More than 100 members of the Building Congress & Exchange and NAIOP Maryland gathered for a project tour of The Merriweather District in downtown Columbia recently. Greg Fitchitt, Senior Vice President, Development for The Howard Hughes Corporation and Ian Kennedy, Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission addressed the crowd with updates on various projects underway including the renovation of the Merriweather Post Pavilion.
“We are embarking on a truly enormous transformation of downtown Columbia, with a 30-year ambitious plan that will transform the current suburban town center into a 21st century walkable, vibrant urban village impacting 400 acres,” explained Greg Fitchitt, Senior Vice President, Development for The Howard Hughes Corporation. “We are about to complete, or have completed, six major projects including 1,000 new residential units, close to 100,000 of new street-level retail and approximately 300,000 square feet of commercial office space. Soon, we will break ground on the next phase of the program to further our completion of a high-density, walkable mixed-use urban center. At completion, this will be the environment envisioned in the downtown Columbia plan for the Merriweather District.”
Ian Kennedy, Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission provided an update on the $55 million renovation effort underway at Merriweather Post Pavilion, the 50-year concert venue that has hosted artists such as Led Zeppelin, Tom Jones and Gladys Knight & the Pips. “The facility never achieved the upgrades needed to stay competitive in the industry,” Kennedy explained, “which now consists of a five-phase renovation plan.” Highlights include a new fan services plaza with modern concessions, bathrooms, box offices, and new entrances. The back stage area will be completely renovated with the installation of dressing rooms, a full kitchen and a dining area for artists and production staffs. In addition, the new stage house will rise twice as tall which will allow for the installation of bigger and more expensive set pieces and backdrops. “We cannot afford to stop operations each summer, so our construction schedule runs from mid-October to early April. And we have to be very thoughtful about which piece to tackle as we embark on our fourth phase,” he added. Completion is scheduled for 2020.