Downtown Columbia is undergoing a revitalization. Closing in on 50 years of age, Columbia is transforming its core with more shops, offices, residences, environmental and cultural amenities and greater connections between them. The Downtown Columbia Plan, unanimously adopted by the Howard County Council in 2010, outlines the ambitious goals and aspirations of this long-awaited redevelopment.

A component of the plan, the Downtown Columbia Partnership, was established in 2013 to lead the promotion and advance the growth of Downtown Columbia as a vibrant, economically robust and desirable place for employment, entertainment, living and learning.

An independent nonprofit organization, the Downtown Columbia Partnership’s board is composed of the three top landowners in Downtown: The Howard Hughes Corporation, Columbia Association and General Growth Properties, and Howard County Government; as well as an Advisory Committee that includes other leading stakeholders in Downtown Columbia.

The Downtown Columbia Partnership’s functions include marketing and promoting the downtown area and its businesses, supporting transportation initiatives, initiating and sponsoring cultural arts and sustainability programs, implementing downtown beautification and maintenance projects and promoting public safety.

In its primary role of marketing, it brands, positions and markets the Downtown.

Last year, its first year, the partnership developed a branding campaign for Downtown Columbia; launched a web site and social media presence; and hosted events including an annual 5K race and 1-Mile Fun Run.

This year, the partnership’s marketing-focused initiatives include establishment of a Restaurant Task Force, and through this group, launching a Dine Downtown Columbia campaign to include an app and loyalty campaign, creation of a Millennial Marketing Team in order to ensure marketing efforts are effectively targeting that demographic, and again, hosting a series of events, two of which are detailed below.

Discover Downtown Columbia 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run

On Sept, 27, the partnership will be hosting, in conjunction with the Howard County Library System, the second annual Discover Downtown Columbia 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run. The race course takes runners through the landmarks of Downtown Columbia, highlighting its rich 48 years of history, as well as the future that is unfolding.

It starts at The Mall in Columbia and weaves through Symphony Woods and Merriweather Post Pavilion and around the newly completed Lakefront path, finishing at the People Tree.

Art and culture are key components of the Downtown Columbia Plan, and there will be live musical entertainment at three points along the way: at race start, featuring Sons of Pirates playing beach music and classic hits; at Merriweather Post Pavilion; and at race finish, with a full, two-hour concert by Fren-Z.

In addition to the music, Clyde’s will be hosting a Beer Garden, and Whole Foods Market a Runner’s Village, with free beer and food for race participants as well as food and drink for purchase.

Register for this fun and unique race at

Within Reach Festival

Then, on Oct. 17, the partnership and The Howard Hughes Corporation will be co-hosting a new, annual music festival titled “Within Reach,” featuring music, food, beer and wine and targeting young adults located within a 30-mile radius of Downtown Columbia, highlighting the ideal location of this fast-evolving community.

Festival attendees will be entertained by six hours of live music on two stages booked by The Hamilton — one of D.C.’s hottest live music venues and owned by Clyde’s Restaurant Group. Additionally, there will be local and regional celebrity chefs, great food, wine tastings and beer gardens.

For more information and to purchase tickets to the Within Reach Festival, go to

Barb Nicklas is the executive director of the Downtown Columbia Partnership. She can be reached at 312-282-3845.