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Reaching for the Sky in Downtown Columbia

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Kevin Peterkin lives and works in Washington, D.C.’s Virginia suburbs. But he could very well qualify for honorary citizenship in Columbia.
Peterkin is director of multifamily development for Kettler, the development company that built The Metropolitan Downtown Columbia, its first new upscale apartment building, and is putting the finishing touches on two neighboring apartment projects, Ten.M and m.flats. Together, the three projects will have more than 800 units within the boundaries of the Downtown Columbia Plan, which includes 13 million square feet of mixed-use development: 4.3 million square feet of commercial office space, 1.25 million square feet of street retail, 5,500 residential units and 640 hotel rooms.
Peterkin has been involved in the Kettler projects since 2011, when the McLean, Va.-based company pitched itself to the Howard Hughes Corp., Downtown Columbia’s master developer, for The Metropolitan site. He recently sat down to answer some questions about Kettler’s projects and the future of Downtown Columbia.

What can you share about the two new projects?
It is two buildings being developed at once that are both very similar in style and design in terms of functionality to The Metropolitan. With three different buildings, we’ve tried to give each building its own identity.
Ten.M is the building closest to the Cheesecake Factory. It has 170 units, which makes it the smallest of the three. The building has 55% two- and three-bedroom units; by comparison, The Metropolitan only has about 35% two- and three-bedroom units. This building is targeting the renter who wants a little bit bigger unit and is possibly downsizing from a single-family home.
The m.flats building is between The Metropolitan and Ten.M. It’s 267 units, and it introduces studio apartments to the market and includes a high percentage of one-bedrooms. The units are distinctive, something that you’d see in D.C. or Downtown Baltimore.

Will the amenities in the new buildings will be like those in the Metropolitan?
One of the unique features in the Ten.M building is gas cooking in the units, which is uncommon in apartment living. It also has many of the same features as The Metropolitan. It’s got structured parking within the building, retail on the first floor, a bike room and all the good stuff that we put in our buildings.
We did not do gas cooking in m.flats, but the other amenities there will set it apart. The Metropolitan’s amenities, if you include the leasing office, are about 14,000 square feet. At m.flats, it will be well over 16,000 square feet. It will be stunning, to some, to see what we have going on inside.
We’ve put in a half-court basketball court, a large fitness facility with a yoga studio, an even larger pet grooming room and a catering kitchen. We’ve put in a library feature that has some study nooks for people who work at home.
But the real centerpiece is the sports bar. It’s got this multi-sport simulator, so you can play baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey; it also does “zombie” dodgeball and has a large video wall, which is great for football Sundays. We’re targeting LEED Silver for both buildings.

What retail tenants does Kettler have lined up?
I can’t go into detail on retail yet. We’ve been trying to work with a really distinctive Baltimore food operator to open a restaurant in the project. It’s not a chain, it’s someone who is very highly thought of in Baltimore City.

What is the timeline for both buildings?
Our first move-ins in Ten.M will be in August. And the first move-ins for m.flats will be in the fall.
What drew Kettler to Columbia?
One of the things that drew us to Downtown Columbia was the mix of great uses there. You have the best retail mall in the Baltimore region, the Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) less than a mile away and Howard Community College (HCC) right down the road. You have Maple Lawn and Fort Meade not far away, and now Columbia has added Whole Foods and several new office buildings to Downtown.
But the real beast that sets downtown apart is Merriweather Post Pavilion. You’ve got this world-renowned music theater in a beautiful park across the street. They’re spending a ton of money to upgrade and expand it. The Chrysalis Amphitheater adds a beautiful, smaller venue to Symphony Woods. Over time, it will evolve into a true year-round entertainment venue, a place that is unparalleled in the U.S., frankly. It sets Downtown Columbia apart from any other location.

You are required to spend 1% of your hard costs on public art. How are you going to satisfy the requirement?
Baltimore-based artist Rodney Carroll, who has worked all over the U.S., is going to do a couple of pieces for us at Twin Rivers and Broken Land Parkway. So essentially, it’s going to be a gateway to Downtown. One of the elements is a beautiful 35-to-40-foot-tall sculpture that is going to go in one corner and will be an iconic piece that announces that you’ve arrived.

These are Kettler’s first projects in Howard County. Would you like to do more?
Howard County was always on our radar because of its great demographics. Its location is unmatched. It’s not quite equidistant between Baltimore and D.C., but it’s also a short drive to Fort Meade. Then you add in all the great amenities, including the trails, the Columbia Association facilities, Merriweather, HCC and HCGH, there are just so many superlatives about the community. We’d love to keep doing work there.