Total of $6.5 million in funding including $1 million from State

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball advanced the East Columbia 50+ Center expansion with $1 million in State funding and $5.5 million in County funding. The funding is included in Ball’s capital budget for FY 2022, which will be sent to the Howard County Council on April 1. Photos of the event can be found here. Video can be found here.

“The East Columbia 50+ Center is a critical resource for our aging residents and our community,” said Ball. “We’re incredibly thankful to Senator Guy Guzzone and our entire State Delegation for their advocacy and hard work to support this project and Howard County. As we’ve seen throughout the past year, a community center that allows our older residents to connect, learn, and thrive is a key component to a high quality of life. For our aging residents, this center is overdue. The time is now to ensure that they have the resources, support, and care needed to thrive.”

“The new East Columbia 50+ Center will serve as a significant resource for our expanding senior population countywide,” said Maryland State Senator Guy Guzzone. “I’m pleased to have helped secured $1,000,000 in funding to further this project and demonstrate the State Delegation’s ongoing commitment to supporting critical infrastructure needs in our county.”

The project design for the expansion began in 2018 and the architectural design work was completed in 2020. Ball included the East Columbia 50+ Center in his Fiscal Year 2021 capital budget to advance construction, but it was removed by a majority in the Howard County Council.

“I’m ecstatic about the proposed funding for the East Columbia 50+ Center,” said District 2 Councilmember Dr. Opel Jones. “Thank you to our County Executive, Dr. Calvin Ball, and so many advocates of the 50+ Center, for continuing to fight for our seniors.”

“The new East Columbia 50+ Center will be a vital infrastructure investment for older residents of East Columbia, especially considering how hard our seniors have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said District 3 Councilmember Christiana Rigby. “I am thrilled that County Executive Ball has proposed full funding for the 50+ Center in the FY22 Capital Budget, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Council to move this critical project forward.”

The East Columbia 50+ Center was identified as one of the top priority projects in a Master Plan for the Office on Aging and Independence. The plan noted that 40% of Howard County’s older adult population resides in East Columbia. The neighborhood also is made up of a diverse and vulnerable community that includes 86% that are 60 years or older, 7% below the poverty level and 35% that live alone.

“This will be part of an essential network of places and spaces leading the county’s effort to become one of the nation’s best Age-Friendly communities,” said Jenna Crawley, Administrator for the Office on Aging and Independence. “Our communities of older adults are among the fastest-growing in the county, and this new facility will help to support our vibrant, active neighbors who are seeking new opportunities in fitness, career, lifestyle, and social engagement.”

The existing East Columbia 50+ Center is 3800 square feet (sf) with a capacity of 60 and is the only center without access to a dedicated fitness center. Its total attendance pre-pandemic was nearly 17,000 annual visits and more than 32,000 visits to use fitness equipment. The current 50+ space is insufficient to offer desired programming to meet the needs of the community.

The expanded 50+ Center (29,600 sf) will include:

  • Commercial kitchen to support a congregate lunch program and provide capacity for addressing food insecurity issues for all populations.
  • Large community meeting space to support meal programs, events, and community meetings.
  • Technology hub for virtual program offerings and connectivity across sites.
  • A social day program for at risk adults in the central and most densely populated part of the county.
  • Expanded programs in art, lifelong learning, languages, physical fitness, evidence-based health promotion, intergenerational, consumer protection, civic engagement, advocacy, employment and volunteerism.
  • Fitness equipment room and exercise studio to support healthy aging to maintain the optimal health and independent living of older adults.
  • The building will be equipped with a generator and can help serve the community during emergencies.

If the proposed County funding is approved by the County Council, construction of the 50+ Center could begin as early as August 2021, with a projected opening date in the spring of 2023.

“Today will be remembered with hope and gratitude by our senior community,” said Pearl Atkinson Stewart, 50+ Steering Committee member. “We applaud Dr. Ball for stepping up and seeing this project to completion.”

“East Columbia is an underserved community, and this pandemic has been brutal for older residents,” said Fran LoPresti, 50+ Steering Committee member. “This is a lifeline for our physical and mental health as well as a needed place to heal and recover.”

“We all stand in solidarity with the advocates and Howard County government to celebrate our future,” said Mary Kay Kanahan of People Acting Together in Howard (PATH). “We have heard the needs of the community and we will see this project through to completion.”

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Watch the video here:

Scott E

1 COMMENT

  1. Finally- a much needed center for an underserved community. This center will also benefit seniors from all over Howard County (a sizable portion of County seniors use this center too!). Plus, programs and services are provided for residents of all ages- not just seniors ( free snacks for children, tax prep and tech clinic services for lower income residents etc etc. ). Did you know that during the pandemic, this tiny center provided safe, supervised space for school aged children to do schoolwork remotely?
    This will be a center for everyone!

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