Latest News From The Business Monthly

At Merriweather: Roof Raising Becomes Roof Rebuilding

Early in the morning of Saturday, Jan. 13, the roof collapsed at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The roof was in the midst of a weeks-long process of being raised as part of the renovation project at the amphitheater. There were no injuries. The following letter was posted on social media by Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. and operator of Merriweather Post Pavilion.

“Well, we knew it was too easy. So, just to see what we’re REALLY made of, we were shown what the roof was made of. Up close and in person.

“Last night, in the middle of our months-long roof raising operation, the winds of fate prevailed and decided that, instead of simply raising the roof, we should just go ahead and build a new one. Was not our decision, but the bright side is all of the money we save on imploding.

“Nobody was hurt. That is, of course, the most important thing. Second most … yes, everything will be ready for season opening.”

According to a Facebook post by the Downtown Columbia Arts & Culture Commission, until a complete investigation has been completed, the precise cause of this accident cannot be known. That investigation is commencing as soon as possible; in the meantime, the team at Merriweather will begin assessing next steps for the project.

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.

Laurel Mayor Moe Writes to Hogan, Gives Thumbs Down on MAGLEV

Laurel Mayor Craig Moe has written a letter to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to express his opposition to the proposed MAGLEV high speed train. The text follows.

“I have listened and read much about the proposed MAGLEV for the region and I believe I have a thorough understanding of the proposed project and more importantly, understand how it will affect the greater Laurel area.

“As Mayor of the City of Laurel, I am not opposed to regional transportation needs, in fact I support and encourage improvements that will provide our residents with more and improved transportation options to travel to and from their places of employment. However, to be clear I am opposed to the proposed MAGLEV project because I believe the project will not adequately serve the current and projected future needs of the residents of Laurel and surrounding communities.

“The MAGLEV Project as proposed will cut through Prince George’s County, taking people’s homes and land while seriously damaging our environment but providing no benefit to the greater Laurel area or Prince George’s County.

“I believe the exorbitant costs anticipated to design and construct the MAGLEV Project would be better expended on conducting a comprehensive review of the existing transportation elements serving the region, including the needs of Prince George’s County and the Laurel area. 

The goal of the study should be to provide a list of projects to be funded geared towards enhancing and expanding the existing transportation network to include expanding and improving bus lines, including replacement high capacity busses, expanding the Amtrak System and the MARC service, in particular the Camden Line, and providing shuttle services for business corridors.

“As you are aware, our region needs to have more and better intraregional transportation options to move people to and from their residences and places of employment. 

During my travels in and around Laurel, I have repeatedly heard that this is a train to nowhere! I share that thought and believe that taxpayers need better infrastructure and upgraded services, and not the commitment of funds for another system that serves no one in the greater Laurel area.” 

Capitol Seniors Housing Breaks Ground on Arbor Terrace Maple Lawn

Capitol Seniors Housing, a senior living investment and development firm, has started construction on Arbor Terrace Maple Lawn, an assisted living and memory care community in Fulton. The $27.5 million, 73,000-square-foot community will have 86 apartments and be located adjacent to Maple Lawn Market Place and Reservoir High School. It is scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Designed by Baltimore-based BCT Architects, Arbor Terrace Maple Lawn will have an exterior that suggests a boutique hotel and takes cues from the contemporary architecture of nearby retail stores, which were also designed by BCT. The entry will feature a focal wall of horizontal panels and inset bronze transitions along with a signature staircase including antique-style detailing in the railing. 

Amenities will include a casual seating bistro/sports lounge featuring an open-concept kitchen area, as well as a library, a theater and a multi-purpose room, all of which encourage engagement throughout the community. Also under roof will be an art studio, salon and spa, and a fitness/rehab room for other activity and socialization spaces.

“Arbor Terrace Maple Lawn will foster an intergenerational community by virtue of its close proximity to the nearby elementary, middle and high schools, which will present opportunities for Arbor Terrace residents and area students to engage with one another,” said Joe McElwee, principal – development, Capitol Seniors Housing. “We expect Arbor Terrace Maple Lawn residents to have grandchildren and perhaps great grandchildren in these schools. … When we build a senior living community, we seek to create an experience which benefits its residents and the overall community.”

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 at312 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.

Sprouts to Hire 120-Plus Employees for Ellicott City Store

Sprouts Farmers Market, one of the fastest-growing retailers in the country, soon will finish construction on its first mid-Atlantic store, which will be located in Ellicott City. The new Sprouts represents the grocer’s eastern expansion and will help meet the growing local demand for fresh, natural and organic foods.

The 30,000-square-foot store will be located at 9150 Baltimore National Pike and will open on Wednesday, March 14, at 7 a.m. Details about the grand opening celebration are to be announced. The new Ellicott City location is bringing approximately 120 full- and part-time opportunities to the area. Sprouts’ “Healthy Living for Less” approach to grocery shopping means potential team members should share a passion for healthy eating and the fresh, natural and organic products offered throughout the store.

To learn more about available career opportunities or to apply, visit sprouts.com/careers or call 866-925-2396 for non-managerial roles. Sprouts offers competitive pay, excellent benefits, team member discounts, a fun and rewarding culture and great career advancement opportunities. In 2016, Sprouts’ team members saved more than $9 million through store discounts and received $150,000 in scholarships.

Board Selects Martirano as Permanent Howard School Superintendent

The Howard County Board of Education selected Interim Superintendent Michael J. Martirano as the permanent superintendent for the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) during the regularly scheduled board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Following the announcement, Board Chairman Cynthia Vaillancourt and Martirano signed a letter of intent to begin the negotiation process leading to a contract that will extend from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2022.

In May, the board appointed Martirano as interim superintendent for a one-year term extending through June 30, 2018. In August, it began the process of selecting a permanent superintendent and solicited stakeholder input via an online survey, community forums, public hearings, and conversations with county and community leaders. The majority of the community feedback, including a large majority of the 2,200 survey responses, expressed a preference for retaining Martirano, with the remainder identifying integrity, strong communication skills and a focus on the whole child as the most desirable characteristics for a new superintendent.

“Dr. Martirano exemplifies the qualities our community values most in a superintendent,” said Vaillancourt. “Under his leadership, the school system has made significant strides over the last seven months in rebuilding community trust and strengthening school system management. He has demonstrated the ability, and willingness, to tackle even the thorniest challenges through a rare combination of diplomacy, innovation, persistence and grace.”

“I am honored and humbled by this vote of confidence, and deeply grateful for the warm welcome and strong support I have received from staff and community members throughout the county,” said Martirano. “I am confident that our renewed spirit of goodwill and collaboration will buoy our efforts and lead to even greater achievements over the months ahead. This is an exciting opportunity to build an even brighter future for Howard County students and become a premier school system in the nation.”

During Martirano’s tenure, HCPSS has re-established collaborative relations with state and county governments, leading to the restoration of $9.6 million in state capital funding and a commitment to accelerate the 13th county high school by two years.

In addition, an organizational restructuring has resulted in a flatter, more responsive central office that is more closely aligned to system priorities. He successfully navigated the school system through an arduous redistricting process, while mitigating community disruption and expanding educational program innovations.

Kittleman Announces $12.3M Taxpayer Savings From Bond Sale

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced that the successful annual bond sale conducted this week is expected to save county taxpayers $12.3 million, demonstrating the county’s strong value in the marketplace.

Kittleman said that the successful sale is due in large part to the county’s AAA credit rating, which Howard County has earned for more than 20 years. The sale offered Consolidated Public Improvement (CPI) new and refunding bonds and Metropolitan District Bonds via competitive bidding.

“With moderate revenue growth projected, we are focused on making sustainable budget decisions that help us maximize taxpayer dollars,” said Kittleman. “Just like refinancing a home, achieving lower interest rates for our bonds makes our money go farther. This means county taxpayers pay less for needed capital and infrastructure improvements.”

Kittleman has continued to dedicate Capital Budget funds to school construction, investments in public safety, parks and infrastructure projects, and replacement of the outdated Circuit Court house. “By prudently refinancing existing bond debt, we will save taxpayers $8.1 million for the General Fund and $4.2 million for the Water & Sewer Fund,” County Finance Director Stan Milesky said.

 

At the end of March, Howard County was one of just 43 counties (among more than 3,000 in the U.S.), to earn an AAA credit rating from all three bond ratings agencies. In awarding the highest possible score, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investor Services and Standard & Poor’s all recognized the county’s strong economy, diverse revenue streams and strong financial policies and practices as evidence of fiscal responsibility and resilience.

VitusVet Expands to Howard County Innovation Center at Gateway

VitusVet is relocating from the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) into the future location of the Howard County Innovation Center, inside the Columbia Gateway Innovation District. The company has resided in the MCE since May 2015 and expanded into a new space following a period of rapid growth.

VitusVet was founded by CEO Mark Olcott, a certified veterinarian who has practiced for 20 years. He was continually frustrated by the archaic technology used to document pet health records and history of treatment. He met his business partner, Kalpesh Raval, who helped develop the technology, during business school. VitusVet offers 24/7 access for pet owner documents, and provides full-service capabilities for veterinary practices to book appointments, make insurance claims and contact pet owners.

“The great thing about the MCE is the excellent mentorship they offer. It’s not the sort of place you go to get subsidized real estate; they really want you to succeed,” said Olcott. “Even if you start with a half-baked idea, they will bring you to the drawing board and help you evaluate your business plan and help you grow it.”

The additional space in The Innovation Center will also permit VitusVet to expand its workforce. Over the past two years the company has employed a team of 15 workers, and aims to add four to six new employees in the next few months. Olcott will be hiring new employees from the Howard County region.

Kellner Retiring From Columbia Archives

After more than three decades of leading the Columbia Archives, Barbara Kellner is retiring. Kellner, 72, moved to Columbia from New Jersey with her family in the early 1980s. Soon afterward, she took an administrative position with the newly formed Archives, which became part of Columbia Association in 1992.

What began as a part-time job led to her eventually becoming director. During her tenure, the archives has received landmark acquisitions such as Columbia founder Jim Rouse’s papers, which document his life and give even more insight into the story of Columbia and Rouse’s role as a pioneer of festival marketplaces and shopping centers.

She also has been a guiding force behind signature community events such as the annual Columbia BikeAbout, which spotlights Columbia’s history and landscape with a family-friendly bicycle ride through the community’s open space. As for her plans, Kellner said, “I am looking forward to a new chapter, a new passion ― but Columbia is still in my heart, and I expect it will show up in something I do.”