Howard Hughes is Playing Three Card Monte with the New Transit Center Location

Howard Hughes is playing game of three card monte regarding the location of the new transit center. The transit center is here, or there, or there. The DRRA states

The Downtown Columbia Plan envisions a new transit center as part of the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia. The December 2011 Nelson Nygaard transit study (“Study”) provided to the County by HRD in satisfaction of CEPPA 5 recommended locating the new transit center in the Symphony Overlook Neighborhood, generally between the Mall and the Corporate Center buildings. In accordance with CEPPA 14, HRD, in cooperation with the Howard County Office of Transportation, will identify the site (the “Transit Center Site”) prior to approval of the first SDP in the Symphony Overlook Neighborhood . . .

DRRA page 19.  As shown in the DRRA,  the location specified in the Nelson Nygaard  study and reference in the DRRA is what is Star 2 –a location in the Mall in Columbia parking lot, owned by GGP. The DRRA implies that this is the location for the transit center. Yet, the staff of Howard County DPZ believe otherwise. Two of them individually told me that the transit center will be in the corner of Symphony Overlook at the location now occupied by a parking garage and the building with a Wells Fargo, Kinkos, and Union Jack’s. Greg Fitchett of Howard Hughes also suggested this location in a conversation on July 14, 2016.

Yet, nowhere does the DRRA mention these other locations. Moreover, in speaking with Clive Graham of the Howard County Department of Transportation, he stated that the location has not been determined and that the County will be conducting a study to determine the exact size and location for the transit center. It is in the parking lot, no it is at Union Jack’s, no it is in the parking lot.

The DRRA just skips right over this location issue. It also skips over the fact that when the 2010 Downtown Plan was crafted the property owned by GGP was all within one corporation. With the spin off of Howard Hughes, something seems to have been lost in the planning for the redevelopment of the Mall parking lot. GGP is not currently participating in the redevelopment of Columbia.

While the DRRA discusses the “Development Rights Property” owned by GGP, it is generally in the context of affordable housing. It also states that if Howard Hughes “fails to acquire fee ownership thereof within three (3) years after such recordation, then such property shall be deemed automatically released from this Agreement on the expiration of such three (3)-year period.” DRRA page 28. So what will happen if GGP does not sell to Howard Hughes? Where will the transit center be built. What happened to plans for hotels and retail in the parking area? What happened to the plans for a promenade near the food court entrance?

Will GGP decide one day to redevelop the Mall on their own. Having been released from the restrictions on the Development Rights Property, will GGP ask the County for an increase in the number of housing units to build say 2000 more?

And how does redeveloping the existing buildings in Symphony Overlook effect the value of the TIF? There is not much tax increment from tearing down existing buildings.

Follow the ball. The transit center is here or there. The housing is here or there or there. The promenade is there or not there. Keep following the ball. The TIF is here or there.

Sorry you are wrong. Want to play again in 2026 with the DRRA submitted by GGP?

 

 

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