developed areas will be fairly dense, the park setting, the curvilinear roads, and the rolling topography will set Crescent apart from the other Downtown neighborhoods.

A sustainable built environment will be created through the creation of mixed-use development with amenity spaces that allow residents to socialize, work, shop and play; the design of complete streets where residents can walk or bike to destinations or public transit; the design of buildings that are healthy and use natural resources more efficiently; and the creation of a healthy environment with clean water, clean air, and increased connections to the natural environment.

from Crescent Neighborhood Design Guidelines, Howard Hughes Corporation, March 2015

Continue reading Current Plans for Development of the Crescent Neighborhood in Downtown Columbia