Sunday, January 31, 2010

Another Day in Paradise

It was nice of the sun to lend a hand in clearing the streets and walks from yesterdays badly under forecast snowfall. And speaking of the sun, Larry Carson’s story in The Sun about hoco politicos and their campaign war chests generated a little buzz from my local blogging brethren. I suppose the combination of money and politics is just too good to resist.

One can easily picture Free Market sticking his tongue firmly in his cheek as he posted that “…no special favors were given for those contributions, of course,” after highlighting some of Ken Ulmans larger business contributors.

In Larry’s article Ken makes “no apologies” for his prolific fundraising and refutes the criticism that business money buys favors.

“…despite the suspicions of some, donors don't get preferential treatment or consideration."We have people who can afford larger contributions.

I'm really pleased we have a range of contributors," he said. "I'm glad to have the support of the business community."

HoCo Rising has a problem with the reporters take on the fundraising prowess of certain Democrats. He takes issue with Larry Carson “describing the "insurmountable" advantage of Howard County democrats.”

He’d like to think that his candidate of choice for the District 2 council seat and his war chest of $454 can still mount a formidable to challenge to Calvin Ball who’s got $56,182 in the bank.

My take?

I’m a realist. I also have contributed to local candidates. I’ve never written a check for over five hundred bucks to any candidate and I’ve never thought that contributing to a campaign was anything more than supporting somebody I like. I also like how easy it is to find out who’s giving what to whom, thanks to the internet.

And though the sun did warm things up a bit again today, yesterday provided us a rare treat that we only get with a major snowstorm.
Mama Wordbones and I took a walk on College Avenue. I’ve driven and biked this road more times than I can count over the years but until yesterday I never walked it. It’s not what you’d call pedestrian friendly.
Yesterday it was and it was absolutely beautiful. I also gained a new appreciation for just how steep those hills are.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Will Kimbrough

Last night I had the pleasure to catch a live performance by singer songwriter Will Kimbrough in a living room in Dorsey’s Search. My buddy Steve Tove hosted the performance and opened his home to about 80 people. Steve introduced me to his music a few years back when he promoted a small concert with Kimbrough and Todd Snider at the old Last Chance Saloon in the Oakland Mills Village Center.

He’s kept in touch since and I believe this is the second time the artist from Alabama’s Gulf Coast has played in Steve and Wendy’s living room.

This is a great way to enjoy live music too. People bought covered dishes and deserts and Steve provided drinks. A bucket was passed for the artist after the first set.

It’s also interesting to note that Steve is about as Columbia as anyone can possibly be. His name is even enshrined on a plaque at the Columbia lakefront honoring that first group of kids that went all the way from kindergarten to high school in Columbia.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Town Centers Unsung Heroine

In earlier posts I’ve lobbed a couple of zingers at Ken Ulman for what appeared to be his lack of enthusiasm and public support for the Town Center redevelopment enabling legislation, CB 58 and CB 59. I may have been a little too harsh with that criticism.

In his annual state of the county address to the Howard County Chamber of Commerce this past Tuesday; Ken delivered a pretty strong endorsement of the plan that will be voted on this coming Monday.

“Working together, we have created a comprehensive master plan for the revitalization of downtown which incorporates green development, environmental restoration, arts and culture, workforce housing, pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, new amenity areas, transit, and a renovated Merriweather Post Pavilion – all in a carefully phased development plan.

It is important to recognize, as Jim Rouse did, that doing it right is the right thing to do – not only for the benefit of the community, but also to add value to the development itself. As I look at how far we have come, I am proud of what we have accomplished and excited about the future of downtown Columbia.”

More importantly, Ken’s chief of staff, Jessica Feldmark has worked tirelessly behind the scenes over the past few months to keep this effort on track. Those who have been intimately involved in process acknowledge the extraordinary effort she put in to make this a reality. So while Ken may not have been as visible as some in this effort, he does deserve a lot of credit for marshalling his staff to bring it to fruition.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Ministers of Misinformation

If you read some of the Letters to the Editor on Explore Howard or some of the postings on the HCC listserv, you might get the impression that General Growth’s plans for the redevelopment of Columbia Town Center will put the county on the long road to ruin. The fact of the matter is that there are some disgruntled members of the community that, having failed to win mainstream support for their efforts to derail the process, have resorted to promulgating misinformation.

For instance, Russ Swatek, the Columbia Council representative for the Village of Long Reach recently wrote that “virtually all” the proponents of the plan “had real estate or a business that stood to gain directly or indirectly from the increased density and increased retail population base.”

I suppose if you count home ownership as real estate this may be accurate, but then again that would presumably include Mr. Swatek as well. The truth is that while some proponents, such as yours truly, hope to capitalize on the opportunities this redevelopment may present, for the most part they are ordinary citizens like former CA president Padraic Kennedy or the General Manager of Victoria Gastro Pub, Tori Marriner. Mr. Swatek has insulted at least a thousand people with this statement. Nicely done Russ.

On the HCC listserv, Columbia architect Tim Sosinski claimed that “Achieving a walkable environment will be set aside in the interest of doing profitable remote sites for the next 20 years.”

Wow! I like Tim and I respect his community involvement but this is just simply not true and he knows it. Keep in mind that Columbia does not exist in a vacuum and that just because GGP will have the right to build 5,500 housing units doesn’t mean they will sell. In order to sell those units GGP will need to create a special place that distinguishes Columbia from all of the other planned developments in the area. That will be good for Columbia and for GGP. Our interests are perfectly aligned.

The mother of all misinformation is former Columbia Council representative Barbara Russell. She often describes herself as Columbia’s first mother and I can only suppose that she thinks that gives her some sort of exalted status in all matters Columbia. Mothers are always right after all.

In her letter to the editor today she claims “From the beginning, GGP has committed to pay for almost nothing, not roads, not major water and sewer lines, not schools or school sites, not fire stations or fire station sites, not below-market-rate housing (affordable, full-spectrum, call it what you like), not cultural amenities, not parking garages, not sidewalks and not for the upkeep of the downtown area it developed.”

For starters, GGP has paid for a world class plan for Town Center. They have hired some of the best talent that money can buy to design a Town Center that will once again make Columbia a paradigm of smart community planning. Barbara also knows that the developers will pay for all of those items she mentioned as the plan gets built out. I think Barbara believes everyone is stupid but her.

I could go on but I think you get the point.

A Green Hotel for Clarksville

I received a phone call this morning from a commercial real estate colleague, Jim Farrell. Jim had called to discuss some site options for one of our clients, but first we discussed what was going on with the former Gateway School on Route 108 in Clarksville. Although Jim works in Tysons Corner, he actually lives in Clarksville.

He told me his neighbors had been asking him what was going on with former junior high school. They figured that since he works in commercial real estate he should know these things. The fact of the matter is that he knows more about what is going on with Northern Virginia commercial real estate than what is happening his own backyard. That is often the case with those who commute in and out of Howard County everyday.

Truth be told, I only knew what was going on because of this story by Larry Carson in The Sun last week. Previously I had posted about the six development teams that were competing for the right to develop the county owned property. It now appears that a local couple, George and Holly Stone, have come out on top of that process.

“George Stone's desire in building what he calls Clarksville Commons, he said in a statement, is to create a "mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly, sustainable, signature destination for Clarksville and the region," using the latest in green technology and people-friendly public spaces to produce a sense of community absent in the cluttered commercial crossroads.”

The Stones have also assembled a development team that includes other familiar local names like Joe Rutter with Land Design and Development and Jared Spahn with Old Town Construction.

The planned development will also include a green “boutique hotel.”

I would have never guessed that there was a pent up demand for hotel rooms in Clarksville.

Everyone Loves a Party

On Tuesday night, the New City Alliance hosted a cocktail party at the Tomato Palace restaurant in Columbia Town Center. The advocacy group wanted to rally it’s supporters for one final push as the council prepares to vote on the Town Center redevelopment enabling legislation, CB58 and CB59 this coming Monday night.

It was a very impressive turnout. 140 people signed in at the front door and they represented a broad cross section of Columbians, young, old, male and female. It was also heartening to see more than a few politicos among the attendees such as Ed Priola seen in the picture above and soon to be announced candidate for county executive, Trent Kittleman.

Curiously, the current county executive, Ken Ulman, was not in attendance.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Morning After

Have you ever had a hangover so bad that you felt like you were hit by a train?

Scott Gore has.

Scott was at a company Christmas party last month and had one too many. According to this story by Mark Shapiro in the Maryland Gazette, Scott woke up in the wee hours of the next morning and found himself laying along side the railroad tracks in the freezing rain near the Dorsey MARC station in Howard County. He had no idea how he got there.

"It was open (bar) and I drank more than anyone needed to drink," the 21-year-old Hanover man said. "It was an awesome party … terrible morning."

I’ll say. When Scott woke up he was pretty banged up, literally.

“He was dehydrated. His head was pounding. His pants were torn and his legs were throbbing in pain.”

He was also missing a shoe.

“The hospital told Gore that the alcohol in his system actually worked to his advantage. Because his blood was thin, it was able to keep flowing to his mangled left leg, which developed a massive blood clot. He also had enough adrenaline to crawl to the road.”

The good news is that Scott is now at home recovering.

“After all of the hospital visits and surgery, Gore doesn't plan on drinking anymore and feels lucky to be alive.”

That’s probably a good idea.

The Erection

The beginning of steel erection on a building is a seminal moment. Once the steel begins rising the new building really starts to take form.
Yesterday we began the steel erection on our speculative office building in the Emerson Corporate Commons in North Laurel.

Now all we need is a tenant (or two).

Scene This Week In...

I’m really not a fan of bandit signs. They populate our roadsides offering everything from websites for singles to new home communities. Still, when I spotted this one on Snowden River Parkway in Columbia I had to laugh.
Say what you will about this form of low budget advertising but at least MBC Precision Imaging has added a different twist, or curve to the media.

As I was waiting for Peanut at Ellicott Mills Middle School the other day I happened to notice a new flag flying from the school flagpole. As I posted earlier, Ellicott Mills was honored as a Blue Ribbon school by the Maryland State Department of Education and nominated for a national award from the U.S. Department of Education.

Ellicott Mills is not the only Howard County public school to be so honored. Centennial Lane Elementary School (07), Clarksville Elementary School (08), Burleigh Manor Middle School (07), Clarksville Middle School (08), Hammond Middle School (09) and River Hill High School (08) have all earned this designation.

Congratulations to the faculty and staffs at all these schools. I hope you got flags too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Flying Manhole Covers

If you are driving around Montgomery County it might be a good idea to wear a helmet. According to this story by Dan Morse and Ashley Halsey III in The Washington Post today, a manhole cover erupted into the air “crashing through the front windshield of a passing car, according to police and fire officials.”

That could ruin your whole day.

“The driver was hospitalized with injuries not considered to be life-threatening, police said.”


Monday, January 25, 2010

Trent’s Coming Out Party

Trent Kittleman is ready to make it official. On February 17th she will announce her candidacy for Howard County Executive at a fundraiser at the home of Scott and Sandy Segrist in Glenwood.

Ms Kittleman made her intentions known as early as last summer and has been actively raising money and lining up volunteers over the past few months. She already has her campaign website up and running.

Trent is pulling out the big gun for her announcement party with former Governor Bob Ehrlich expected to attend. No doubt he’ll be asked about his plans too.

Big News for Local Biz

Martek Biosciences and New Generation Biofuels both have their corporate headquarters in Columbia, and both have good news to report lately.

According to this article by Gus Sentementes in The Sun last week, Martek announced that it “will pay $200 million for a consumer health and wellness product company that will for the first time help give their products a direct pipeline to store shelves.”

Up until now, Martek’s DHA Omega-3 fatty acid algae product has only been available as an added ingredient in other’s products like Beech-Nut baby foods and Crisco oils. The acquisition of Amerifit Brands will provide the company “an opportunity to develop and market consumer brands for supplemental products of theirs that are currently in research and development.”

"This new capability will enable Martek to move up the value chain by getting closer to the consumer, and should result in increased revenue and gross profit opportunities," Steve Dubin, Martek's chief executive officer, said in a statement.”

The company is already in the process of expanding their offices on Dobbin Road.

New Generation Biofuels also got some good news earlier this month when a test of their plant based biofuel at Washington College in Chestertown was deemed a success. According to a college press release the test “indicated a reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions by 51% compared to the #2 heating oil. There are no carbon monoxide or sulphur emissions from the biofuel. The biofuel is plant-oil based and can be washed up with soap and water.”

Since January of 2006 the school has embarked on a George Goes Green initiative for environmental “stewardship and sustainability.”

Nicely done.

First and Goal!

The New City Alliance has awakened a new generation of community activists in Columbia and Howard County. In just a few short months this nascent Columbia advocacy group has energized a significant number of residents to take a more active role in their community. They have played a major role in the public hearings and debate over General Growth’s Properties proposed redevelopment of Columbia Town Center.

The Howard County Council s now just one week away from a final vote on the enabling legislation, CB 58 and CB 59, that will clear the way for these plans to become a reality. Though some prognosticators have already weighed in on the likely result of the final vote, nothing is ever certain in politics. For that reason, the NCA is hosting an event at the Tomato Palace restaurant in Columbia Town Center tomorrow from 5 PM to 7:30 PM to rally the troops for the final push. You can find more information about the event here.

It’s a good way to meet with others who share a desire to see Columbia finally realize its potential as a showcase for innovative community planning and to show your support for the political leaders who will make it happen.

All are welcome.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Just Chillin’

It’s a perfect day for a pot of chili. There’s no better way in my mind to ward off a dreary January Sunday than NFL Championship Games, a pot of chili cooking away at the stove, and a good dog at my feet.

While I await to put the final touches the chili I thought I’d check in and share a few things I’ve picked up over the past few days. Over on the Explore Howard website, an article by Sarah Breitenbach entitled “Public hearing on Columbia’s future draws large crowd” has generated 36 comments so far. Of course there are duplicates but that’s still a pretty good dialogue they got going on there. I love the commenter names: belovedcartoonmouse, citizentaxpayerjane, commonsenseplease, wildelakemike.

Good stuff.

There’s a little donnybrook going on over on the HCCA listerv too. It seems as if Mary Pivar and Barbara Russell are having a problem with housing activist, Roy Appletree. It’s kind of like watching a family fight.

Then again I stirred up a little dust with my own post about Senator Kittleman and eastern shore chicken houses. This time around it’s the Republic loyalists who are questioning my “independent” credentials. That’s good. Every once in awhile I like to go up to a Dem and say “See. They think I’m one of you!”

It usually gets a laugh.

Time feed the dog and tend to chili…more news later perhaps.

Go Jets!

Ellicott City 5K

Yesterday, when I popped into the Little French Market in Ellicott City to satisfy my daily java fix, K2 told me about a five kilometer run that she and other local merchants were organizing for this spring.

The run will be held on the second Saturday in April, April 10th, presumably followed by another Second Sunday Market the next day. The course begins at Parking Lot C just below St. Paul’s Church and continues up New Cut Road to Hillsborough. At that point the runners will cut through Taylor Village to College Avenue and then back down to Lot C.

This is a very hilly but also very pretty route. I happen to think that New Cut Road is one of the most picturesque roads in the county. This may help take a runners mind off the fact that for about two thirds of this course they’ll be running uphill. Thankfully, the home stretch is all downhill.

This could be a great warm up race for those planning on running in Clyde’s 32nd Annual American 10K the following weekend (April 18th).

I’ll provide more details on this run as they become available in the coming weeks.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fowling Up

Yesterday, State Senate Minority Leader, Allan Kittleman was our guest on “and then there’s that…”. He spoke about the frustration of being in the minority party and trying to get the state to spend within its means. He believes that any tax increase only serves to enable a state government that can’t seem to stop growing.

I like his fiscal conservatism. I also like his attitude towards private business as demonstrated by his opposition to the initiative by his fellow lawmakers, Delegates Guy Guzzone and Warren Miller, to limit liquor licenses in Howard County.

Then he started talking about chicken houses on the eastern shore. He said that 50 chicken houses were waiting to be built on the eastern shore but were being held up by state regulations. This, he exclaimed, was just another example of government getting in the way of business and new jobs.

The chicken business is a pretty dirty business. According to this article by Peter S. Goodman in The Washington Post, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that “Poultry on the lower shore sends more than four times as much nitrogen into the bay as the biggest nonagricultural source – leaky septic tanks and runoff from developed areas – and more than three times as much phosphorus as the second-largest nonfarm source, sewage treatment plants.”

The PBS Program Frontline reported that “Half the pollution flowing into Chesapeake Bay is estimated to come from agriculture. And one concern is chicken farms on the Delmarva Peninsula. In 2008, these farms produced 1.5 billion pounds of manure -- more than the annual human waste of New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Atlanta combined.”

So why does the Senate Minority Leader feel compelled to promote the construction of fifty more chicken houses to add to the over 6,000 chicken houses already operating on the Delmarva peninsula?

I don’t know but it certainly doesn’t help his green credentials.

I like it when my government is focused on cleaning up the bay. I happen to think that this is exactly what the government should be doing.

I also realize that the poultry industry has a vested interest in playing down the waste problem in their industry. They lobby hard to get local pols to see their side.

Unfortunately I gave Allan a pass on this during our show. I made some pun about it being a fowl deal and we moved on. I regret that now. I’ll try not to let that happen again.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Chicken Coops, Disney Moms and Birthdays

Paul Skalny and I wrapped up our sixth episode of “and then there’s that…” on HoCoMoJo this afternoon. Our guest was Senate Minority Leader and former county councilman, Allan Kittleman. The topics ranged from the story of the guy who’s visited Disney World over 100 times to chicken houses on the eastern shore.

Needless to say that Allan had a good deal to say about Governor O’Malley’s proposed budget that even the The Sun has described as being put together with “chewing gum and baling wire.”

Our timing for this show worked out pretty well with the assembly in session and a prevailing sense of a Republican surge both locally and nationally.

Since tomorrow is Ilana Bittners birthday we decided to have a little fun with birthdays and anniversaries as well. Ilana is a social media maven who also happens to be the spouse of our producer, Dave Bittner and our next guest on February 5th. I know it sounds a little incestuous having her on the show but if you’ve ever heard her talk about harnessing the power of social networking you’ll understand why we thought she’d make a fun guest.

And speaking of incestuous, we also had a brief visit with fellow HoCoMoJo podcaster, Mike Morucci.

The Village Elder and Social Media

Mary Pivar is a self described “respected Village Elder, with 30 years teaching experience…” She wants us to know this in order to add weight to her suggestions for a new social media curriculum for the Howard County Public School System.

After reading her manifesto one could get the impression that Elder Mary isn’t too keen on facebook, blogs, websites, and “Websites allowing responses.”

God forbid.

Elder Mary believes that “in this era of instant "communication" truth is at greater risk, because "bullet speak" is the language of advertising, not thoughtfulness. Instead of in-depth of reporting, be it TV "news", internet whatevers, or print media, the "sound bite" is often the beginning, middle and end.”

Internet whatevers?

There’s more so lest this blog be caught up short by not being thoughtful, here is the link to the complete “extension of issues” message from your “respected village elder”. As Hillary Clinton once said, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Architecture 5 ₵

Photo by Michael Hanson for The New York Times
It is sometimes said that necessity is the mother of invention and that adversity breeds innovation. These thoughts occurred to me when I read this story by Kristina Shevory in The New York Times today. The unemployed architect who set up a booth in a farmers market in Seattle offering architectural advice for a nickel was able to parlay that nickel into a new career direction.

“Last year, he made more than $50,000 — the highest salary he ever made working for someone else — and he expects to do even better this year.”

It just goes to show that getting out and doing something will always trump sitting around and doing nothing while waiting for something to happen.

Technical Difficulties

Some readers have noticed that the “Talk to Me” widget in the right hand column of the blog has been dysfunctional lately. Actually, it’s more than that. The bloody thing just doesn’t seem to work like it used to. It’s driving me nuts.

I tried reinstalling the widget and even tried using a different widget to no avail. The only recent comment widget that seems to work is the one that is part of blogger. I really don’t like this one because it doesn’t show the post title or the date and time of the comment.

It works though so for now I’ll use it. Perhaps one of these days I can offer a cup of coffee to a widget wizard to help me get this straightened out. Until then I apologize for the inconvenience.

The 1,000th Blog Post

This is the thousandth blog post on Tales of Two Cities. I’m actually sort of ambivalent about the number. About three years ago, commenter’s on this post (post no. 45), encouraged me to post more often. So I did.

Still, I suppose it would be appropriate to write a significant post to mark the occasion, not just a link to this or that with some biting remarks thrown in. This moment calls for a real honest to god original piece of writing about local stuff.

So here is my prediction for the vote on CB58 and CB59, the Columbia Town Center redevelopment enabling legislation. It will pass. The vote will be 4 to 1 in favor. Councilperson Jen Terrasa will cast the only vote in opposition and here’s why. Jen is facing a formidable challenger in her bid for reelection. Though her district does include a piece of Columbia it is largely dominated by the folks living in Savage and North Laurel. Those people have never been crazy about Columbia in the first place so they could likely care less whether it passes or not. In the meantime she stands to gain points with the anti development crowd that will cross party lines in a heartbeat. Besides, she knows it will pass without her vote anyway so she can always wink to the pro growth forces that she isn’t really anti growth.

The deliberations began with two councilpersons already pretty much on board. Mary Kay Sigaty even sponsored the legislation, much to the dismay of Liz Bobo and her antigrowth cabal. Calvin Ball is the other early adapter. He gets the linkage of a healthy Town Center to a healthy Oakland Mills. Ironically, Calvin and the mother of the anti growth movement, Barbara Russell, are practically neighbors.

That leaves Courtney Watson and Greg Fox. Greg has to keep an eye on his restless constituents out in west county who have had held contempt for anything Columbia ever since Jim Rouse first walked into the county courthouse on October 29, 1963. In the end he’ll support it because he’s a Republican. This is good for jobs and growth of the commercial tax base in the county, a key for keeping taxes lower. Courtney is skeptical but she realizes that this plan is about as good as anyone can expect and to delay this any longer isn’t likely to make it incrementally any better. She’ll vote in favor.

So there ya go, my 1,000th blog post. Now we can move on.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Book of Bobs: Chapter 1

We received a nice assignment in our office the other day. Boylston Realty Advisors hired us to help them find locations for Bob’s Discount Furniture in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Boylston is the exclusive representative of the New England based furniture chain.

Never heard of them?

In 2008 Bob’s was named furniture retailer of the year by Furniture Today magazine.

When we began talking about this assignment back in the fall there appeared to be plenty of choices when it came to prime locations. Expo Design Center, Circuit City, Linens and Things, Comp USA, to name a few, have all vacated big box stores in good locations over the past two years. There would seem to ample inventory.

Looks can sometimes be deceiving in commercial real estate. Just because a building appears to be vacant doesn’t always mean that no one is paying the rent. Home Depot, for example, continues to foot the bill for many of it’s now shuttered Expo Design Centers, including the one in Columbia, with years remaining on leases. Sometimes a retailer will hold on to a good location while it contemplates other potential uses for the real estate.

On the other hand, if the retailer went bankrupt like Circuit City, it’s a horse of another color. There are choices in prime locations but the retail landscape in the Washington, DC metropolitan area is anything but bleak. Since the beginning of the year there has been a marked increase in retail activity. One active party has been hhgregg, a Best Buy competitor. They recently leased a 350,000 square foot warehouse in Prince Georges County to service new the stores they are scouting out in the area.

Bob’s leased a 679,000 square foot warehouse in Hartford County last month. The Hartco politicos will be making a big announcement about that tonight in Annapolis.

These are all good signs of a rebounding local economy.

As much as the client will allow, I’ll write an occasional post about the assignment. Since it’s an assignment that will take us all over the region it will provide an opportunity to gauge the state of growth and development all over the Baltimore and Washington, DC area.

I’ll title it the Book of Bobs.

Petition Peddlers Preparing for Push

If the Howard County Council passes the Columbia Town Center redevelopment legislation on February 1st as is widely expected, the opponents are preparing to launch a petition drive in an attempt to overturn that decision by referendum.

Despite the incessant caterwauling by the same folks about the injustice of the rules governing referendum petitions, these anti development activists are so dead set on derailing General Growth’s plans that they are willing to try once more to enlist this process to get their way.

Though much has been made of the stringent requirements for petition signatures, the hurdle is still relatively low. All that is required is 5,000 signatures of registered voters in Howard County to subject this legislation to referendum.

Even if they are ultimately unsuccessful at the ballot box, they will have prevailed by creating even further delay in the process.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Donuts to Dollars

The former Krispy Kreme donut shop on Snowden River Parkway is being transformed from making dough to saving and loaning dough. The State Employees Credit Union or SECU, will be the new occupant of this standalone building next to Red Robin in Columbia.

Graffiti Attacks on Dobbin Escalating

Over the past year the amount of graffiti in the Dobbin Road area of Columbia has increased substantially. First it was limited to less visible locations along the pathways but now the urban artists are blatantly defacing buildings and now even vehicles.

This stuff is getting out of hand.

Monday, January 18, 2010

HoCo Politicos in the News

As this years general assembly begins it’s second week, hoco politicos are stirring up a little dust and attracting a little ink down in 21401.

Predictably, referendum reform has generated bipartisan election year backing from the county delegation. At least they all say they want reform anyway. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun, “all three county state senators and three delegates, including Democrats Guy Guzzone and Bobo and Republican Warren E. Miller, said they support the idea of loosening the rules to prevent technicalities from eliminating valid signatures, though no specific bill has emerged.”

The devil is in the details so they say.

Of course some state lawmakers have a pretty clear idea of what they’d like to see in a bill. Liz Bobo wants any reform to be retroactive. Marc Norman likes this idea.

Senator Allan Kittleman is also in the news today. In this story by Annie Linsky in The Sun the Senator from western Howard County lambasted the O’Malley administration and their stewardship of the budget.

"They are trying to use smoke and mirrors and Band-Aids to get through this year," said Senate Minority Leader Allan H. Kittleman, a Howard County Republican. "Next year," he predicted, "they will have to have the highest tax increase in the history of Maryland."

I hope he’s wrong.

I will get a chance to chat with him about that and other stuff this week though. He will be our guest on “and then there’s that…” this Friday at the Lakeside café in Town Center.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Will Kimco Get It?

The nasty weather today was good for Barnes & Noble in Ellicott City. I dropped in around four this afternoon, between games, to grab a map of Northern Virginia. The place was packed. After an unsuccessful search in the map section I worked my away around to the café. A hot cup of fresh coffee was very much on my to do list.
The line was too much for this old dog and, coupled with the fact that I still needed to find the map, I booked. I exited the store and considered my next move. I was parked about 20 feet way. I could also see the Staples store across the sea of surface parking. It really wasn’t that much of a walk even on a nasty day.

Better yet. Next to the Staples store is a Safeway, with a Starbucks. I set off on foot.

I should note here that I was walking across a Kimco shopping center. From the looks of things I’d have to say it’s a pretty successful Kimco shopping center. There is one major vacancy from a shuttered Linens and Things but otherwise it’s full. What it isn’t is pedestrian friendly. The walk from the Barnes & Noble to Safeway is all street and no sidewalk. There isn’t even a crosswalk linking the standalone book shop to the rest of the shopping center.

Granted, Kimco didn’t develop Long Gate Shopping Center. Still, they’ve owned it for over six years so you’d think they might have noticed the lack of connectivity by now. Apparrently not.

That’s a little disconcerting considering that these are the same folks who will be laying out a plan for redeveloping Columbia’s iconic Wilde Lake Village Green. Sure, these are different properties; Long Gate is four times larger than Wilde Lake and nobody is proposing putting residential units in Long Gate…yet.

Not all developers are equal. There are varying levels of competencies and areas of expertise. I’m starting to question whether Kimco really gets it in Columbia. In this article by Larry Carson in The Sun today, Kimcos project director, Geoff Glazer actually blamed the proposed Town Center redevelopment program for his lack of success at Wilde Lake

"The downtown is clearly my competition. I've got to clearly separate myself from what downtown is," to entice merchants, Glazer told about 200 residents at a meeting Monday night at Slayton House. "

You think it might be a better idea to embrace the Town Center plan and think how you might best capitalize on that instead?

For everyone’s sake I hope they figure it out. If they don’t, it will take a lot longer than two years before anything significant occurs at Wilde Lake.

And by the way, I noticed today that the wifi at Barnes & Noble is now free. Wasn’t always so. Nicely done.

Delay of Game

Last year, when the legislation for the redevelopment of Columbia’s village center was being debated, certian citizen activists lobbied hard for a process that would insure that every special interest group in the community would have a voice in the process.

They largely succeeded and now some residents are largely unhappy with the result. The first implementation of this new process has begun with Columbia’s first village center, Wilde Lake. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun today, participants in a recent community meeting with Kimco required by the legislation “expressed impatience and confusion.”

The owner of the Crown service station in Wilde Lake, Jeff Kamala gave voice to the frustration over the process, “Meetings are fine, but when are they going to do something?"

The answer is not anytime soon. It is highly likely that nothing will happen at Wilde Lake for at least another year.

“Under the law, Kimco will now produce a proposal and present it publicly in March or April. Two more community meetings are required before that plan can be submitted to the county government for review. Once county planners weigh in on it, it goes before the Planning Board for hearings and a recommendation, and then ultimately to the Zoning Board for hearings and a final decision. Since the Zoning Board, composed of County Council members, typically does not hold sessions in the latter part of an election year, such as 2010, that too could delay things.”

Some of the activists who created this lengthily process are also those calling for a delay in the Town Center redevelopment process. They often ask what the rush is and insist that they are not anti development.

That may be true but I believe the many in the community are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of tangible progress in Columbia as other communities in the region move forward.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Happy Hour

My definition of a great January weekend is being with friends and watching the football playoffs. Having a team in the hunt just makes it all that much better. All across Howard County football fans are hunkering down for a full weekend of gridiron action.

It’s good for the local watering holes too. The sports bars were conceived for weekends like this. Jilly’s, Sonoma’s, Looney’s , Green Turtle, Stained Glass Pub, Champps will all be packed with boisterous fans.

It won’t be just the sports either. The bars at Clyde’s and Victoria will likely be two deep tonight as well.
The front line soldiers like Alex Taylor of Victoria are ready to take your order.

Go Ravens!

Friday, January 15, 2010

In the Hot Seat

Last fall, when the temperature first started dipping down in the fifties, I remembered thinking it was getting cold. Today, when the mercury climbed to the mid fifties, it felt like spring.

I also discovered that the heated seat function on my car seat has failed. It won’t turn off. This wasn’t a problem for the past few weeks but now it’s a little discomforting.

Another Voice of Reason

I was heartened by this editorial in The Howard County Times this week that questions the wisdom of the legislative effort by Delegates Guy Guzzone and Warren Miller to limit liquor store competition in Howard County.

“The beverage association, of course, has an interest in keeping a lid on the number of licenses. Its members get enough competition from each other and would rather not see more. That's understandable, but hardly a reason to pass legislation.

More competition would benefit consumers of beer, wine and liquor, though, and that's reason enough to be skeptical of this bill.”

When this bipartisan effort was launched by Guzzone and Miller back in November, they tried to spin it as a way to help curb underage drinking. The truth is that the licensed beverage lobby is a powerful political force in this state and it looks like they have Guzzone and Miller in their pockets to help them limit competition.

Airport for Sale

According to this story by PK Semler and Charls Rice in The Financial Times, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport may be offered for sale. At a cyber security summit at the National Institute of Standards, Governor Martin O’Malley said “the state is still open to acquisition offers for Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI). The state also would consider the possibility of an IPO…”

This isn’t the first time that a sale of the state owned airport has been discussed but it is the first time I’ve heard of the possibility of a public stock offering.

"Maryland could also be interested in taking its stake in the airport public, with the aim of it being sold to a private company, said O’Malley. This strategy has been used with success in Poland, as it allows for a more accurate public valuation of the stake."

This doesn’t seem to make sense. I believe that the airport actually makes money for the state. Why sell off a good performing asset at a time when the state is looking for new sources of revenue?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Whither Ken?

As the Howard County Council moves towards a final vote on the enabling legislation (CB 58 & CB 59) for the redevelopment of Columbia Town Center in just over two weeks from now, some have noted that Ken Ulman, the county executive, has been uncharacteristically silent on the subject.

Though Ken was an early advocate for creating a new master plan to guide the Town Center redevelopment process, he is also on record as having said that 5,500 residential units in Town Center is “ludicrous.”

To be fair, he did say before the completed plan was fully worked out and presented to the county.

But lately he has barely uttered a word of support for the legislation. What’s up with that?

True, he may be showing his respect for the council by staying out of the middle of their deliberations, but on the other hand that never stopped him from cheerleading for Healthy Howard funding or anything else he’s really wanted.

It sure would be nice to know where he stands on this

The Stanford Grill to Open in March

As originally reported here back in August, the former Lone Star restaurant on Stanford Boulevard in Columbia is undergoing a major renovation to transform the establishment from a family steakhouse to a business casual bar and restaurant similar to Houston’s. The Sanford Grill will be a “chef driven” restaurant meant to compete with Clyde’s and Victoria Gastro Pub.

The new restaurant is locally owned by a group of business people who also recently purchased the franchise rights to the Red Rock Canyon Grill. They are in the process of rebranding that chain to the Copper Canyon Grill. My sources tell me that the Columbia location will be a little more upscale than these restaurants.

The Stanford Grill is expected to open in mid March.

Scene This Week In...

It’s been awhile since I changed the scene this week pictures so I figured that it being the New Year and all I really should be getting on with this.

My Ellicott City inspiration came from this handmade poster taped to a street sign. They popped up all over my neighborhood in the past couple of weeks. It occurred to me that school redistricting is probably a hotter local topic than the Columbia Town Center redevelopment plans. People can get pretty emotional about where their kids go to school.
I’m tempted to say it’s all good. According to this story by Liz Bowie in The Sun today, Maryland public schools have been recognized by Education Week magazine as “No. 1 among states in the nation for school achievement and educational policies…”

“Education Week gave Maryland a B-plus, far above the national average of a C. New York ranked second and Massachusetts third in the survey; Nevada, Nebraska and the District of Columbia did particularly poorly. The survey looks at numerous factors, including student achievement on national tests, how well schools are financed, what state policies are in place and the overall chances a child has of success in school while living in a particular state.”

Nicely done.
I took a little editorial license this time around and instead of a Columbia scene I picked an Annapolis Junction scene this week. When I spotted this sign at the intersection of Dorsey Run Road and Guilford Road I knew I had my picture. The visual was just too good.

It is appropriate to focus a little attention on Annapolis Junction once in awhile. This little corner of Howard County has become ground zero in the burgeoning cyber security business.

I’m not sure how to interpret this sign though. I think I’ll leave that up to reader.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Arbitron CEO Ousted for Lying

The president and chief executive officer of Columbia based Arbitron, Inc. has resigned after lying to Congress. According to this story by Darrell A. Hughes and Joann S. Lublin in the Wall Street Journal, Michael Skarzynski stepped down after admitting to making a “false statement made in his testimony before a U.S. congressional committee last month…”

Don’t feel too bad for Mr. Skarzynski though. He still walks away with a pretty sweet severance package.

“In a regulatory filing Tuesday, Arbitron disclosed an exit package for Mr. Skarzynski that includes $750,000 cash and forgiveness of about $125,000 in relocation costs that he otherwise would have had to repay.”

Not bad after only being in the job for a year.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rocky Run to Wild Wings

The word on the street is that Buffalo Wild Wings is negotiating to take over the former Rocky Run restaurant space on Dobbin Road. Rocky Run has been closed since August of 2008.

The source of this rumor is the same source who once told me that Potbelly would take over the former Atlanta Bread Company space on McGaw Road. I wondered what had happened to that deal. It turns out that Atlanta Bread Company is still paying rent on the vacated store and still has a few years of lease term remaining so the landlord isn’t exactly motivated to replace them with just any retailer. They have the luxury of waiting for “the right deal,” whatever that is.

Tales in 2009 Top Ten

The political blog, Maryland Politics Watch, put up a post yesterday about the increasing popularity of local blogs in Maryland in 2009. “The 41 state and local blogs that release statistics reported a combined 50% increase in traffic.”

“The dominant blogdom trend of 2009 is the rapid growth of liberal and local blogs compared to the stagnation of conservative blogs. That is an oversimplification since some blogs in the former two categories died, while PG Politics reported strong growth and Kevin Dayhoff Soundtrack broke into the top five from a December 2008 start. Still, the lack of growth from the right wing blogosphere despite the rise of the Tea Party movement should be disheartening to Maryland conservatives.”

I wasn’t really all that surprised that Tales of Two Cities ended the year in the top ten. Back in May of last year we were already made it on to the MPW local blog radar.

Thanks to all the readers and visitors who contributed to that growth.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Where’s the Fire?

There’s an old joke about a policeman who pulls over a guy for speeding. The cop asks the driver “Where’s the fire buddy?”

The driver replies, “In your eyes officer.”

I thought of that joke when I came across a new Howard County Blog called Howard Fire, the unofficial Howard County fire blog.

I’m not sure who’s behind it but they do seem to be in the know on the activities of our local firefighters. Whoever they are they could easily be the hottest blogger in the county.

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. In any event, welcome.

Update: 1:53 PM: Thanks to an anonymous commenter I now realize that I missed the blog authors name when I wrote the initial post. Welcome Doug!

Colonial Real Estate Deal

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The proposed Oxford Square development in Elkridge would make use of an easement extending O’Connor Drive that was granted in 1749 in order to connect the property to the Dorsey MARC station on the opposite side of MD Route 100 from the project.

That’s right 1749.

There is actually quite a bit of history in this little corner of Howard and Anne Arundel counties. About five years ago I was working with a client who was considering purchasing a parcel of land across from the Timbuktu restaurant. When we walked the property the seller informed us that the site was once a quarry and foundry that made bullets during the Revolutionary War.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Density Deal Part Two

As I previously wrote in this post, the proposed increase in residential density in Columbia Town Center would be significantly less than the residential density being encouraged in the Route 1 corridor. In this story by Larry Carson in The Sun today, Alan Klein, the spokesperson for CoFoCoDo, argues that the higher density for the Route 1 corridor makes perfect sense.

"It makes sense. Those areas are closer to transit," Klein said.”


Route 1 is a four lane road with signaled controlled intersections. Columbia Town Center is bordered by a four lane divided highway with grade separated interchanges to the north and south. While it is true that there are two MARC rail stations in the Route 1 corridor there isn’t much in the way of offices and retail stores compared to Columbia Town Center. People don’t use MARC trains to go to the store or the doctors office. The number of commuters using the trains isn’t statistically significant either. Howard County has actually seen a decrease in the net outflow of commuters in recent years as more jobs have been created locally. This substantially reduces the significance of the MARC stations in any density debate and once again points to the lack of substance in CoFoCoDo’s case against General Growth Properties proposed redevelopment for Columbia’s Town Center.

If they were truly honest with themselves, the so called Coalition for Columbia’s Downtown should change their name to Coalition against Columbia’s Downtown.

Licensed Beverage Dealers vs Their Customers

The licensed beverage dealers are really on the warpath against their customers. Don’t get me wrong here. I am no teetotaler. I regularly patronize our local bars and liquor stores. Lately though, they just haven’t been returning the favor.

First there was the initiative to limit the number of liquor store licenses in the county. With Delegates Guy Guzzone and Warren Miller in their pockets, the local liquor store owners are trying to sell the idea that this will help curb underage drinking. Nice try. The only thing that this law will do is limit consumer choice by protecting the existing liquor stores from future competition. Anyone who believes that this will actually curb underage drinking is completely delusional.

To add insult to injury, the licensed beverage dealers are also unwilling to bear a fair share of the state tax burden. Maryland liquor stores, bars and restaurants enjoy one on the lowest liquor excise taxes in the United States. The U.S. median liquor excise tax is $3.75 per gallon. In Maryland it’s $1.50 per gallon. If the state would increase this tax by just a dime it would still be among the lowest in the country yet it would raise $214 million in much needed state revenue. Our Delegates who seem to care so much about underage drinking don’t support this idea though.

The bars and restaurants that we all support claim that this dime increase would hurt their businesses in these trying economic times. I seem to recall that they made the same claim about the smoking ban a few years back and that doesn’t seem to have had an overly adverse effect on the bars and restaurants I frequent.

So far the only local state lawmaker to come out in support of increasing the liquor tax is Liz Bobo. It’s ironic that she is the only one who so far has the balls to stand up against the powerful liquor lobby in Maryland.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Bad News on Good Ribs

Mama Wordbones and I like the baby back ribs from Outback Steakhouse in Ellicott City. As far as we are concerned they are the best restaurant ribs in our area. I realize that this isn’t the healthiest dish but I didn’t realize just how unhealthy these tasty ribs were. According to this article by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding in the latest issue of Men’s Health magazine, “Outback's ribs have more calories than 15 Krispy Kreme Original doughnuts and more saturated fat than you should consume in 4 days. We've declared the dish one of the worst foods in America.”


Seeing as I already have a bit of a health issue there will be no more Outback baby back ribs for this old dog. The good news is that the article included a recipe for preparing your own delicious ribs at home.

Friday, January 08, 2010

It’s a Wrap

Paul Skalny and I finished up our fifth installment of “And Then There’s That” this afternoon. Our guest this week was Gary Arthur, the Director of Howard County’s Department of Recreation and Parks.

Gary and his department have been in the news quite a bit lately with the opening of the Meadowbrook Athletic Center in Meadowbrook Park in Ellicott City, the debate over the Centennial Park Skate Spot and the planned tennis complex in Troy Hill Park. We thought it might be interesting to get his perspective on these and other issues on a county department that touches so much of our lives.

He was a great guest and it was fun to get back to Lakeside where we left off before the holidays.

Our next show will be on January 22nd and our guest will be Senator Allan Kittleman, the minority leader in the Maryland General Assembly.

You can listen to the latest podcast here.

A Misinterpreted Gesture?

In a letter to the editor in the Columbia Flier this week, former Columbia Council Representative and an outspoken opponent of any change in Columbia, Babs Russell, wrote that while sitting in her car at The Mall this past holiday season that “My thoughts were interrupted by the honking horn of a car whose driver thought I was getting ready to leave my parking space. The hand gesture I received from that driver as I exited my car was not at all in the holiday spirit.”

A friend of mine pointed out that maybe the hand gesture wasn’t really about a parking space.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Density Deal Part One

An argument is being made that General Growth Properties would be granted an exceptional amount of residential density in their proposed redevelopment plans for Columbia Town Center. Some argue that this bonus should be paid for by providing a larger share of affordable housing than what is required under the county’s Moderate Income Housing Unit Program (MIHU) which ranges from 10% to 15% of a residential development.

The truth is that the density that GGP is requesting is actually lower than the density the county is promoting along the Route 1 corridor in the newly created Transit Oriented Development Districts (TOD) and Corridor Activity Center (CAC) Districts. Both of these districts allow for a density of 25 residential units per acre while the 5,500 proposed residential units for Columbia Town Center works out to only15.8 residential units per acre.

If the CAC and TOD districts are only being held to the 15% moderate housing allocation why do affordable housing advocates think that Town Center, with it’s lower density allowance, think GGP is getting some kind of bonus?

One Dog Down

The senior member of our Old Dogs Club passed on yesterday. It was a very sad day in our home. Lucky turned 14 this month. There is a hole in our hearts. She will be missed.

Winter can be pretty rough on old people and old dogs.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

In This Months Business Monthly

My column in the latest issue of The Business Monthly is actually an expansion of this post I wrote back in October. The current debate over what a redeveloped village center in Columbia should look like seems to have stirred a longing in some for the Columbia days of yore.

Those days were special but they are also over, way over. Columbia in 1969 was a community of less than 10,000 people that was largely composed of young families. Columbia of 2010 is almost ten times larger, with a broader demographic spectrum.

Trying to go back and recreate what existed forty years ago may be nostalgic but it isn’t a good business strategy for moving forward.

You can read this month’s column here.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

I know, its January and that's what we get in January around here. Still, coming off a fairly mild winter last year, the cold this year just seems a bit extreme. I don’t mind the snow so much but the persistent chill is really getting to me.

It’s not going to let up anytime soon either. According to this story by Frank D. Roylance in The Sun yesterday, “there is plenty more bitter cold weather ahead, putting more pressure on heating bills and on the city's cold-weather shelters.”

"The real big story this week is going to be the cold," said Steve Zubrick, science and operations officer for the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. "We really don't lose this cold air any time soon. I see it through a week from now. And I think in the 8- to 14-day forecast we're still below normal."

At our house the dogs don’t even want to go out in this cold air.

The only thing I take some comfort in is the fact that the arctic chill extends to Florida. Friends who head south for the winter months and in past winters have relished telling us how warm it is down there are strangely silent right now. Two of my colleagues are currently in Key Largo where the temperature isn’t expected to go above 60 today. That’s a little to chilly for lounging by the pool.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Competitive Landscape

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I had lunch with Tim Sosinski yesterday to talk about his push for “full spectrum” housing in Columbia Town Center. Tim believes that the affordable housing component of General Growths Town Center redevelopment plans does not go far enough to address the real housing needs in Howard County. He would like to see the company do more.

I like Tim. He is smart and passionate about his cause. I also agree with him that the need exists to provide housing for all segments of our population. We just disagree on how to get there.

The redevelopment program for Columbia Town Center will face some formidable competition from other area mixed used developments that are not being asked to do what he’d like GGP to do. In my opinion, if the county forces GGP to increase the proportion of affordable housing in Town Center beyond what is proposed, it will put the project at a competitive disadvantage. This project does not exist in a vacuum.

What exactly does the competitive landscape look like?

Here’s a quick summary:

Aerotropolis at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport: A 10 million square foot development that includes Merritt Properties, Heffner Weber, Liberty Property Trust and Archon that is underway in the Stony Run area west of the airport. It will include office, retail, hotels and multifamily housing.

Arundel Preserve: A 268 mixed used development by Somerset Construction that includes 2 million square feet of office space, 250,000 square feet of retail space, 47 single family homes, 390 townhomes and 738 apartments. It is located along the Baltimore Washington Parkway near Arundel Mills mall.

Buckingham: A 32 acre mixed use development by Merritt Properties at Route 100 and Telegraph Road.

Arundel Gateway: A 300 acre mixed use development by Ribera Development and Greenberg Gibbons Commercial on Route 198 just outside Fort Meade.

Odenton Town Center: A 1,600 acre mixed used development on the east side of Fort Meade that includes office development by Capital CREAG and residential development by the Halle Companies and Stonebridge Carras.

Konterra Town Center: A 741 acre mixed use development in Laurel by Konterra Realty. This project will include 1,500,000 square feet of retail, 3,800,000 square feet of office space, and 4,500 residential units.

Maple Lawn: A 600 acre mixed use development by Greenebaum & Rose at the intersection of Route 29 and Route 216. The project will include 1,300 homes and 1.8 million square feet of commercial space.

Northrop Grumman Moving East

According to this front page story by Dana Hedgpeth and Thomas Heath in The Washington Post this morning, Northrop Grumman “plans to move its corporate headquarters from Los Angeles to the Washington area by 2011, solidifying the growing importance of Washington as a center for the defense industry and other businesses.”

As I said before, compared to most parts of the country, we have it good.

No doubt Dick Story and his team are working hard to entice this corporate plum to Howard County. The competition with DC and Virginia will be intense, not to mention the competition from other Maryland jurisdictions.

Still, Howard County offers an active option to Northrop Grumman. Not only is Howard County close to an important customer at Fort Meade, it also has the best public school system in the state and compared to Montgomery County at least, our housing costs are much more reasonable.

Sadly, Columbia Town Center is not likely to be among the sites that the company would consider. The master plan is still awaiting approval and it would likely be 2012 before any new building would be ready to accommodate them even if it does get approved. This is yet another reason why this plan needs to be approved now, not later as some critics would prefer.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Visioning Town Center

This past weekend Mama Wordbones took a road trip down to check out the National Harbor mixed use development in Prince Georges County along the Potomac River. It gave us a pretty good feel for what a high density new urban development feels like.

This is a photo taken of Waterfront Street in National Harbor. It shows a mix of office, residential and retail buildings looking down Waterfront Street from the intersection of Mariner Passage. On the right side is an eight story, 184 room aloft Hotel, a seven story condominium building, and a five story, 60,000 square foot office building. Each building has street level retail space that includes retailers like South Moon Under and restaurants such as Ketchup. On the left side of the street is a three story office building and a five story condominium building. These buildings also have ground level retail and restaurants.

I believe this is a pretty good “real life” representation of what General Growth Properties envisions for Columbia Town Center. We definitely liked what we saw.