Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What About the Pools?

Yes, what about the Pools? One crucial part of the Columbia Experience is its outdoor pools. Not all pools are created equal as newer part of Columbia have newer Pools. Some older pools are showing age and need additional uses to get more visitors. Other Pools need to be modernized in order to make them equal to newer pools while other need to be replaced all together. In this post, I will identify which pools fall into which category and proposed expanded uses when needed.

First lets identify the "new" pools some of these may actually be older ones that have already been modernized. In addition to have the most up to date features, these pools are less likely to have competing pools nearby as well and are well attended. River Hill, Swansfield, Dickinson, Clary's Forest, Hawthorne, Kendall Ridge, Hopewell, and Dorsey Hall. 

Next we have well attended pools that could stand to be modernized to keep their attendance high for generations to come. Pools like this can generally be found on the outer edges of Columbia and have little competition from other pools. To modernize these pools I would add features like mushroom waterfalls, water park features found at newer pools, volleyball courts, wave pool entries, snack bars, and renovated and expanded locker rooms. These pools include Stevens Forest, Thunder Hill, Huntington, MacGills Common, Dasher Green, Phelps Luck, Jeffers Hill, Clemens Crossing, and Longfellow.

Next we come to Pools that are very centrally located and as a result are in competition with other pools and in order to up their attendance, other options should be considered. Fortunately, I have evaluated these pools and I have come up with solutions for them.

Faulkner Ridge- This pool is sandwiched in between Bryant Woods and Longfellow and isn't as well attended as others. This area of Columbia also has a lot of Seniors in it. My solution would be to make Faulkner Ridge a "55 or better Pool." This will give Seniors an Outdoor Pool experience that haven't had yet. In addition, Residents of Senior Living Communities like Vantage House and Harmony Hall can be bused to this pool for so that Residents who no longer drive can use it.

Locust Park- There is a pool north, south, and east of this pool (Phelps Luck, Jeffers Hill, and Kendall Ridge respectively.) That alone makes Locust Park a candidate to be altered to up its attendance. That's why on the weekends, I would make Locust Park, Columbia's first "Night Pool." Night Pool is exactly what it sounds like. In an effort to attract more single Millennials to Columbia, I'm proposing having Locust Park Pool be closed during the day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, but opening it at about 5 or 6 at night on Friday and Saturday nights until about midnight. This will be only for adults 18+ however Alcohol will NOT be served. During the week, Locust Park will be open normal hours for kids and adults of all ages. 

Talbott Springs- Talbott Springs Pool always seemed to be off the beaten path to me. The more centrally located Stevens Forest Pool always appears to be busier and in some cases, could be closer for Talbott Springs Residents. This point has only been made stronger since 2013 when lots of Talbott Springs Residents were redistricted from their titular Elementary School to Stevens Forest. When the new Roger Carter Community Center opened in Ellicott City, it now features a new pool with a retractable roof for year round use. I would build this apparatus at Talbott Springs to allow for year round use and inclement weather use.

Next we come to the Pools that need to be replaced. This has nothing to do with the condition and or attendance levels at these two pools however their adjacent Elementary Schools should eventually be replaced with larger buildings and moving the Pools will up the acreage for the Elementary School Sites. These pools/Elementary Schools are Bryant Woods and Running Brook. This is not surprising since these schools are taking the majority of Downtown Columbia. I would move the Running Brook across the parking as well as the Neighborhood Center adjacent to the telephone building. Due to Resident outcry, I would not build a new 7-11. Bryant Woods Pool I would move in between the Lornwood Daycare Center and Morning Wind Lane. New pools and new Schools will definitely be beneficial to both Bryant Woods and Running Brook.

The only pool I have yet to mention in this post is Hobbit's Glen. Hobbit's Glen is off the beaten path and is considerably smaller than other outdoor pools. I would have it modernized like many other pools in Columbia and I would try to make it a back up Pool for ones that become over-crowded very quickly. Some Residents have wanted a second Pool for River Hill but since Hobbit's Glen is close to River Hill, I would send extra visitors to Hobbit's to up its attendance. I would however bank a site in River Hill's Pheasant Ridge Neighborhood for future use. 

As the title says, What About the Pools? They can be easy to overlook as compared to other amenities of  Columbia but the state of the Pools, like any amenity large or small, can't be overlooked and must evolve and change with the rest of Columbia.    

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The South and West Mall Promenade

One great decision was made when the Metropolitan at Columbia Town Center was built; there's a wide promenade that's landscaped along the Mall side of the property. Although the developers of this new Apartment building may not have intended to do this, they started what could be an entire promenade trail along the entire exterior "ring" road surrounding the Mall. Here's how.
First, I'm only going to focus on the southern and western portions of the Mall Ring Road because that's where the current development and redevelopment are occurring. Since the two new buildings of the Metropolitan currently under construction are part of the same development, I'm going to assume that the promenade will continue along the Mall side of those buildings. If this is true which I hope it is, the Promenade will extend from Broken Land Parkway to Gramercy Place crossing Town Center Boulevard and the soon to be extended Twin Rivers Road.
The main focus will for this post will be on the south side of the Mall Ring Road known as "Corporate Row" These Office Buildings have been built sporadically throughout Columbia's history with small parking decks in their vicinity. They appear distant from the Mall and the new Metropolitan Apartments. In an effort to unify generate foot traffic other than office tenants, the owners of Corporate Row have begun designating the ground floor(s) of these buildings as Retail. Since these buildings appear at the far southern end of the Mall parking lot, they need to feel more connected to the rest of the Mall Ring Road and therefore, Town Center as a whole.
So how do we do that? We expand the Promenade in front of the new Metropolitan Apartments southward into the Corporate Row area to create a flow and connection between all of the buildings. First, a better crossing between Gramercy Place and Mall Ring Road is required. I'm thinking either a three way stop or a traffic signal would be in order with clearly marked crosswalks. The area directly south of Gramercy Place is a surface parking lot with a parking deck behind it. Within that surface lot is a drive thru pad for the Columbia Bank.
My plan is to remove the drive thru and turn the surface lot into an extension of the Promenade. To create a more welcoming environment, the parking deck that acts as a backdrop for this extension of the promenade will be a painted mural with landscaping around it to offset the drab concrete that currently flanks the parking garage.
The next structure is the high rise known as 60 Corporate Row. This building juts out onto Mall Ring Road more than its neighboring building but I believe the Promenade can be extended without relocating any roads. However, I would relocate the front doors of the building to Mall Ring Road so that any planned ground floor Retail can be easily accessed from the Promenade. There are plans for additional ground floor Retail in the back of this building but I don't think it will be accessible enough.
I would next extend the Promenade to 40 Corporate Row. Here the Office Building has better setback than 60 Corporate Row. There is Ground Floor Retail being proposed for both the front side of the building that faces Mall Ring Road and the backside which doesn't have very good frontage. There is also some space in between 40 and 60 Corporate Row that I would turn into a pocket park. The way this land is set up now has lots of concrete and stairs. I would flatten the land to get rid of the stairs and plant more greenery and landscaping with better lighting and seating.
Behind 40 and 60 Corporate Row is 50 Corporate Road. there is Ground Floor Retail for lease here but this space isn't visible enough from Mall Ring Road. 50 Corporate Center foes however have Little Patuxent Parkway frontage, so it may be a better idea to reconfigure that building so that Ground Floor Retail is available on that side.
Although the long term goal for this Promenade is to circle the entirety of Mall Ring Road, there are many other parts of the Road that will probably be subject to redevelopment (such as 1 Mall North, near Lord & Taylor, and the buildings just north of South Entrance Road. That is why this post is focused solely on the South and West Mall Promenade.