The Howard Hughes Corporation is set to begin transformation of the Columbia Lakefront in 2022 with construction beginning this Spring of the first of many new buildings planned for the area. A four-story 80,000 square foot medical office tower, South Lake Medical Office, will be built on the lower parking lot just south of Whole Foods alongside the Lakefront.
The Baltimore Business Journal described the new building in the context of the larger Lakefront vision in a December, 2021 article:
The new building is part of Howard Hughes' vision to transform the Lakefront area into a health- and wellness-oriented neighborhood. Plans include a variety of residential offerings — that could include condos — in three new buildings and "a vibrant, pedestrian-oriented streetscape with generous open spaces, connections to nature, and neighborhood-serving retail," Greg Fitchitt, President of Howard Hughes Columbia said.
Planning documents and renderings of the four-story 80,000 square foot medical office tower depict a floating glass medical office building atop 2 levels of parking. The north side of the building (closest to Whole Foods) will include a wood-deck public pier overlooking Lake Kittamaqundi accessible from the existing Whole Foods surface parking lot via a new pedestrian bridge built over the vehicle ramp and also accessible from the Lakefront trail via stairs. The new pier could be used to host small public programming like exercise classes or markets with vendors. A portion of the lower parking lot would remain as the loading dock for Whole Foods with public ADA parking spots. An improved trailhead from this lot to the Lakefront Trail will also be added. The parking lot on the first two levels of the building will be screened from view from the Lakefront trail by vined trellises and art installations.
As part of earlier stages in the Lakefront redevelopment, Howard Hughes has previously demolished several existing buildings and built Millie Bailey Park, but this medical building will be the first of many new construction buildings yet to come.
The build out of the Lakefront will be governed by the Lakefront Neighborhood Design Guidelines. The guidelines provide a comprehensive and complete guide for the design and development of the Lakefront neighborhood, including urban, street, pedestrian and bicycle circulation, open space, architectural, and signage/wayfinding design.
The Lakefront plan is described in the Design Guidelines document as followed:
The vision for the combined Lakefront and Lakefront Core Neighborhoods is to bring community life and activity back to the water’s edge. The Lakefront area 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 area should be revitalized with new development that may include cultural, retail, restaurant, office, residential, and hospitality uses. The Lakefront Neighborhood is envisioned to be the potential location for a new signature building, in addition to the existing former Rouse Company Headquarters’ signature building in the Lakefront Core.
The Lakefront Neighborhood is envisioned as a Health/ Wellness/ Fitness district with the following five, prime drivers: (1) Become Maryland’s prime example of a healthy neighborhood; (2) Connect people with health, fitness, and wellness through daily engagement and activity; (3) Create a place to Live-Work-Play-Eat-Shop (LWPES) in an enriched natural setting that promotes healthy lifestyles; (4) Develop a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood that celebrates Columbia’s founding ideas and Lakefront’s central significance; and (5) Strengthen Wincopin as a major pedestrian-oriented street connecting the north and south areas of Lakefront to each other as well as linking Downtown to the Lakefront Neighborhood as the civic core of Columbia.
In the long-term, new mixed-use development in the Lakefront will include creating a new street grid, neighborhood blocks, new amenity spaces, neighborhood-serving retail, and new pathways/trails that connect the Lakefront to other parts of Downtown Columbia. As part of the long-range plan, several major roadways, including Little Patuxent Parkway and Symphony Woods Road, will be realigned, as depicted in the map below. These roads would be moved to the where Central Branch of Howard County Library is currently located. A new central library, with residential units above, is slated to be built in the Merriweather District.
Proposed amendments to the Lakefront Design Guidelines will be presented to Howard County's Design Advisory Panel during the January 12, 2022 meeting. These new amendments include modifications to strengthen Wincopin Circle as a major pedestrian-oriented street and public green; and adjusting the building height requirements for a northern portion of the Lakefront neighborhood to allow for buildings up to 13 stories (instead of 9 stories) while maintaining the current maximum overall building height requirement of 145 feet for this portion.
Also mentioned in the December 2021 Baltimore Business Journal article is news that Howard Hughes should be announcing a new tenant to take over the Clyde's and The Soundry space at the Lakefront Core sometime soon.