Look, Columbia Gateway, a 30-year-old corporate office park, needs some new life, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman admitted Tuesday.
“It was the way things were going when we did it, but times have changed,” Kittleman said during a news conference at Universities Space Research Association. “Every single business owner I’ve met and talked to said we need to redevelop Gateway to make it the master economic engine that it can be. There’s so much potential right here.”
The idea is to apply the innovation district model, making it a place where big companies, institutions and startups are located. The idea has mostly been applied in cities (like Baltimore and Philly) as this generation’s answer to the office park. Even with Columbia’s unique history as a planned community, it’s a sign of the times to see such a development look to adopt the model.
While more land development could come to the 920-acre area that’s only 15 percent buildings, the first step is aligning what’s already there.
The workers are already there, as Howard County says the businesses collectively employ 26,000 people. It’s home to tech companies like Tenable Network Security, Merkle, Oracle and Leidos. In terms of startup activity, TEDCO’s offices are there, and MasterPeace Solutions has shown a willingness to throw support behind new ideas through the in-house incubator it launched recently. The Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship isn’t far, either. In terms of institutions, it’s got the UMBC Training Center and Howard Community College, along with USRA.
So what’s it gonna take?
Getting everyone together can be an issue in such a corporate environment, so business-park officials are going to start throwing more events like outdoor concerts and networking events. Along with being good on a human level, it can lead to new ideas in an area that already has lots of companies and a central location on I-95 between Baltimore and D.C.
“This could be the major economic growth engine for all of Central Maryland in general,” Kittleman said.