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November 2012:

A ’Tweener Year

By Dennis Lane

November 6, 2012

Posted in: News

“Nothing is happening next year. Everything is happening in 2014.”

Well, I wouldn’t say nothing is happening in 2013. Babies will be born, kids will graduate from high school and college, and couples will get married. Still, I got his point.

My friend Jim was referring to the major development projects in Columbia. The Metropolitan apartment project by the mall, Whole Foods at Columbia’s Lakefront, a new multi-use project on the former WCI site, an expansion at The Mall in Columbia and a new Hobbit’s Glen clubhouse all are slated for completion in 2014.

In order to get there, 2013 needs to be the year of construction. And all of these projects are slated to begin construction early next year.

In Columbia’s nascent downtown area, Howard Hughes Corp. plans to begin converting the former Rouse Company headquarters building from an office building into a mixed-used facility in March. The project will entail gutting the existing building to make way for a 45,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods is projecting opening in fall 2014. In the meantime, the Frank Gehry-designed building, which has been in continuous operation since 1975, will be shut down.

Across the street, a joint venture between Kettler Management and Orchard Development also will start work on a five-story, 380-unit luxury apartment project on a vacant parcel of land on the mall ring road. The $100 million project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2014.

General Growth Properties (GGP) will be tearing down the L.L. Bean building at the mall and begin building 75,000 square feet of new retail in its place. Initially, GGP had hoped to complete the work by the end of 2013; but with L.L. Bean’s recent announcement that it will close the store in May (and not be relocating elsewhere in the mall), it likely will be 2014 before that project is completed.

Dave Costello and his partners are hoping to begin construction on an office/residential/retail project on the site that was formerly planned for a 22-story luxury condominium building. Costello bought the property this year and is hoping to get his project underway next year, with completion targeted for sometime in 2014.

Further down the road, the Columbia Association plans to replace the original clubhouse at Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club with a new $6 million facility. The existing clubhouse was built in 1967 and is one of the oldest commercial buildings in Columbia. The new building also will house a new Coho Grill, but that means the existing restaurant will have to close while the work is being done, putting the majority of the restaurant’s staff out of a job for a year. The clubhouse and restaurant are expected to reopen in the spring of 2014.

To be fair, besides babies, weddings and graduations, 2013 will still have its big moments. Clyde’s will begin its $4 million makeover in January and plans to reopen in March, and the One Maryland Broadband network is slated to finish the $115 million project linking “1,006 government facilities and community ‘anchor institutions’ in every county in the state.”

Those are both pretty big deals in their own right.

Still, 2013 will mostly be a ’tweener year. It will be a year of getting ready for the following year. The broadband project may be finished by next summer, but it likely will be 2014 before we begin to see any tangible benefits from it. Clyde’s may have finished its renovation, but the rest of the downtown Columbia area will be dominated by construction of things that won’t be finished until 2014.

At this rate, 2013 also could be dubbed “The Year of the Hard Hat.”

And even as we nurture our electoral hangover from the recent presidential contest, the 2014 gubernatorial and county elections will be looming on the horizon. In 2013, we’ll see politicians running for state and local offices — without formally announcing that they are running.

In 2013, they’ll just ask us for money.

Dennis Lane co-hosts “and then there’s that… ,” a bi-weekly local news podcast on hocomojo.com, and blogs about stuff around here at wordbones.com.

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