Howard County Executive Calvin Ball advanced the East Columbia 50+ Center expansion with $1 million in State funding and $5.5 million in County funding. The funding is included in Ball’s capital budget for fiscal 2022, which was sent to the Howard County Council on April 1.
The project design for the expansion began in 2018 and the architectural design work was completed in 2020. Ball included the East Columbia 50+ Center in his fiscal 2021 capital budget to advance construction, but it was removed by a majority in the Howard County Council.
The East Columbia 50+ Center was identified as one of the top priority projects in a Master Plan for the Office on Aging and Independence. The plan noted that 40 percent of Howard County’s older adult population resides in East Columbia. The neighborhood also is made up of a diverse and vulnerable community that includes 86 percent that are 60 years or older, 7 percent below the poverty level and 35 percent that live alone.
The existing East Columbia 50+ Center is 3800 square feet (sf) with a capacity of 60 and is the only center without access to a dedicated fitness center. Its total attendance pre-pandemic was nearly 17,000 annual visits and more than 32,000 visits to use fitness equipment. The current 50+ space is insufficient to offer desired programming to meet the needs of the community.
The expanded 50+ Center (29,600 sf) will include:
- Commercial kitchen to support a congregate lunch program and provide capacity for addressing food insecurity issues for all populations.
- Large community meeting space to support meal programs, events, and community meetings.
- Technology hub for virtual program offerings and connectivity across sites.
- A social day program for at risk adults in the central and most densely populated part of the county.
- Expanded programs in art, lifelong learning, languages, physical fitness, evidence-based health promotion, intergenerational, consumer protection, civic engagement, advocacy, employment and volunteerism.
- Fitness equipment room and exercise studio to support healthy aging to maintain the optimal health and independent living of older adults.
- The building will be equipped with a generator and can help serve the community during emergencies.
If the proposed county funding is approved by the County Council, construction of the 50+ Center could begin as early as August, with a projected opening date in the spring of 2023.