Friday, October 16, 2009

Downtown Development = Huge Boom

At least that is what we were left to conclude from the Economic Development Authority's newly released economic impact study.

If we continue the same-old, same-old suburban, car-oriented development patterns that currently exist in downtown Columbia, we can expect 2,860 fewer jobs and $4.4 billion less economic activity related to construction compared to General Growth's super-charged plans, the authority's consultant concluded.

Under the status quo, we would be left with 27,360 fewer jobs and $5.2 billion less economic activity, on an annual basis, related to ongoing operations, the study estimated.

Put another way: We would have 1,000 percent-plus more jobs and 1,000 percent-plus more economic activity if we approve redevelopment plans.

Once open and fully leased, development under the Plan will supply commercial space for approximately 15,460 employees and residences for 5,500 new households. In addition, renovation of the Merriweather Post Pavilion would lead to an estimated 46,000 additional visitors per year and support approximately $1.35 million annually in increased revenues and County visitor expenditures.

Thems some big numbers. That's some big change for this town, and this county.

Your actual mileage may vary, however. That's because the report assumes there's enough demand to support any new construction, that the developer can get the financing it needs to build, and any development would actually be successful. In other words, people would want to live, shop and work in this reimagined boomtown.

The consultant cautioned that its study "does not constitute a full fiscal impact analysis, as it does not calculate revenues net of the costs of additional government service costs likely to result from new development."

Hmmm. (UPDATE: We understand the department of planning and zoning is working up those estimates)

The study also did not attempt to assess the broader consequences of approving a plan or not. "The successful redevelopment of Downtown may meet much of the County’s demand for new commercial buildings and residential units, minimizing development pressure on other areas of the County – or its success may make Howard County an even more desirable location, positioning the County to capture more of the region’s projected demand for housing and commercial space."

The EDA's report can be found here.

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