Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Happy Talk

Yes, please.

I read the article in the Howard County Times this morning and I'm mentally doing a little happy dance. What a wonderful way to start the day.

"Proposed multi-purpose arts center envisioned as 'crown jewel' of Columbia" is the title of the piece by Fatimah Waseem which outlines a proposal by the Orchard Develooment Corporation to

...relocate Toby's Dinner Theatre, the Howard County Arts Council, the Columbia Festival of the Arts and the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts. The center, proposed in the Crescent neighborhood, would include a parking garage, a visual arts center, a performing arts space, black box theaters, studios and a cafe.

I've written about my desire for a cultural arts center numerous times on this blog, most recently after my visit to Olney Theatre Center. One of my commenters clued me into the existence of this plan, which wasn't even on my radar. (Thanks, Linda.) Every time I visit a place like Strathmore or Roundhouse I yearn for a home for the arts in my adopted hometown. I really, really hope this is it.

I like the way that housing is included in this proposal:

Artist flats geared for artists who may be part of the center are included in the proposal.

The plans for housing, part of a proposed binding agreement with Columbia's master developer, Howard Hughes Corp., create 209 one- and two-bedroom apartments atop the cultural arts center, around 100 of which would be affordable by targeting people who earn about half of the county's median income of $110,133.

I get extremely tired of people who think that affordable housing is the same thing as Section 8 housing vouchers. "There go my housing values!" they cry. Or, "there goes the neighborhood!" Offering housing at different price points actually means you may be adding teachers, social service workers, or first responders to your neighborhood. I think moderate income residents are the kind of people who would make the best neighbors add a lot to the neighborhood. (Thanks, Debbie.)

And this proposal, geared towards performing artists, is pretty amazing. If we want to enjoy the arts in Columbia/Howard County, shouldn't performing artists be able to afford to live here? Most people I know who make a living in the arts work all the time. It's been a "gig economy" for them since before the term was coined. There are multiple performance commitments, teaching lessons and/or doing workshops, plus often a full or part-time job in an unrelated field just to make ends meet.

So bring on the cultural arts center. And, not to be too tacky, save me a front row seat to watch:

...downtown Columbia's quest for artistic vibrancy, the defining but intangible character of a city that in the midst of major redevelopment.

I know it's "only preliminary". Don't burst my bubble just yet. I want to believe my wishes will come true.


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