Monday, November 30, 2015


"What to do with the Columbia Medical Plan campus?" muses Bill Woodcock over at The 53. If you are not familiar with the location, it's more or less at the corner of Thunder Hill Road and Route 175, across from the Walgreen's. From Wikipedia:

The Columbia Medical Plan was founded in 1967 as a health maintenance organization (HMO) available to citizens of Columbia. In more recent years, however, this plan has divided into separate medical groups that simply share the Twin Knolls buildings.

Bill suggests a more mixed-use approach over there. I was interested to read his ideas. I love brainstorming and I think Columbia can benefit from fresh ideas. Through the years I have suggested a variety of suggestions (some more serious than others) for local sites, including turning Wilde Lake Village Center into a haven for children's birthday parties, or, a living history museum of Columbia's earliest years. I've imagined buying the Patuxent Publishing building and turning it into a private home with the help of HGTV/Extreme Home experts. Most recently I've envisioned the space above Clyde's (formerly housing CA) as an event venue where local high schools could hold their proms.

So I am completely on board with brainstorming. It's fun, and a great way to generate even more ideas than the one you started with.But I'm not okay with how Bill sees this playing out.

It starts out well.

Am I saying, let's explore building more housing there? No, course not! What I'm proposing are generally, more day-based activities, though some activities could go on until 9, 10, or possibly later. I'm proposing, just as an individual, not officially in any way, that the County and whatever other powers that be exist, consider moving the Oakland Mills Village Center merchants to the Columbia Medical Plan property.

Okay, move the Village Center merchants out of the Village Center. Combine them with the Columbia Medical Plan campus. How would that work?

The reasons why to do this are plain. First, the location provides the opportunity for much more traffic to go by, and therefore, to stop in. Second, I'm only talking about moving the merchants at the current village center, from Second Chance through Food Lion. That footprint would definitely fit. Third, what moving those properties would do, would be to allow for the expansion of the Columbia Ice Rink to become the multi-sports facility that some in the community envision. Four, it could allow for the opportunity for other business to be built adjacent to the sports facility, or for that matter, housing. And fifth, doing this would not cause one single person to be displaced who currently lives in Oakland Mills.

Wait just a darn minute. Why are we still discussing displacing residents? Are we not finished with acting as though displacing Oakland Mills residents is okay because they are renters, or poor, or not the right color or nationality? Are there enough people in Village leadership who think it's okay to get rid of citizens of Oakland Mills because they are living on desirable property or because they don't add to those people's view of what their Columbia looks like?

There must be, because Mr. Woodcock eyes this plan as a way to assuage them. And that just boggles my mind. He goes on,

On the other hand, the one drawback I see is that the village center merchants would be displaced from the village's densest housing, but then again, it could be accessible by HC Transit.

I agree. That's a drawback. Moving the Food Lion away from the people who are most likely to walk there is a drawback, all right. And I'm not convinced that saying it's served by public transit is a good enough solution. We'd be taking the people who are the poorest, and most vulnerable, and making life a whole level more expensive and inconvenient for them.

I don't think we should be crafting solutions in our communities that adversely affect others in a way that we, ourselves, would not wish to be inconvenienced.

I don't fault Bill one bit for brainstorming. He's a smart guy, and he's been right at the center of what's going on in Oakland Mills for years. The idea that the Columbia Medical Plan campus could be more than it is now is absolutely sound. And mixed use is definitely an interesting suggestion, although most businesses these days don't fancy the Columbia style of being off the main road behind a lot of bushes. The joy of discovery does not work for them. The want in-your-face visibility.

As for me, I have thought that the Columbia Medical Plan space would be a great place to put a Howard County Kennedy Krieger campus. They do have a couple of locations here, but what if we could have all of the services they offer, soup-to-nuts, in one place? Across from a pharmacy, easily accessible to Route 29, or 175 to 95. Down the street from our Village Center merchants. Connected by pathways to Tot Lots. Minutes away from the Mall.

Wow. You know, Oakland Mills is just ideally located for almost anything, if you really think about it. And I don't have to be in complete agreement with Bill to give him credit for being willing to think outside the box.

What do you think?







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