New Library Location Makes Way for 240 Affordable Housing Units in Columbia, Md.

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A change in location for a proposed library in Columbia, Md., will mean a planned mixed-used housing project can double in size — and library patrons can one day read by the lakeshore.

On March 30, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore presented the proposed plans for the Heatherwick Studios-designed 100,000-square-foot library, which is expected to be situated beside Columbia’s Lake Kittamaqundi. The $144 million project, if approved, will be coupled with an already-in-motion mixed-income housing project.

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“In Howard County, we dream big, we seize opportunities, and we join together to deliver an excellent quality of life for every member of our community,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. “The lakefront library project is for the people and will serve as a transformative civic and educational center for all in Howard County. It will be a hub where education, the arts and nature all converge to spark creativity, critical thinking and community connections.”

Funding for the library will be included in Ball’s proposed capital budget for fiscal year 2024, which is due  April 1. If approved, as expected, the design for the project will begin later this year with an anticipated groundbreaking in 2026.  

The library will be built on land provided by the Howard Hughes Corporation, which serves as Downtown Columbia’s community developer. Howard Hughes is also providing the land for the affordable housing units, as called for in the 30-year  Downtown Columbia Plan for the area.

The previous location of the replacement library site, in what is known as Columbia’s Merriweather District, will now contain at least 240 units of mixed-income housing, twice the number as originally called for in the Downtown Columbia Plan.

“I firmly believe that the best public spaces should be for the community, and the opportunity to move the new central library to the lakefront provides those best public spaces for our residents,” Tonya Aikens, president and CEO of the Howard County Library System, said. “This new lakefront library will uplift and inspire, connect people with nature, and connect people with each other. We look forward to engaging our community in listening sessions to hear their dreams and aspirations for the interior program.” 

Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.