People Acting Together in Howard (PATH) is holding a virtual press conference on Monday, October 19 at 6:30PM to spotlight the urgency of this moment for the future of Downtown Columbia, as Howard County Council considers restoring funding for arts access and affordable housing through the mixed-use New Cultural Center project. The press conference will be followed by the County Council’s public legislative hearing on TAO1-FY2021 to move project funds out of contingency. PATH leaders will testify at the legislative hearing at 7PM.
In recent years, Howard County launched an innovative development plan for Downtown Columbia that would bring arts, education, mixed-use development, and affordable housing to the region; the first project and centerpiece of the plan is the landmark New Cultural Center (NCC).
“The NCC will draw families, tourists, and business to Downtown Columbia through its unique mix of arts and cultural offerings,” says Sharon Shaw, PATH and Howard County Education Association leader. “Including affordable housing at the site will allow people of all socioeconomic backgrounds to access quality arts and housing and exemplify Rouse’s vision of inclusion and equity.”
Howard County officials took an important stand when they passed legislation to include 900 units of affordable housing as part of the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia. This legislation was the result of years of discussion, deliberation, lobbying, and organizing by the Columbia Downtown Housing Corporation, Howard County Housing Commission, county officials, and thousands of local residents with groups like PATH.
“By delaying project funding, Howard County Council is dangerously close to losing $64 Million in state funding for affordable housing in the Downtown Columbia Plan,” explains Rev. Mary Ka Kanahan of St. John United Church in Columbia. “As faith and community leaders, we call on the Council to show moral leadership by voting for the New Cultural Center on November 2.”
Rev. Kanahan continues, “The business community, non-profits, housing department, and citizens fought for and support this forward-looking vision for a vibrant future for Columbia and Howard County. To reject the plan is to be out of step with the vision that we’re living into.”