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Plans for Dazzling New Lakefront Library Unveiled

A new central library to be located on the Columbia Lakefront at the site of the former American City Building was unveiled recently by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball joined by Governor Wes Moore and community leaders.  The announcement of the proposed Lakefront Library was coupled with news of expanded mixed-income housing opportunities for Downtown Columbia.

Designs for the 100,000-square foot library were created by Heatherwick Studio, the firm noted for landmarks such as the Vessel public art structure and the Little Island park in New York City, and other iconic buildings around the world.

Funding for the Lakefront Library has been included in Ball’s proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Capital Budget, including a State grant funding nearly all costs for FY2024. Pending County Council approval, design for the project can begin later this year with the anticipation of breaking ground no later than 2026. 

Howard County Library System is highly ranked by The Library Journal and is known for its programming. The new Lakefront Library will provide more room for classes for all ages, Project Literacy and workforce development initiatives, equity initiatives, and more.

The library will be built on land provided by The Howard Hughes Corp., which serves as Downtown Columbia’s community developer. The company is also providing the land for a new mixed income housing project in the Merriweather District, the prior intended location of the replacement library. At least 240 units of housing are planned. The Howard County Housing Commission will develop the project. See more here

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Watch Maryland Governor Wes Moore’s full speech here (7 mins).

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why does the current Central Branch Library need to be replaced? Wasn’t the Central Branch recently renovated?

At 50,000 square feet, the current Central Branch is not big enough for the growing Columbia community. It cannot accommodate the programming and special needs that the community deserves.

The Central Branch had minor interior alterations in 2016 at a cost of $1.8M. Due to the pending development, renovations were minimal and addressed structural, end-of-life, interim fixes and enhancements to address customer needs (e.g., new paint, new carpet), and transformed space formerly used by administrative staff into public space.

How long has this new Lakefront Library been planned?

Howard County’s Downtown Columbia Plan (adopted unanimously by County Council in 2010 and updated in 2018) recommended that a new Central Branch be built in Columbia’s new Downtown. In 2019, the Howard County Library System engaged G4 Architecture, Research, and Planning, Inc. to update its Master Plan, which calls for a new 100,000 SF Downtown Columbia Branch to meet the increased number of new residents and visitors and to meet the Maryland State minimum library guidelines of one SF per capita.

Why is the Lakefront Library and Affordable Housing construction connected?

Moving the new library to the Lakefront location allows the Merriweather District site to be used for the affordable housing project. This connection allows more than twice the affordable housing originally contemplated to be built.

How can I get involved?

Send an email to your Councilmember expressing your support of funding for the Lakefront Library and affordable housing project in the County budget.

Read the full list of Frequently ask Questions and their answers here.

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