Ideas for saving CA office in works

Residents stir county to reconsider razing

November 27, 2005|By LAURA CADIZ | LAURA CADIZ,SUN REPORTER

The county is looking for ways the lakefront building that houses the Columbia Association and Clyde's restaurant can be spared during the redevelopment of Town Center.

An idea from the county-sponsored charrette about the future of downtown Columbia included razing the building to make way for an open lakefront vista. Complaints from residents have prompted the county to look for alternatives.

"We've heard from a lot of residents that they're very concerned that [the concept] misstates their views," said Steve Lafferty, the county's deputy planning director.

Lafferty said the county has asked the Baltimore firm Design Collective Inc., which led the charrette last month, to develop other ideas that would include the lakefront vista but also preserve the building that is the home of the Columbia Association, Clyde's and the Tomato Palace.

The association has operated out of the building on Lake Kittamaqundi for 17 years; its lease expires in 2007. The homeowners association has been studying options for a new headquarters, and should it choose to leave its current building - which is owned by General Growth Properties - it could lead to the possibility of tearing down the building.

An artist's rendering shown on the last day of the charrette illustrated such an idea - it showed a set of stairs leading from The Mall in Columbia to Little Patuxent Parkway. A vista on the other side of the street leads to the lake and takes the place of the Columbia Association building.

The discussion of tearing down the headquarters - which occurred during a hastily called Columbia Association board of directors meeting during the charrette that was open to the public but never advertised - has upset some residents.

Lafferty said residents primarily seem to be concerned about compromising the location of Clyde's. He said he believes it makes sense for the restaurant to stay on the lakefront.

"We don't expect the bulldozers to be out there; we don't expect Clyde's to lose their location," Lafferty said. "We fully expect that if the property owners decide they want to be done with the building there will be an alternative for Clyde's. It's an icon."

Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a Howard County Democrat who had been critical of the way the association board held its meeting during the charrette, said she is pleased residents' concerns are being listened to and that the county has requested other ideas.

"I think it's certainly preferable to moving ahead with what came out of the 11th hour of the charrette," she said. "But I don't think they should be starting down by the lakefront, regardless of what the plan is."

The county hopes to turn the draft plan that came out of the charrette into a 30-year master plan that will create a vibrant downtown Columbia.

The draft plan lays the groundwork for an additional 3,500 to 5,000 homes throughout Town Center; turning Symphony Woods into a type of Central Park for Columbia; and improved public transportation and pedestrian walkways intended to generate more foot traffic among businesses and homes.

The county is working on putting those concepts into a master plan that will go to the County Council for approval early next year.

Bill Mackey, the county's planning supervisor, said the county and a design team are now looking at infrastructure needs - such as roadways and water and sewers - and hopes to present something to the public by the end of the year.

Lafferty said that the county will continue to gather public input as it goes through the master-plan process.

"This is not a done document; there are items that need to be tweaked and adjusted," he said. "We'll be engaging the public as we go forward."

laura.cadiz@baltsun.com

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