Sheraton Columbia Sold: Extensive Upgrades, New Flag Planned

Columbia-based Costello Construction has purchased the Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel and will soon proceed with a $10 million renovation of the property, which is nestled amid the major redevelopment of the Lakefront area.

Costello recently purchased the 290-room hotel from New York-based Brookfield Asset Management for an undisclosed price. Brookfield acquired the 197,194-square-foot property in 2007 for $34.4 million, according to state property records.

As part of the renovations, David Costello, president of Costello Construction, said the property will no longer bear the Sheraton brand and will take on a luxury hotel moniker under the management of Bethesda-based Marriott International, which owns the Sheraton name.

In addition to room upgrades, Costello plans to build a 33-room addition to the South end of the hotel. The developer is also completely gutting the HVAC setup in the building to bring every room onto the same system; currently, each room has an individual unit. In addition, renovations to the lobby and the amenities areas will bring the hotel up to the level of a four-star property.

The upgrade will begin by summer 2018, with minimal disruption of the hotel’s service. Buying the hotel was a natural move for Costello, a co-owner of Little Patuxent Square, a recently opened mixed-use building along the Lakefront. The company also owns the office building at 10211 Wincopin Circle, which houses its headquarters.

More Than $275K to Fight Opioid, Heroin Epidemic Coming to Maryland

The U.S. government has issued $288,445 in federal funding to help state and local authorities fight the ongoing heroin and opioid epidemic. The funds — issued by U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office — will go to the Maryland State Police to support their efforts investigating unlawful activities related to the distribution of prescription opioids and heroin.

“The prescription opioid and heroin epidemic is a public health crisis that hurts every state in our country, and every part of Maryland. Some rural parts of our state have the highest per capita rates of heroin and opioid drug use in the United States,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin. “Facing this challenge head-on means supporting our state’s law enforcement with every tool and every resource they need. This federal investment in the Maryland State Police represents a commitment to that.”

The funds come from the Anti-Heroin Task Force Program (AHTFP), a competitive grant program that assists state law enforcement agencies in states with high per capita levels of primary treatment admissions for heroin and other opioids.

AHTFP grants are managed and dispersed through COPS, the component of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for advancing the practice of community policing through information sharing and financial assistance.

Kittleman Unveils Partnership With Aetna to Combat Opioid Crisis

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced a unique partnership with Aetna to combat the ongoing opioid crisis by training county employees in the use of naloxone kits donated by the Aetna Foundation. The foundation delivered 408 Narcan kits (the brand name for naloxone) to Howard County, the first donation of its kind to a county in Maryland. The kits, valued at more than $30,000, will be located in every Automated External Defibrillator (AED) box in county-owned buildings.

“We are battling the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history, and Howard County, like communities across the country, is experiencing the horrific impact of this crisis every day,” said Kittleman. “Tragically, we have already lost 55 residents this year to overdoses. But 161 lives have been saved, and in 90% of the cases, it’s because of naloxone.”

Kittleman committed to giving administrative leave to any employee who signs up for naloxone training. County police and fire department personnel are trained in the use of naloxone and carry it when responding to calls. And the county’s Health Department has trained more than 2,000 individuals, from motel and treatment center staff to concerned family members and friends.

According to the Howard County Health Department, heroin-related overdose deaths here have more than quadrupled since 2010. Kittleman said the county continues to ramp up its response to the crisis, having hired a full-time heroin coordinator at the police department, adding an opioid project administrator at the health department and increasing the availability of crisis intervention services through the Grassroots Crisis Center.

The county is also working to secure a site to build a detox and residential treatment facility and hiring a behavioral health court liaison to improve access to community resources for individuals involved in the criminal justice system.

UMD, Capital One Partner to Fuel Talent Pipeline in Data, Machine Learning

The University of Maryland (UMD) and Capital One announced a partnership aimed at developing a pipeline of students to join the workforce in areas of key national need, such as machine learning, data analytics and cybersecurity.

A cornerstone of the new partnership will be the launch of an innovation lab in the university’s Discovery District. Situated along Baltimore Avenue, the lab will give UMD students the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom — in topics like data science, technology and automation — to real-world problems and experiences.

Capital One also has invested $3 million through an endowment gift to help advance machine learning leadership at the university. The gift’s impact includes $2.1 million used to endow a faculty chair in the Department of Computer Science, and $900,000 to help support research and educational initiatives in machine learning, data analytics and cybersecurity. In addition, the university will collaborate with Capital One to develop academic courses offered through its First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE) program.

In August, the Maryland Department of Commerce, through the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative, provided the University of Maryland with $2.1 million in matching funds for its Capital One Chair in Machine Learning and Computer Science. These funds will endow an additional two professorships in the field, and will help elevate research, education and entrepreneurship activities.

Bowie State, Laurel College Center Partner to Increase Programs

Bowie State University (BSU) President Aminta Breaux joined Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) President Charlene Dukes, Howard Community College (HCC) President Kathleen Hetherington and Laurel College Center (LCC) Program Director Nancy Grinberg to announce an agreement that provides opportunities for more students to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

With this new partnership, students pursuing associate degrees at PGCC and HCC will be able to take courses in BSU’s accredited program at the LCC, located at 312 Marshall Avenue in Laurel, leading to a bachelor’s degree in business administration. The program enables students to take courses exploring a wide range of business fields, including banking and finance, information systems and entrepreneurship. The university will begin offering courses at LCC in fall 2018.

BSU has a hub for entrepreneurship as the home to Maryland’s first business incubator at a historically black university, the Bowie Business Innovation Center; and the Entrepreneurship Academy, which facilitates programs aimed at supporting budding business owners.

BSU will be the only institution allowed to offer business administration programs at LCC. Students enrolled in the Bowie State program at LCC will receive the same benefits and support as students at the Bowie campus, including access to academic and research facilities, educational resources, social events and the university bookstore.

Draft Update to WalkHoward Pedestrian Master Plan Released

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has announced the release of a draft of WalkHoward, an update to the county’s 2007 Pedestrian Master Plan. The plan provides a framework for improving conditions for people walking in Howard County, promoting this mode as a safe and convenient travel option.

Kittleman said the latest WalkHoward is the result of extensive field evaluation of sidewalks, intersections and bus stops and includes input received from three community open houses, state and county agencies, boards and commissions. “Walkability is good for public health, the local economy and quality of life,” he said. “This updated WalkHoward plan will help prioritize improvements to maximize these benefits.”

Produced by the county’s Office of Transportation, the draft identifies pedestrian network improvements needed beyond those completed under the 2007 plan. The Office of Transportation will host a public meeting to discuss the plan and hear from members of the public on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the Kittleman Room in Duncan Hall at Howard Community College.

The public is invited to view the draft plan at walkhoward.org, and to submit comments online at walkhoward.org/provide-feedback by March 31. Those who have specific questions about the plan should contact Albert Guiney Engel of the Office of Transportation at aengel@howardcountymd.gov or 410-313-4360.

BGE’s New STRIDE Plan Proposes Further Modernization of Natural Gas Infrastructure

During the first four years of BGE’s Strategic Infrastructure Development and Enhancement (STRIDE) natural gas system modernization plan, more than 150 miles of gas mains and more than 32,000 service pipes connecting customer properties to gas mains have been replaced with modern, durable gas equipment.

The progress has been made possible by Maryland’s 2013 STRIDE law, which enabled gas utilities to replace equipment faster by authorizing recovery of some pipeline modernization costs as the work is performed. Now, approaching the final year of the initial five-year plan, BGE has filed a new five-year STRIDE work plan with the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) that further accelerates the pace of the work.

Since the start of BGE’s STRIDE plan, the company has invested nearly $380 million in gas system modernization, including an estimated $130 million in 2017. Projects range from neighborhood-wide gas system upgrades through Operation Pipeline, gas main replacements along single streets and area-wide projects that replace thousands of service lines that connect customers to the gas mains.

Natural gas modernization projects have a positive economic impact on the regional economy. To date, more than 850 full-time jobs statewide have been created, 600 of which are on BGE projects. STRIDE also creates significant environmental benefits as pipe replacements have reduced emissions by more than 1 million pounds of methane — a major greenhouse gas (GHG). Once improvements to BGE’s natural gas system are complete, GHG emissions will be reduced by an estimated 210,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year, compared to 2013. This equals taking 44,000 cars off the road.

Year One: MGM National Harbor Hosts 6 Million Guests

Since officially opening its doors one year ago, MGM National Harbor has engaged more than 6 million guests while making significant contributions to Prince George’s County, notably contributing more than $170 million (as of Nov. 30) to various sections of the local economy, thus becoming the largest contributor to Maryland’s Education Trust Fund.

The resort has contributed a higher dollar amount to the state than any other gaming facility, becoming the highest contributor of tax revenue in Maryland. The MGM has contributed more than $17 million in local impact grants since opening (as of Nov. 30, in accordance with Maryland law); and created new career opportunities for 3,700 employees, nearly 50% of whom are Prince George’s County residents; and contributed more than 5,000 cumulative volunteer hours to date in 2017.

It also has provided more than $1 million in philanthropic contributions to institutions including Prince George’s Community College, Bowie State University, University of Maryland College Park and the Community Foundation of Prince George’s County; and established the MGM National Harbor Endowed Veterans Scholarship to provide educational support for veteran students at the University of Maryland.

The MGM National Harbor has also consistently demonstrated its commitment to supporting women-owned and minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs) in Maryland: paid more than $367.9 million to MBE-certified companies, awarded construction contracts to 170 MBEs and paid more than $158.4 million to Prince George’s County Minority Business Enterprises.

Howard: $2.2M in New Tax Credits Issued Since July 1

Howard County residents have taken advantage of more than $2.2 million in new tax credits since the beginning of fiscal 2018, which began July 1. Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said county government approved 3,022 tax credits to residents through Nov. 30, with 2,489 credits (82%) going to those who have applied for the senior and aging-in-place tax credits.

The Senior Tax Credit is available to homeowners who are at least 65 years old and have a combined household income that does not exceed 500% of the federal poverty guidelines for a household of two. For tax year 2017, that limit is $81,200. The amount of credit is 25% of the county property tax due in the current year after applying the Maryland Homestead Credit.

The Aging-in-Place Tax Credit is available to homeowners who are at least 65 years old and have lived in the same dwelling for at least the preceding 40 years or are a retired member of the military. The credit is equal to 20% of the eligible county tax and may be granted for up to five years.

Residents may apply by visiting www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Finance/Billing-and-Payments/Real-Property-Taxes/Tax-Credits-Copy. Senior Tax Credit applications for 2018 will be available in mid-February 2018; residents who do not know the tax credit for which they qualify can visit www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Finance/Billing-and-Payments/Real-Property-Taxes/Tax-Credits.