Oh, darn! I gave it away! In this part I'm discussing residential density! Silly me! : )
The issue of residential density is probably the most serious one in the entire proposed downtown redevelopment plan. The number of residential units proposed would create a hugew influx of people into Columbia.
Taken in the context of the county, however, 5500 units isn't such a large figure. The county allows 1850 residential permits annually. So over 30 years, this would be over 55,000 units. The downtown Columbia plan constitutes therefore, only about 10% of this figure. So while it's a lot of density in a small area, compared to other times in local history, it's not overbearing.
The words I think of when I hear "residential density" are "adequate public facilities". The Council has to ensure, even in considering adding one unit of density, the impact upon traffic, roads, schools, protective services, utilities, etc. I doubt that by writing this, I'm telling any Council member something they don't know.
Another word I hear is "amenities". Some have used the word "vibrancy" here, but it takes more than just putting cool things to do close to people to make a community vibrant. So I won't use the v-word. But I will say that if there is a critical mass of people in a location, it spurs investment. Businesses, restaurants, theaters, fine arts and sporting venues, special events-- all are more likely to come downtown if there were more of a downtown.
And that's just the matter-- the residential density issue is crucial to re-creating downtown Columbia, not just as Columbia's downtown, but as Howard County's downtown. Much has been said and written about Columbia's central location. For it to realize it's potential as a regional hub, downtown Columbia has to have more in it. And just building amenities and commercial space won't cut it. Residential density has to be part of the equation-- as much as infrastructure and the will to invest will allow.