Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Make Way for Ellicott Heights

 It seems that Public Housing Developments are an endangered species in Howard County. First Guilford Gardens hit the wrecking ball to make way for for the mixed income Monarch Mills in Columbia. Now it's time for Ellicott City's Hilltop and adjacent Ellicott Terrace Apartments to meet a similar fate. Strangely enough Hilltop was the replacement of the very sub-par Mount Ida Homes in the 1960s. Now Hilltop has seen its day in the sun and is undergoing redevelopment. So without further ado lets make way for Ellicott Heights.
It's hard to believe that as recently 1969 there were homes in Howard County that didn't have indoor plumbing. Ellicott City's Mount Ida Homes, which at the time was a Community rich in history but the
wooden cottages along Fells Lane had fallen on hard times. The media eventually got wind of the deplorable conditions of Mount Ida Homes and the County, with its back against the wall promised redevelopment
and delivered on said promise. Fortunately for the Residents they were allowed to move into the new homes once completed, a promise the County is making to current Hilltop Residents some of whom even lived
in old Mount Ida Homes 40 some years ago. 
When completed the then new Hilltop Housing and Ellicott Terrace Apartments consisting of Town Homes and Apartments respectively that offered the basic amenities of indoor plumbing, HVAC systems, and
solid brick constructions. Fells Lane was made into a dead end street off of the newly created Ellicott Mills Drive that extended from Main St. to Court House Drive. Hilltop was located on a new street known as Mount Ida Drive which pays homage to the former Community that once stood there.
 At the lower end of Fells Lane there was once an Elementary School that served African American Children in Ellicott City. Its life as an Elementary School was very short having opened in 1955 and closing in
1964 as Integration swept the nation. Previously White Schools such as St. Johns Lane and Ellicott City Elementarys absorbed the population of Fells Lane which then prompted the County to close the School. It
was then reused as a Police Station until better Police accommodations could be built. Since then it has been used as a Pool and Recreation Center, the only public pool in the County. Given that the Building was once a School its uses as a Recreation Center have been compromised.

After its 1969 completion Hilltop has lived a relatively quiet existence. In 2003 or 2004 a 25 unit Senior Apartment Complex was built on Mount Ida Drive which was the only known mile stone in Hilltop history. Given the successes of redeveloping public housing into mixed income Communities all across the Country Ken Ulman decided to attempt the same here in Howard County. First on the list was Guilford Gardens which by all accounts has been successful. Now it's time for Hilltop and Ellicott Terrace.
Site Plan For Ellicott Heights
When authoring this blog I always use the concept of urbanizing Howard County as the backbone for writing these posts. Not everyone agrees with an agenda as bold as mine but it appears that the developers
of the new Ellicott Heights do. Ellicott Heights will feature an increased amount of units, a brand new Recreation Center on the opposite end of the site and a diverse array of housing options and income levels.
 East Ellicott City is ready to usher in several new development and redevelopment projects all of which will usher in an era of urbanization and growth in a pocket of town which up until now appeared stagnant. I wonder what County owned development will see a fate similar to Hilltop's; Columbia Landing in Long Reach perhaps?

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