Howard County Blog

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Coalition for Columbia's Downtown

The Coalition for Columbia's Downtown has put their position paper their website. I encourage you to read it. Its goal is to move the plan for downtown forward, so I encourage everyone to read it. I have a feeling that we will be having a lot of discussion on this subject in the next couple months and I hope we can use this document as a way to move the process forward. Let's start on a positive note: What elements of this paper do you like? Can we first define where we are in agreement, so we can see what needs further discussion?


Anonymous numbers.girl said...

Positive note? I liked that CCD wanted to preserve the grassy knoll between the American City Bldg and the amphitheater.

The rest?

My first comment and question is: how does CCD plan to pay for all of this?

So far, I see:
* free shuttle service
* low cost bus routes across HoCo and to B/W areas
* free parking
* benches at the lake
* improvements to already-developed parcels (i.e. pedestrian walkways, promenades, etc.)
* an events and destinations coordinator with a substantial budget
* “incentives” (I’m guessing financial in nature) for green enhancements to existing facilities

All this, AND CCD wants:
* CA's financial contribution to be minimal (no $)
* increase density by only 1600 units (less $)
* decrease the buildable area of parcels by 20% (less $)

Where does the money come from to pay all this? If you are increasing all of the costs AND decreasing the possibility for profit, how do you manage to pay for this?

Rouse was a developer. He was profit-driven. He just chose to do so in a socially-motivated approach. I don't see any profitable elements to the CCD plan.

Secondly, an underground parking facility in the middle of a giant circle at LPP and South Entrance? Cultural facilities on the perimeter? The perimeter at this point is the library, the IKON building, and Symphony Woods. To create such a structure, you'd lose part of Symphony Woods and have to evict Ikon and the tenants (mostly small businesses) in favor of galleries and arts spaces. Which most likely CCD will want to be free-of-charge.

Those are just my first two impressions. I haven’t got all day to type, or I’d keep going…

I’m not impressed with the recommendations at this point. A very poor business plan, at best. A community development disaster at worst.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Dave Glaser said...

I am a supporter of CCD for two main reasons: the lack of affordable housing in Columbia and the fact that once the weather gets cold, downtown is pretty sterile.

These are the two aspects of the original vision that need attention most.

Also, to those bloggers signing up as "anonymous": please use your name or make one up. Then we'll have a shot at knowing who we're talking to and building the community.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Dave Glaser said...

I am a supporter of CCD for two main reasons: the lack of affordable housing in Columbia and the fact that once the weather gets cold, downtown is pretty sterile.

These are the two aspects of the original vision that need attention most.

Also, to those bloggers signing up as "anonymous": please use your name or make one up. Then we'll have a shot at knowing who we're talking to and building the community.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Evan said...


As I understand the current real estate market the developers will make around $1 billion (yes with a B) in profits just from the zoning changes and to that the profits from building the buildings and selling the units there is a lot of room in these profits for the developer to pay to mitigate the costs to the community created by their actions. The free parking, shuttle service, and buses for example are all needed to mitigate the the removal of existing parking and the burdens on the road infrastructure created by the added population. The developers have claimed throughout this process that they will contribute to the community in order to get this profit so on top of the migigation that they have to do things like benches, walkways, promenades, art gallery space, event budgets and a coordination staff, and open spaces are all part of this. As for CA, the Columbia Association is a semi-governmental organization that collects a form of taxes called liens. None of the developers profits should be subsidized by taxpayers. That would be corporate welfare and any elected official that approves such a thing deserves the wrath of the taxpayers that they will get. We want the developers to make a profit, just not at the expense of taxpayers.

As for the cirle thing, I agree with you and personally I don't get the idea.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Evan said...



12:09 AM  
Anonymous numbers.girl said...

Evan, I'd like to see some substantiation of this "$1 billion" figure. The developers aren't going to just make the money with the zoning- the money isn't just going to materialize from thin air, which is what you are suggesting. The money can only be made from selling the property, either to another developer or by developing and selling units. However, when 20% of the units are carved off for low income housing and another 20% of the property is set aside for green space, plus they are expected to contribute to the community spaces, how in the world will they collectively make a billion dollars?

That AND you don't want any sort of tax from CA to contribute to the cost.

The model just doesn't make sense. The money must come from somewhere. At this point, carving off a share of the imagined billion dollar profit isn't a sound approach. I think CCD needs to do some more analysis with hard and fast figures before suggesting costly services with no means of supporting themselves.

7:49 AM  
Blogger B. Santos said...


I have asked Evan about the $1B figure in the past, he states that it was mentioned in a newspaper article in the past. I hope you get more.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Evan said...


The zoning change changes the value of the land resulting in the $1 billion dollar profit. Yes, the developer would have to sell the land to turn that profit into its dollar value, but the value comes from the zoning change and that is how these thing work. The $1 billion dollar number is a number I have heard from a number of sources, including a number of very knowledgable people involved in this process with many decades experience on land use and development issues. There are few people I know that have more experience in this field and no one has given me any reason to doubt this number. If you or anyone else has info on other profit calulations I am interested in hearing them. In fact I would be happy to sit down the GGP at any point to walk through how various aspects of the plan would effect their profits so that we can work out an understanding of what is fair to expect. I want them to make a huge profit and I have not yet seen any numbers saying that they won't if they contribute as suggested to the community and pay the costs of mitigating issues their development will create. If people have their numbers it would probably significantly help resolve this. I am a numbers guy so if GGP will show me their numbers I am happy to crunch them with them and if necessary scale back what I think is possible. I initially wanted much more housing units than 1600 until I read the traffic study and saw that the numbers said that more than that was not possible without metro. I still would like much more than 1600 units which is why I am so passionate about extending metro. It is the only solution that will get us above that 1600 units number.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about we skip the increased density and get all those things anyway?

Free shuttle service - How about CA pays with some of that increased revenue from property assessment increases? CA used to have its own bus system. Why not again to enhance what the County is doing?

Low cost bus routes across HoCo and B/W areas - We do have tax $ that are supposed to be spent for public transit. Shake the tree.

Free parking - We already have it. Just keep it free. $0.

Benches at the lake - We already have those, too. Where do you think people sit now when waiting for tables at the Tomato Palace and Clyde's?

Improvements to already-developed parcels - Again, CA can pick up that check, too, with the increased assessments.

An events and destinations coordinator... - We already have those, too. We can all just pick up our phones, dial a number we do frequently, and say "Mom, I'm bored and I don't know what to do." She'll clue us in.

Incentives for green enhancements - Isn't avoiding this incentive enough?

The circle thing is just dumb. Kill mature trees in our park, Symphony Woods, for an unneeded austentatious roundabout and buildings?

Besides we don't need a hub of culture there, we already have plenty of culture between Toby's, the Rouse Theatre at HCC, school events, and live performances at the lakefronts, village centers, and in bars and restaurants.

2:07 AM  
Anonymous numbers.girl said...


With all due respect, your invocation of "knowledgable sources" and the fact that you have no reason to doubt the $1billion dollar figure does not count as citing a source.

In order to claim legitmacy of this figure, some background must be divulged as to how it was derived. Considering that this is the sole source of funding for CCD's grand downtown plan, nothing less than full disclosure will be adequate.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evan- are you sure this billion dollar figure is a net income number, and not a revenue number? Also, over what time period is this figure to be earned? I think Numbers is asking an essential question here, and there seems to be an unwillingness on your part to answer directly.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Evan said...


I will try to get a full breakdown from my sources. I am curious what your assessment of GGP’s profits is?

As for it being the sole source of the funding CCD proposal, I think you forget that this discussion is not going on in a vacuum. The way we got to where we are is that the 1) developers wanted to build, 2) the county led by Ken Ulman proposes making a comprehensive plan, 3) a plan is developed and the developers give vague promises that they will contribute to the community and they makes statements that development will not come at the expense of existing residents, and 4) a community group takes what members of the public have said at many public meeting that they attended and puts it down to try to push the plan towards a point where it is in a position that it can be approved. Remember the current county plan is a deeply flawed plan that will not achieve the beautiful words that the proponents say they want it to. As far as I am concerned a great next step is for GGP to provide their profit estimates and the math they used to arrive at that estimate so we can start getting a more accurate picture of the situation and can refine the plan accordingly. If we are all on the same side and this is not an us vs. them situation, then I think they would be more than happy to provide their math so we all are on the same page. Yes, this is an essential number and if GGP would care to help resolve this by showing their math that would be great.

2:08 PM  
Blogger B. Santos said...


People commenting on this post have asked you to provide your source(s) regarding the estimated $1B profit. From your last comment here, you appear to be asking GGP to provide their estimate. Am I reading that right? I agree with you that GGP has not provided any numbers (or at least I am not aware of any release of numbers), but you have. You have state a $1B profit number. Please source your claim. Why is this so difficult?

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Classifieds for our community. Buy, sell, trade, date, events... post anything. Adquity Classifieds.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

free rent parking annonce

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Classifieds for our community. Buy, sell, trade, date, events... post anything. Adquity Classifieds.

10:51 PM  

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