Clyde's restaurant is expected to keep its lakefront presence

Idea from charrette had worried patrons


As the county works to refine a planned makeover of downtown Columbia, at least one landmark business - Clyde's restaurant - is expected to keep a home on the Town Center lakefront, said Marsha S. McLaughlin, director of the county's Department of Planning and Zoning.

The restaurant, which last month celebrated its 30th anniversary in Columbia, faced the prospect of losing its building when Town Center is redeveloped. But McLaughlin has moved to reassure the restaurant and its patrons.

"No one is trying to get rid of Clyde's," she said. "Clyde's is what people like about downtown."

Paul Kraft, the restaurant's general manager, said he has been told that Clyde's lakefront location will not be put in jeopardy.

"We're not panicked or nervous," Kraft said. "We're getting all types of calls of support [from customers]."

The restaurant, which serves upscale American saloon food, is housed in a building on the Lake Kittamaqundi waterfront that also is home to the Columbia Association and the Tomato Palace restaurant.

Residents have been concerned about Clyde's since the county-sponsored planning charrette about the future of downtown Columbia, which included a discussion of possibly razing the building to make way for an open lakefront vista.

The draft development plan that came from the charrette - which the county hopes to turn into a 30-year master plan for a vibrant downtown Columbia - lays the groundwork for 3,500 to 5,000 more homes in Town Center; turning Symphony Woods into a kind of Central Park in Columbia; and improved public transportation and pedestrian walkways intended to generate more foot traffic among businesses and homes.

But during the last day of the charrette in October, representatives from the Baltimore firm Design Collective Inc. - which led the charrette - showed an artist's rendering with a set of stairs leading from The Mall in Columbia to Little Patuxent Parkway.

In that concept, the Columbia Association building is gone and in its place is a vista on the other side of the street that leads to the lake.

McLaughlin said that after the charrette some people got "carried away" and automatically assumed that the Clyde's building would be torn down, leaving the restaurant homeless. She said that while the building may be considered for redevelopment, "the whole goal would be to make sure that [Clyde's] would be accommodated."

After hearing complaints from residents, the county has asked Design Collective to develop other ideas that would include the lakefront vista but also preserve the building that houses Clyde's. General Growth Properties owns the building, and the leases for Clyde's and the Columbia Association expire in 2007. Kraft said he is working on renewing the lease with General Growth.

The county and the design team are continuing to work on the master plan for downtown Columbia. The county has scheduled a public presentation of a refined plan for Jan. 19 and hopes to take the proposal to the Planning Board in early February, said Steve Lafferty, the county's deputy planning director.

One proposal that came before the charrette and that has drawn criticism from the public is a 22-story retail and apartment building along Little Patuxent Parkway. This morning, a hearing is scheduled on the proposal before the Planning Board in the Ellicott Room in the George Howard Building.

Kraft said that as a part of that master plan it is important for Clyde's to remain on the lakefront because the restaurant has been there since Columbia was eight years old.

"We can say we've outlasted the Rouse Co.," Kraft said of the development company that built Columbia and was sold to General Growth last year. "People have a connection ... their first dates, their anniversaries. [Clyde's] holds a special place for people in Columbia. Where everything around us has changed, we've remained the same."

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