Major breaking Downtown Columbia news came out today! There is a new plan for a stand-alone transformational public library in a prime location at Columbia's Lakefront as well a new 240-unit mixed income affordable housing building in the Merriweather District.
If you missed, local media covered the announcement in depth - made by County Executive Calvin Ball who was joined by Maryland Governor Wes Moore.
Here's a list of the articles published by local outlets covering the announcement:
‘A shining jewel’: Gov. Wes Moore visits Columbia Lakefront to help announce $144 million library in the works, Baltimore Sun
‘A new renaissance’: Howard County unveils plans for 100K-square-foot library and affordable housing project in Columbia, Baltimore Fishbowl
Howard County reveals plan for lakefront Columbia Library, The Baltimore Banner
State-of-the-art library coming to Downtown Columbia lakefront, CBS
Due for makeover, downtown Columbia to get new high-tech library, WBALTV
New Lakefront Library Unveiled for Downtown Columbia Area, Columbia Patch
And below is the video from the press conference if you want to watch and listen to the remarks provided by the following impressive list of speakers:
Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive
Wes Moore, Maryland Governor
Christiana Rigby, Howard County Council Chair
Tonya Aikens, Howard County Library System CEO
Antonia Watts, Howard County Library System Board of Trustees Chair
Greg Fitchitt, Howard Hughes President for Columbia
Elizabeth S. Homan, Howard County Housing Commission Chair
Michael Martirano, Howard County School System Superintendent
Dennis Mattey, Columbia Association Interim CEO
Daria Willis, Howard Community College President
The Howard County Library System has posted an FAQ answering key questions - the how, why, when, what - all the reasons that adding a new Lakefront Library to meet the needs of our growing community and how the new branch will enable HCLS to expand its curriculum and provide spaces for new emerging trends. The FAQ also includes an explanation of the constraints of the current undersized central branch. HCLS has also scheduled a series of listening sessions scheduled throughout April to share their strategic plan and obtain feedback.
Howard County government issued a press release (also copied below at end of article).
Here are some of my own quick notes to help make sense of this project in context of the Downtown Columbia Plan.
100,000 Square Feet Library will be located on the Parking Lot adjacent to the Lakefront and Whole Foods where the American City building once stood. There will be parking added underneath the new library.
Cost of the library is $144M. Dr. Ball will include funding in his proposed FY24 Capital Budget that will be submitted for Council approval tomorrow.
Estimated Timeline: FY24: Design; FY25: Design and Permitting; FY26: Start Construction; FY27: Complete Construction
The original plan for Downtown Columbia called for a new library with affordable housing above it to be part of the Merriweather District. With the library now set to be at the Lakefront as a standalone building, the prior location slated for a library in the Merriweather District (see spot circled in blue in image below) will be a mixed income housing project by the Howard County Housing Commission and it will include a total of 240 mixed-income housing units, more than double the amount previously planned for this site. By separating the housing from the library, much-needed affordable housing can move forward with greater speed unencumbered from being attached to a separate public amenity.
The current Library Central Branch location has always been slated to be demolished as part of road alignment that is part of the Downtown Columbia Plan.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball Unveils Transformative Lakefront Library Project
ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball was joined today by Governor Wes Moore to unveil plans for a reimagined and transformative library in Downtown Columbia. The project will be coupled with expanded mixed-income housing opportunities for the growing community. Pictures from the event can be found here, and full renderings of the project can be found here.
In Howard County, we dream big, we seize opportunities, and we join together to deliver an excellent quality of life for every member of our community. The Lakefront Library project is for the people and will serve as a transformative civic and educational center for all in Howard County. It will be a hub where education, the arts, and nature all converge to spark creativity, critical thinking, and community connections. Calvin Ball Howard County Executive
The 100,000 square-foot structure will foster creativity, learning, and civic engagement. It will be the first, innovative library of its kind in the region. Designs unveiled were created by Heatherwick Studio, an internationally recognized firm that created the landmark “Vessel”
public art structure in New York City, and other distinctive buildings throughout the world.
In Columbia, we see what happens when public and private sectors join forces to move a community forward. Our administration is excited to finalize a budget that includes direct investments for the Downtown Columbia Library and affordable housing. As governor, my top priority is creating an economically competitive and equitable Maryland, and I am proud Howard County is taking the needed steps to make that happen. Wes Moore Governor
“Libraries are some of the most important spaces in our communities, and they rightfully serve as a place where ideas are born and a place where we all gather to build a better future,” said Guy Guzzone, Maryland State Senator. “We are pleased to help provide state resources and be part of the partnership to make this new lakefront library a reality.”
Ball noted that funding for the Lakefront Library will be included in his proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Capital Budget, which will be submitted to the Howard County Council by April 1. Pending Council approval, design for the project can begin later this year with the anticipation of breaking ground no later than 2026.
“The proposed iconic lakefront library and Merriweather affordable housing will strengthen Howard County by fostering community engagement, supporting economic mobility and enhancing our quality of life,” said Christiana Rigby, Chair, Howard County Council. “This proposal enhances a vibrant, healthy downtown community where all members have the opportunity to thrive, and all will have a chance to connect with each other.”
Howard County Library System has been routinely recognized nationally as a highly ranked library by The Library Journal. The new Lakefront Library will provide more room for classes for all ages, Project Literacy and workforce development initiatives, equity initiatives, and more.
“I firmly believe that the best public spaces should be for the community, and the opportunity to move the new central library to the lakefront provides those best public spaces for our residents,” said Tonya Aikens, President and CEO of the Howard County Library System. “This new lakefront library will uplift and inspire, connect people with nature, and connect people with each other. We look forward to engaging our community in listening sessions to hear their dreams and aspirations for the interior program.” "On behalf of the Library Board of Trustees, we are grateful to the County Executive for including this project in his budget and to the State for its substantial contribution, said Antonia Watts, chair of the Library Board of Trustees. “We look forward to working with the County Council to transform this extraordinary vision of what a library can be and do into a reality serving all residents of our county."
The library will be built on land provided by The Howard Hughes Corp., which serves as Downtown Columbia’s community developer. Howard Hughes is also providing the land for the affordable housing units, as called for in the Downtown Columbia Plan.
“The Kittamaqundi Lakefront has long been the heart of Columbia. As the community developer, we have always been committed to a collaborative planning approach to provide the very best spaces for all residents and visitors to our town,” said Greg Fitchitt, President, Columbia Region, The Howard Hughes Corporation. “We are more than thrilled to partner with Howard County’s Administration and Council, Library System, and Housing Commission to bring this incredible community anchor to the lakefront, in a way that brings even more affordable housing sooner to Downtown Columbia.”
The structure will be designed by a renowned architectural firm, Heatherwick Studios, that has created some of the most distinctive structures in New York City, London, and Shanghai. The design will follow a concept to further elevate the design standard of Downtown Columbia with an architecturally distinctive building, as called for in the Downtown Columbia Plan.
“Columbia has always been driven by a socially radical vision. This legacy inspired us to evolve the traditional library beyond books and into a new type of community center for broader learning and social exchange,” said Stuart Wood, Partner and Group Leader, Heatherwick Studio. “A walkable, planted building that emerges from the lakeside landscape will house an amphitheater for events, play areas and light filled rooms designed for working and learning anything from cooking to IT. This will be the community center everyone in Howard County deserves.”
The prior location of the replacement library site, in what is known as Columbia’s Merriweather District, is now planned to contain at least 240 units of mixed-income housing, twice the number as originally called for in the Downtown Columbia Plan.
“The Howard County Housing Commission applauds the creativity and thoughtfulness that were put into the new plan for the Central Library at the Lakefront,” said Elizabeth S. Homan, Chair, Howard County Housing Commission. “This plan places a beloved public facility at the heart of the county, and it creates an important and independent path forward for new mixed income housing in the downtown. With the Commission having a separate property to develop, we can move with greater speed to increase the supply of desperately needed affordable housing for the county’s residents.”
The library’s location at the Columbia Lakefront will further activate one of the central areas of Howard County, serving as a centerpiece and true civic gathering space for the community. The lakefront has a long history as one of Howard County’s favorite gathering spaces, and the placement of the new library there expands the community’s access to the best public spaces. "As a longtime steward of the Downtown Columbia Lakefront, Columbia Association (CA) recognizes the value and importance of the space for everyone in our community," CA Interim President/CEO Dennis Mattey said. "CA continues to be committed to our own intentional and meaningful investments in the Lakefront. We look forward to future opportunities to collaborate with our long-standing partners and new neighbors with the Howard County Library System."
“At Howard Community College, our classrooms are the heart of our mission, and the campus library is our heartbeat. The library is that place where students gather to learn, grow, and connect,” said Dr. Daria J. Willis, president of Howard Community College. “I cannot imagine Howard Community College without a library, and I cannot imagine Howard County without a Central Library at its core. With the new location at the Lakefront, we will breathe new life into Columbia.”
"As a resident of Howard County for over 25 years and as Superintendent, I understand the importance of having safe and supportive spaces throughout the county that our children may go when they are not in school," said HCPSS Superintendent Michael J. Martirano, Ed.D. "I look forward to the opening of this newly revitalized and reimagined space where students may come together to read, learn and thrive."