This is what I was waiting to see.
The focal point of the Flier building is a juxtaposition of stairways bathed in light. I’ve seen photographs taken back in the building’s heyday. I admit I stood at the midpoint of this iconic space and just took it in for a while. Then it was time to take a look around.
There were many more additional spaces to explore than I imagined. It definitely gives one that “bigger on the inside” feel.
Outside of what looked like a staff kitchen was a little picnic area. If you enlarge this photo you will see what appears to be a groundhog enjoying the sunny weather.
The reason I got to fulfill my wish was through the kindness of Board of Education member Vicky Cutroneo. She has been working on an initiative for quite some time to provide a space for Howard County teachers to be able to pick up supplies, which will be provided by donation. Our teachers spend out of pocket money every year to support their own classrooms. Ms. Cutroneo hopes to to take a chunk out of that personal investment through providing a centralized location that serves those needs.
Here’s the exciting part: through collaboration with County Executive Ball and his staff, the Flier Building will be the new home for this endeavor. And, not only that. It will also serve as a home base for the organizations collecting and distributing food for local school pantries. Next season Ms. Cutroneo’s other project, Grace’s Closet, which provides warm winter clothing for HCPSS students, will also take up residence here.
But wait. There’s more.
You probably already know about Free Bikes 4 Kidz Maryland, which collected, refurbished, and donated over four hundred bicycles to area children last December. Their home base? The Columbia Flier Building.
You probably don’t know that the Flier Building provides much needed space for the Howard County Community College Theatre Department. I didn’t until I turned a corner and discovered rooms of props, furniture, lighting equipment, set materials, and more. In a room filled with racks and racks of clothing, we came upon a volunteer who will be assisting with costumes for the upcoming HCPSS production of Les Miserables. The folks from HCC had graciously opened their wardrobe collection for her to use for the show.
I used to feel sad as I passed the old Flier building, knowing it was empty and that no one wanted to buy it. I’ve heard plenty of critical assessments of its value. It would cost more to renovate than to build an entirely new property, they say.
But right now, at this very moment, it is filling up with a marvelous hodgepodge of community initiatives and I couldn’t be happier. That wouldn’t be happening without a commitment to creative reuse on the part of the county, and the imagination and dedication of people like Ms. Cutroneo and others who will soon be setting up shop in this historic Columbia landmark.
I had a very Columbia feeling as I left that day. Good things are happening. People are working together. A beloved old building is lonely no more.