Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Failure in Timing?


The Columbia Association released their proposed 2022 budget plan Friday. There’s a lot to process there but the thing that stood out for me is the closure of Haven on the Lake. Let me begin by saying that there are plenty of people in this town who know more about the ongoing saga of Haven on the Lake than I do. I am no expert. 

I have heard bits and pieces over the years. Perhaps you have, too. Are you a frequent visitor there? I have never been. I knew from the outset that, while appealing, Haven on the Lake was not an amenity our family could afford. I guess one might say that when the original business plans were made up, CA was not looking at our demographic. 

That’s okay. Not everything has to be for me. Just because it wasn’t in my price range didn’t mean that it wouldn’t provide a valuable service. I’ve always hoped it would be a success.

I was there with my daughter, sometime blogger HoCoHouseHon, at the groundbreaking ceremony at the Lakefront in 2014. You can read about that here.

Two Tales, One City

I’m still disappointed we never got to see former County Executive Ken Ulman jump in the cold plunge pool.

Later on I tried to follow CA’s ongoing disputes with original partner The Still Point, in Lakefront Woes.

Haven on the Lake was an ambitious plan for the Columbia Association. I often wondered if it looked far better on paper or came across better in an elevator pitch than it was ever able to function in real life. It takes a steady and ample supply of people who exceed certain income levels to support a business which is not a purveyor of a “need to have” but rather a “want to have”. 

It seems to me that if Columbia/HoCo has any significant concentration of such folks, they don’t live anywhere near Haven on the Lake. In fact, most don’t live in Columbia proper.

And that brings to mind the long journey of the Downtown Plan and beyond: all the hopes for a more vibrant, livable Downtown Columbia. There are so many pieces to that puzzle. We see new housing, businesses, and various attractions moving towards completion now. We wonder if they will succeed in being the draw to bring the people who truly want to live and work here. 

Was Haven on the Lake the simply right place at the wrong time? Did they jump in too soon?

Perhaps there will be a time in the not too distant future where Downtown Columbia will have become home to the right number people at the right income levels to successfully sustain that kind of business model. Perhaps they are coming, but far too late for Haven.

With the pandemic as an additional variable that no one had in the plans, we don’t know exactly how that will impact future Downtown success. But, since it affects timing - - and timing is interconnected with so many of the relevant pieces of the puzzle - - all of the local hardships as a result of COVID-19 are bound to slow things at the very least. 

There were some rather pointed conversations back in the day about whether CA should even be in the business of selling a luxury product which was out of reach for ordinary Columbians. I find myself wondering what kind of success that same space would have had as a typical CA facility,  conveniently located Downtown near ordinary Columbians. Yes,it’s an expensive location which must mean high operational costs. But would it have made up the cost difference in the number of people it would have served? 

Could it have been the flagship location, a perfect introduction to the CA we want everyone to know and love when they move here from out of town? 

Is it too late? Right now, probably. 

I know for a fact that many of my readers are armchair Columbia Association experts, so feel free to chime in with your comments. Also, if you have questions about Haven on the Lake, the proposed budget, or anything else CA-centric, you’ll want to sign up for their virtual Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, January 21st, at 7:00 pm. Learn more here.

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