Sunday, November 13, 2022



On the day before the election the weather was beautiful. I knew what I had to do. There was somewhere I had to go. Something I had to see.

In 2014 the County purchased the Long Reach Village Center. “…the County Council approved legislation that created an exception, allowing the government to purchase the private commercial land because of its rundown condition.” The Village Center is not only comprised of commercial property but is also home to the Long Reach Community Association and the Columbia Art Center. 

For more about the 2014 purchase:

Howard Co. purchases Long Reach Village Center for $5M, Luke Lavoie, Baltimore Sun, photos by Jon Sham

Not everyone agreed that purchasing the troubled Village Center was the solution to the problem. Some felt it was not a wise use of public funds. And, in fact, Allan Kittleman, who won the County Executive race that November, was one of them. 

At the beginning of Kittleman’s term, Long Reach Village Center sat in limbo. Residents of the Columbia Village were hoping, had been hoping, that something good would finally happen there. That someone would see them as being worthy of attention and investment.

After four years just about nothing had happened. 

I don’t mean that nothing was done. There were public meetings and private negotiations but the end result was that Long Reach Village Center, and the people who needed it, were no better off than they were before. 

On Monday November 7th I was thinking about what was at stake in the race for County Executive. I got in my car and drove. Not far. When I parked my car I saw the sign.

I walked over to get a better look.

I thought about what the Long Reach Village Center looked like when the County bought it, and when County Executive Calvin Ball took office. Then I looked at the listings of shops and offices today.

It was a beautiful day. Something inside me wanted to take pictures* of the Long Reach Village Center because I wanted to preserve images of what it looked like. The future felt uncertain.

None of this would have happened without determined and creative leadership. While there are legitimate arguments to be had about public vs private funding and investment, the truth is that, while people were having these arguments, nothing happened. 

There are real people living in Long Reach who are every bit as much a part of Columbia and Howard County as those in Hickory Ridge, or Ellicott City, or Clarksville. Yet few wanted to see them as worthy of investment. We can argue all day long about whether this was “the right way to do it” but, at what point do you stop the arguments and roll up your sleeves and help?

Right before you enter the courtyard there is a large mosaic piece entitled “Metamorphosis”. Susan Stockman is the artist. I think its origins can be traced to the first ArtReach festival in 2015.
The label reads: 

Susan Stockman, Artist
Mosaic created by the citizens of Howard County 
Sponsored by the Howard County Arts Council 
And Howard County, MD

A metamorphosis is not a magic thing. It takes work. As I sat in the courtyard on that beautiful day I thought of all the people - - whose names we probably don’t know - - who have worked to bring about change for the Village Center and the people of Long Reach. And I wondered if, after the election, it all might go away.

The story of the Long Reach Village Center is not a simple one. This post can’t (and isn’t meant to be) an investigative “deep dive” on how we got here and/or the perfect long-term solution. I’m sharing it today because, when I was thinking of things that have happened over the last four years that really mattered to me, this was a big one. 

Perhaps that’s because I also live in an older Columbia village, Oakland Mills, and know what it’s like when the people with the big money don’t want to invest in you. Maybe it’s because I am intrinsically wired to root for the underdog. 

The election is over. But the metamorphosis of the Long Reach Village Center is not. County Executive Calvin Ball has been re-elected. His administration will continue to have the responsibility of moving this project forward. I’ll keep stopping by to see how it’s going. You should, too.

*I didn’t take pictures of DOODLEHATCH because I’ve posted about them recently.

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