There is another story about the revitalization going on in Columbia, one that is gaining momentum but has received far less attention than redevelopment in the downtown area and in the village centers.
Columbia Gateway Business Park has, for decades, been the typical suburban office park, with some industrial space, but predominantly office product. This aging concept is now being revisited throughout the country, including here in Columbia in an initiative put forth by the Howard County government and the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA).
Efforts will focus on repositioning Gateway into an Innovation District, making it more attractive for companies that are seeking, first and foremost, to have their offices in locations that will help them retain current workforce and recruit prospective new employees.
Columbia (and Howard County) is already an ideal location. It’s close to Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Fort Meade, with a highly-rated school system and numerous other exceptional quality of life features, which led to it being named the No. 1 small city to live in in the United States.
Gateway is located in the northeast quadrant of the community, with easy access to Interstate 95 and other major highways and thoroughfares.
But companies seeking office space and their employees want more than regional access. They want an environment that is walkable and bikeable, and where there are entertainment and dining options nearby.
In the short term, the HCEDA’s plan is to create a sense of community for employees in Gateway — an active social life outside of work — with networking and educational events, and possibly social sports such as running groups and other options. On that note, food trucks, which are experiencing a boom in popularity around the country, are stationed at the business park at lunchtime twice a week.
Howard County’s new innovation center in Gateway, with its goal of becoming a world-class space to drive small business ownership, entrepreneurship and innovation, recently welcomed three companies from neighboring Anne Arundel County; eventually, there are plans to bring the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship and the Howard County Tech Council to the center, as well.
Long-term, the goal is to redevelop the 920 acres that presently compose Gateway and the Gateway Commerce Center, which are home to 8.1 million square feet of buildings, with more density and a more compact feel; one that is less sprawling and more connected. Right now, the model in place puts the property at a disadvantage. We want the Gateway area to be relevant for the future, just like Columbia Association (CA) wants the nine village centers, Downtown Columbia and the community’s other retail centers to succeed.
CA is one of the larger landowners in the Gateway area. We will be working with the Howard County government, HCEDA and other landowners as the vision for Gateway is developed. Working within the parameters of CA’s mission as a community services provider, we believe we can be a contributor to this multi-year effort, resulting in the repositioning of the Gateway area as a thriving Innovation District.
I have often referred to Columbia as being a community of choice. That applies for the business world as well. We want companies located in or looking at locating in Howard County to have competitive choices. These plans will help ensure that Gateway is among them.
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