Merriweather Post Pavilion (MPP) in Columbia, MD is in the midst of a $55 million renovation. If you haven’t visited for awhile, you’re in for a treat. The renovations are geared to enhancing the fan experience and providing appealing amenities to the performers in order to attract top talent. MPP celebrated it’s 50th anniversary in 2017 so the facility was due for some upgrades.
The renovations are being coordinated by the nonprofit Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, which took over ownership of Merriweather Post Pavilionin 2016. One of the first acts of the new leadership was to sign a new 40-year contract in 2017 with DC-headquartered I.M.P.to operate MPP. The Commission hopes to supplement the traditional rock concerts at MPP with other artistic and cultural activities.
Ian Kennedy, Executive Director of the Commission, recently gave me a tour of the renovation work in progress. Here are some pictures for a glimpse of the new Merriweather Post Pavilion.
(Click on any image to begin the slide show.)
All photos are by Harry Schwarz, unless otherwise indicated.
As we attend to the immediate needs of the residents and businesses affected by this week’s flood in Ellicott City, people are asking “Why does this keep happening and what can be done to prevent it?” I attempted to address this question with a blogpost from August 3, 2016 following the last major storm.
Much planning has been done in the last two years and several major projects are being implemented. The basic issues remain. We’re going to have to consider now whether these last two storms represent a new normal and whether the plans are sufficient. As always, it’s a judgement about the extent that we’re going to battle mother nature or adjust to her ways.
Ellicott City – The Great Floods
Lower Ellicott City had been prone to flooding since it was founded. There has been at least four different major floods in recorded history in Downtown Ellicott City. So what makes it so prone?
First of all, Ellicott City sits at the confluence of the Tiber and Patapsco Rivers. This in itself moves a lot of water. Another issue is that Ellicott City sits in a shallow valley, with many of the expanding buildings and homes having to be build literally over the Tiber river. This makes water from almost all directions converge in the valley to the Tiber River before being emptied in the Patapsco. And this isn’t even the biggest issue.
The Tiber River is tiny compared to the Patapsco River. The Patapsco can carry larger amounts of water than the Tiber River can, adding to the quickness of the flooding downtown. The valley and large water confluence causes the natural watershed to be turned into a river itself. Water rushed from all directions until the larger Patapsco River can’t handle the volume. It then backs up like how a dam backs up water. This causes water levels to rise, and rise, and rise.Flooding can cause billions in damaged and can be cause by numerous things such as hurricanes or unusual rainy periods and have unfortunately caused deaths in Ellicott City.
How does latest Ellicott City storm stack up with 2016? Meteorologists weigh in
by Christina Tkacik (Baltimore Sun) May 28, 2018
The storm that hit historic Ellicott City and nearby areas Sunday is likely worse than the storm that caused flooding in 2016, according to meteorologists.
Locations around Ellicott City and Catonsville saw between 5.36 inches and 10.38 inches of rain on Sunday, said Kyle Pallozzi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Baltimore-Washington forecast office.
In the devastating storm of July 2016, Ellicott City was hit by 6.5 inches of rain, while Catonsville got 4.2 inches.
Several weather factors combined to produce Sunday’s torrential conditions, according to meteorologists: A slow-moving cold front coming from the north and east, along with slow-moving thunderstorms. In addition, multiple storms converged in the same location, a situation meteorologists call “training convection.”
“They kept regenerating and moving over the same areas,” Pallozzi said. “It was a moisture-rich environment. The storms had a lot of moisture to work with.”
The heavy rain sent the Hudson and Tiber tributaries over their banks, with the water coursing down Main Street.
A gauge in the Hudson peaked at 3.06 feet above flood stage — which was half a foot higher than the peak in 2016, Pallozzi said.
The Patapsco River, at the bottom of Main Street, peaked about 4 feet lower than it did in 2016. But a little farther downstream, at Patapsco Valley State Park, the river peaked nearly a foot higher on Sunday than it did in 2016.
In the midst of the storm, meteorologists like Chicago-based Zac Flamig used weather radar to predict how much rain was falling.
While 2016’s storm was a 50- to 75-year storm (that is, one recurring every 50 to 75 years), according to Flamig, initial rainfall estimates show that Sunday’s storm was on par with a 200-year storm — one occurring every 200 years or more.
“The best estimates that we have in real time are saying that this is a worse flood,” Flamig said.
In 2016, experts called it a “thousand-year storm,” meaning such intense rainfall is likely to occur only once every 1,000 years. However, Flamig said such models can be misleading since they overreact to small changes in flood levels.
“Because of the way we estimate them, small changes in rainfall at the extremes can have big effects,” he said.
Ellicott City gets rainfall expected only once every millennium
by Scott Dance (The Baltimore Sun) – July 31, 2016
Six and a half inches of rain dumped on Ellicott City in about two hours Saturday night, a deluge expected to occur only once every thousand years.
More than 4.5 inches fell within one hour, from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., according to a Howard County rain gauge.
The massive burst of precipitation sent a wave of floodwaters cascading down the hillsides in the historic downtown where it turned into a wall of water smashing down Main Street, sweeping cars downhill, sending restaurant-goers scurrying for higher ground and carving away the road and sidewalks, leaving behind massive sinkholes.
The Patapsco River rose 14 feet from about 7:20 p.m. to 9 p.m., according to the weather service.
Based on records for a gauge five miles away in Woodstock, there is a less than 0.1 percent chance of such intense rainfall happening in any given year, Elliott said — making this a once-in-1,000-years storm.
Howard County plans more Ellicott City flood control projects
by Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun), July 26, 2017
Howard County is drawing up plans for new projects aimed at slowing and controlling stormwater in streams that flow through Ellicott City’s historic district — the same streams that swelled into a deadly and damaging flood nearly one year ago.
Four projects announced Wednesday will cost an estimated $18 million, with the county hoping to get financial help from the state and federal governments.
In the months since the flood, the county has completed other infrastructure projects. In addition to shoring up streets and sidewalks, crews rebuilt stream channels and retaining walls.
Kittleman said the projects announced Wednesday represent a next step in long-term improvements to control the flow of water in the area.
“These projects will allow us to retain more water in the upper reaches of the watershed and they will improve the way we move water downhill,” he said. “Basically, making water less likely to back up and flood the streets and our homes.”
Three of the projects involve creating vast “dry ponds” along streams to hold water during major storms so the water doesn’t rush into the stream channel. One dry pond will be upstream from Main Street on New Cut Branch, another on Tiber Branch and a third upstream on Hudson Branch near routes 29 and 40.
The fourth project involves replacing some of the pipes and culverts that carry parts of Hudson Branch along Frederick Road toward the historic district. That project includes adding a second pipe in one area to help carry additional water flow.
County officials have begun designing the projects and hope to begin construction within a year. The timing will depend on the amount of funding the county receives from the state and federal governments.
The county is also working on a master plan for the Ellicott City area, which will be added to the county’s overall master plan guiding future growth and development.
Following the [August 2016] flood, the overarching goal was to return Ellicott City to normalcy as quickly and affordably as possible. During the recovery phase, Howard County effectively worked to stabilize Ellicott City and repaired and replaced damaged infrastructure; in some cases in a utilitarian fashion (i.e., asphalt was poured on damaged sidewalk areas instead of concrete or brick replacement).
Howard County launched its master plan process for Ellicott City and its watershed on May 31st, 2017. The master plan process will help define a comprehensive community-driven vision for rebuilding a stronger and more resilient Ellicott City. The master plan will take a fresh and creative look at potential long term flood solutions and strategies.
It will also incorporate a watershed plan in a way that many traditional master plans do not. Ellicott City’s unique topography, hydrology, road network, and mill town heritage will require a tailored, well-planned roadmap for long-term rebuilding.
Maryland Flood Highlights Need for Climate Change Planning
by Becky Hammer (NRDC) – August 1, 2016
This weekend, a historic flash-flooding event killed two people and caused massive destruction in Ellicott City, Maryland. The town received more than 6 inches of rain over the span of two hours. According to the National Weather Service, an event like this should statistically happen only once every 1,000 years, based on historical data.
But because of climate change, extreme events like this one are happening more frequently, and scientists expect that trend to continue into the future. Our past experiences with floods are no longer a reliable indicator of our present or future risk.
So why is Maryland not comprehensively accounting for climate change in its new plan to protect its communities—like Ellicott City—from future natural disasters?
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 Centerbeing 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
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.
Howard County has developed a comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan, called Bike Howard, and “the Bikeway” has been identified as the top priority for jump-starting the project. But funding to implement the Plan has been minimal and suggests a serious lack of commitment to encouraging bicycle travel in the County. Here’s what you need to know about Bike Howard and the Bikeway. At the end of this post, there’s a link to tell County Executive Kittleman and the County Council of your support for the Plan.
Howard County Bicycle Master Plan
In April of 2016, Howard County adopted its first Bicycle Master Plan. The Bicycle Master Plan provides guidance for both transportation and recreational bicycling, both on-street and off-street. Recommendations are provided in the general areas of infrastructure improvements, policy and programs.
Goals and objectives are:
Identify and develop countywide system of bicycle facilities to foster connectivity within and between the following: villages, communities and neighborhoods throughout the County, as well as neighboring cities and counties, parks and recreation centers, schools and educational institutions, commercial and employment centers, and regional and local transit facilities.
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
Bob Duggan, acupuncturist, teacher, and visionary, died a little over a year ago. In the time since, the world has changed by his absence. We are all deprived of his wisdom and his leadership. Acupuncturists, patients, SOPHIA students (School of Philosophy and Healing in Action), the community at Penn North Neighborhood Center, to name a few, have lost a mentor. I learned a different way of being in this world when I worked with Bob for many years at Tai Sophia Institute (now MUIH).
Bob’s accomplishments were many, but his impact was in how he changed the world for the better, one person at a time. His promise to all of us was that in his presence, “life will show up as a warm, creative, vision of the future.” Here is a small glimpse of that vision, a selection of Bob’s writings and speakings, and a couple stories about him.
Bob Duggan, Founder and President Emeritus, Maryland University of Integrative Health [EXCERPT]
Bob was a true pioneer in the field of integrative health and an assertive voice for wellness in America. He served as an educator, acupuncture practitioner, author, thought leader, and advocate, as well as an advisor to policymakers and organizations. . . .
Bob earned a master’s degree in human relations and community studies from New York University and a master’s degree in moral theology from St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York. His master’s qualification in acupuncture was from the College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in the United Kingdom. Before focusing on health as a profession and a calling, Bob served as a priest in the U.S. and abroad.
Howard County, Md. recently opened a new facility for homeless persons, the Leola Dorsey Community Resource Center. It now houses the Day Resource Center that previously operated on Route 1, includes 35 apartments, and is based on an increasingly popular model for addressing homelessness called “Housing First.” Here is a primer on the new center and the challenge of homelessness in Howard County, Md.
(This post is an update of a previous HoCoMDcc post, “Howard County’s Latest Effort to End Homelessness”, June 21, 2016)
Howard County officials unveil Dorsey Community Resource Center
by Kate Magill (Howard County Times), October 2, 2017 [EXCERPTS]
Amid a crowd of nearly 100 people, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman unveiled the Leola Dorsey Community Resource Center on Monday, joined by Howard County Housing Commissioner Peter Engel, state Sens. Gail Bates and Guy Guzzone and several other officials.
With its ability to serve more than 100 people a day, Engel noted that the center is able to serve at least half of the county’s homeless population on any given day. There were 214 homeless individuals in Howard County in 2016, according to state data.