Today's post is dedicated to Dennis Lane, who should have been there.
We arrived shortly before ten am on a hot and humid Wednesday morning. Real Columbia summer. As we approached the steps we were stopped by a friendly woman who welcomed us.
"Are you here for the groundbreaking?" she asked. We said we were. She introduced herself and we chatted as she showed us to the starting point for the morning's festivities. Eva (I think that was her name) and a number of other women, dressed in white with shirts bearing the Haven on the Lake logo, were stationed at the ready to greet new arrivals.
This next area was beautifully set up with a variety of little tents where one could sign in, get a name tag and a program, and pick up a refreshing drink provided by Whole Foods: your choice of lemonade, unsweetened iced green tea, or water. A display of gift bags bearing the Downtown Partnership logo had been prepared as parting gifts. The building (still sometimes referred to as the "iconic Rouse building") cast just enough shade for attendees to stand around comfortably during this meet-and-greet portion of the event.
When it was time we were invited to move to an area behind the building, overlooking the lake, where the groundbreaking would take place. Chairs had been set up under another tent. We sat at the back and watched as local notables filed in. It was quite warm but we felt happy to be in the shade, and seated, for that matter.
The speakers were upbeat, focused, and brief. The remarks touched on people, partnerships, and progress. The program moved forward without lagging and soon the golden shovels were put to the ground, cameras were focused, and dirt was flying.
All in all, it was a lovely event. It had been carefully planned and beautifully executed. We picked up our reusable shopping bags (filled with information about Haven on the Lake and other goodies) and went on our way. The conversation on the way home was about the exciting transformation of the Lakefront, and the possibilities that a place like Haven on the Lake will provide.
It doesn't seem that long ago that the Howard Hughes Corporation was throwing a little masquerade ball to entice Whole Foods to come to Columbia. Yesterday's event, with helpful ladies all in white setting the tone, was more like a summer garden party celebrating that success. Pretty tents, chilled beverages, gift bags and all, it showed in a thousand tiny little ways how the redevelopment of Columbia is moving forward.
The success of such events rests in the details. No matter how well planned there are always a few glitches here and there that either make the planners wince or shrug--and this was no exception. Of course, those are the moments that make for a little rush of adrenaline, or laughter. The possibility of the unexpected...
One such highlight was when the new President and CEO of the Columbia Association, Milton Matthews, tried to get away with saying "Lake Kit." The friendly crowd would have none of it, and so he gave it the old college try and got through the whole "Kittamaqundi", to laughter and applause.
Also memorable was the moment when County Executive Ken Ulman realized that no one was going to introduce him, so he just jumped out of his chair and came on down. He kidded about the lack of introduction but then got right to it and did his best to remember all the exciting things happening as a part of the Downtown Plan for Columbia. (There are a lot of them.)
And he did a great job, too, except for mentioning Suzanne Waller as the CA Board member from Town Center. Ms. Waller was defeated by Jeanne Ketley in the last election, and she was in attendance to hear the oversight. Oops.
Community as live theater. It's the best. That's when the most human qualities are revealed, as in the off-the-cuff suggestion from Mr. Ulman that Haven on the Lake should be opened, not with a ribbon-cutting, but with a jump in the cold plunge pool. It was definitely the heat speaking, probably not a carefully scripted laugh line.
As we left my daughter, a Baltimore City girl at heart, looked at me with a twinkle in her eye.
"Do you think he'll do it?"
I knew in a heartbeat what she meant. And I'm more excited than ever to be there when it happens.