Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Some Homes Just Need a Little TLC

Not all old Columbia homes need to be completely renovated or torn down and rebuilt. In many cases just a fresh coat of paint, tidier siding, some new shutters, power washed bricks, or just new landscaping will make homes appear much better and updated than one would think.

Homes that fall in this category are owner occupied single family and town homes that are more traditional colonials rather than contemporary. Single Family Homes include West Running Brook, Phelps Luck Drive, and Tamar Drive in Jeffers Hill. Town homes include scattered sites in Swansfield, Longfellow, Cross Fox, Howard Homes in Hickory Ridge, Owen Brown and Kings Contrivance and lower High Tor Hill in Phelps Luck. The biggest problem with town homes is the lack of landscaping attention. Sometimes the home owner's association is in charge and other times it's the home owner them selves. Both parties need to take a more proactive roll in the landscaping of their property.

*pictured single family homes are in running brook and the town homes are in swansfield

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A Message About Crime and Redevelopment

Crime rears its ugly head in different little "hot spots" of Columbia every now and then. The past few years have been fairly quiet. The mid to late 1990s were a different story. There was a lot more violent crime. The more well to do families flocked to River Hill causing white flight not seen since the blockbusting era. The real estate boom priced out a lot of the criminals who were causing a lot of the trouble hence Columbia being quieter lately. In 2003 there was a giant drug ring arrest that captured a couple dozen dealers which contributed to the calmness. A side note I went to Elementary, Middle, and High School with several of these dealers, many of them were years younger than me and I'm only 22. I was 19 in 2003 when these arrests occurred so you do the math.

April and May of 2007 have brought about two homicides in the same neighborhood. I also saw a blurb in the Howard County times about a meeting discussing gang activities in Oakland Mills. Now those of you who are from big cities thus sounds like nothing. Columbia has always and will always have residents who don't take these things lying down. Howard County has a very capable police force who can get all the funding they need to tackle these crime problems unlike other Maryland jurisdictions. There have been three homicides in Howard County in 2007 one was solved and then there are the two that occurred in the Hannibal Grove/711 area. I grew up in Vantage Point area which is just across Little Patuxent Parkway from Hannibal Grove and the 711. I have been robbed, assaulted, mugged, and jumped almost exclusively from residents of that area. They were a part of that drug ring I mentioned above. When it comes to bad areas of Columbia I don't stay away from them. Columbia is my once and future home and I'm not going to let a few rotten apples scare me away. Many hardened Columbia residents share my same sentiment. Columbia is not a "Stop Snitchin' " community.

Those who committed these two homicides will be identified that much I'm sure of. Whether an arrest will be made I'm not sure of. Lack of evidence may not allow an arrest to occur. As for the Hannibal Grove neighborhood I think it's at a crossroads. Many current residents are fed up and are going to move. Like I've said before many older Columbia rental complexes are in the redevelopment stage. I think it's time for Hannibal Grove to be knocked down and rebuilt. The new neighborhood will be garden apartments and town homes just like it is now. However, this time around it will contain a mixture of market rate home ownership, market rate rental, with a small number set aside for subsidized rental and home ownership. Bringing home owners to the area will create a sense of stability. The pedestrian bridge connecting Running Brook Elementary to the community will be torn down too, in its place will be a traffic light at Columbia Road and Brook Way and a crossing guard during school hours. It's a hot bed for crime and deals. I think a brand 711 should also be built. This new store should be next to the Running Brook Neighborhood Center and the current building should be turned into locker rooms for the pool. Running Brook pool will be completely redone to the likes of newer CA pools.

I think a brand new mixed income community will stabilize the community and Columbia as a whole. When it comes to redevelopment proposals in Columbia Hannibal Grove is just the tip of the iceberg.

*Just a little update they made an arrest in both cases the person committed both homicides. I knew they'd be caught but I didn't think one person was responsible. The next little problem brewing is possible gang activities in Oakland Mills and Long Reach. I'm confident this will be dealt with swiftly seeing as Columbia has always been able to keep crime under control in the past.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

East Columbia Uglys: Change is Afoot

There is a style of home mainly in East Columbia that is well ugly. They're small contemporary homes built roughly from 1971-1975. They turn up on Kilminjaro Road, Farewell Road, Stevens Forest Road, Thunderhill Road south of Route 175, Tamar Drive, in both Jeffers Hill and Locust Park, and along Martin Road and Freetown Road. Clemens Crossing is the only section of West Columbia that has these homes. The homes have wood siding, car ports rather than garages, usually ranchers or split level foyers, and are often poorly maintained. These are the cheapest Single Family Homes in Columbia and may be bought up by absentee land lords and rented out with little to no work done inside or out.
One thing people need to start realizing about Columbia is that it's no longer a "New Town" as its zoning suggests, its buildings are in some cases 35-40 years old. Buildings that were built that long ago may not have aged well and it could not be more true than in the case of East Columbia Uglys. In order for these homes to remain marketable for years to come intervention is needed. CA (Columbia Association) needs to redraw its guidelines for the neighborhoods that have these houses. This may have already been holding back home owners and investors alike from renovating these homes to a more modern attractive look. If CA redraws its neighborhood's guidelines then the properties when they're put on the market can be marketed as "Build your new dream home in a well established neighborhood." Simply slapping on new siding to these homes actually made them look worse in my opinion, real change needs to come in a full renovation to update these homes.
As new homes become harder to come by in Howard County people will start looking to renovate an existing home in an existing neighborhood and with the relative affordability of these homes, this would be a great place to do such. If CA redraws its guidelines change may finally be afoot for these "East Columbia Uglys"
*all pictures were taken in the village of Oakland Mills' Stevens Forsest Neighborhood on sidestreets of Farewell and Kilminjaro Roads.