Downtown Columbia would get a more urban look if its developer wins the right to add up to 500 town house and apartment units on two sites near its commercial core.
In a major rezoning request yesterday, the Rouse Co. also asked for authority to expand the unincorporated city by 89 acres and to develop 1,600 residential units in Long Reach East at the city's eastern end.
Rouse said the additional housing would "extend the vitality of the downtown after normal office hours." The company wants 25.5 acres now zoned for commercial and office buildings -- on one site off Broken Land Parkway and another near Banneker Road -- to be changed to 20 acres of apartments and town houses and 5.5 acres of open space.
Rouse proposed changing the Long Reach East zoning from research and development and office building development to town houses and detached residences on an undeveloped 149-acre tract just west of the Columbia neighborhood of Kendall Ridge.
It is Rouse's second major rezoning request involving Columbia in recent months.
Alton J. Scavo, a Rouse Co. vice president, said the two proposals are intertwined because Rouse's plans to convert a former General Electric plant site off Snowden River Parkway to a variety of warehouse, office and other commercial uses would create the need for housing for employees there.
To buttress its petition, the developer noted that Howard County's recently adopted General Plan recommended adding affordable housing "to attract the work force necessary for the development" of the old GE property.
Columbia, with a 1990 population of 75,000, is expected to reach 100,000 eventually under existing zoning densities. The additional units being proposed could increase the city's overall population by more than 4,000 residents, Mr. Scavo estimated.
Last week, in a first step in the rezoning process, the Columbia developer received a favorable recommendation from the Planning Board to rezone the heavy-industry zoned old General Electric plant site off Snowden River Parkway.
Rouse also asked yesterday to annex 13 sites it has acquired on Columbia's perimeter, with nearly half the 89 acres to be used to expand existing warehouse and high technology parks.
The tracts range from a fraction of an acre to 46.3 acres.
The proposed annexation would expand the size of Columbia to 14,136 acres, about the size of New York City's borough of Manhattan. Rouse began to develop Columbia in 1967.
No date has been set for the public hearings on the annexation and rezoning requests.