There's something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose! *
It looks as though it’s finally happening. Toby Orenstein’s theatre is going to get the transformation and upgrades that she was been dreaming of for years.
From a press release shared on Ellicott City Patch:
Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and the Howard County Housing Commission announced that the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development has awarded $4.5 million in tax credits to three separate developments in Howard County. The funding will support 1) the first mixed income housing in the Downtown Columbia Redevelopment Plan, turning Toby's Dinner Theater into a state of the art cultural center with Artists Flats...
Word of this project first came my way in an article by Fatimah Waseem in 2016. My first response was enthusiastic , then I wasn’t so sure. Then, to be honest, it fell off my radar, and I stopped thinking about it. So, here we are. It looks like it is a happening thing.
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me! *
You know me. Of course I am excited about a cultural arts center. But I’ve always liked the fact that housing is a part of this plan. And it is vitally important that affordable housing is in the mix. In reading the entire press release I found this statement from Peter Engel to be highly educational:
Peter Engel, the Executive Director of the Howard County Housing Commission noted that there is still a shortage of over 5,000 homes for individuals and families earning $50,000 a year or less who are already living in the County. "The Commission is very excited with the award and the chance to advance the County's efforts to provide opportunities for everyone. We know that when people struggle to pay their rent they have difficulty helping their kids with school work, their health suffers, causing trips to the emergency room, and they commute farther, adding to climate change. Giving our lower wage workers more opportunities to live throughout the County benefits all of us.”
By the way, have you listened to Episode 64 of Elevate Maryland yet? Their guest is Peter Engel and their discussion around affordable housing shortages and what housing insecurity looks like is fascinating. And, in the case of this Toby’s/Cultural Arts Center/Affordable Housing project, both timely and relevant.
Of course a press release is just the beginning of a story. I look forward to learning more about this project as it unfolds. More than anything else, I hope this is the answer to all Ms. Orenstein’s hopes and dreams. She has given so much to our community. It’s long past time for her wishes to come true.
Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great! *
*from West Side Story, Bernstein/Sondheim