Symphony Woods Park
Interested in learning more about the Inner Arbor Trust? Come stop by our Booth of Wine in the Woods on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 20. Click here to see the booth's location.
The Columbia Association (CA) board of directors voted on Feb. 14 to approve a proposal - called the Inner Arbor Plan - that would add several new features to Symphony Woods Park, potentially turning it into more of a destination while still respecting, and even incorporating, the trees that define it.
Those features potentially would include a dinner theater, a children's theater, a ballroom venue, an iconic sculpture, a treehouse amphitheater, an elevated tree canopy walk, a sculpture garden, a restaurant and cafes, a fountain plaza, meandering paths and CA headquarters. A 1,750-space parking garage would be nearby, outside of the park where Toby's Dinner Theatre is presently located.
The proposal also included establishing a 501(c)(e) not-for-profit entity that would implement the plan. Three board members have been named to the not-for-profit entity. On March 28, the CA Board named Ed Coleman and Gregg Schwind to the not-for-profit entity. They will be joined by CA President Phil Nelson, as well as two residents.
CA staff have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the proposed Inner Arbor Plan and a proposed 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that would implement the plan. This FAQ will continue to be updated.
In July 2012, the Howard County Planning Board approved CA's Final Development Plan documents for the Merriweather-Symphony Woods Neighborhood, which would allow CA to begin the Site Development Plan process. The Planning Board's decision, which includes conditions for approval, is available at this link. The CA board opted in August 2012 to pause Symphony Woods Park development efforts in consideration of the Planning Board's conditions and recommendations, which led to the proposed Inner Arbor Plan.
Symphony Woods is a 36-acre park open space owned by CA and located off Little Patuxent Parkway in the heart of Columbia's Downtown. While it is heavily used during annual events, it has few visitors during the remainder of the year, excepting those walking through Symphony Woods to attend concerts at Merriweather Post Pavilion, which is the region's premiere outdoor concert venue and which is encircled by the park.
CA is committed to making Symphony Woods Park a significant amenity space and an inviting place for downtown residents, workers, and the whole community. The Downtown Columbia Plan, adopted in February 2010, calls for the Merriweather-Symphony Woods Neighborhood to become a cultural park where the landscape is a setting for arts and civic uses and where people of all ages can be entertained and culturally enriched.
The proposed Inner Arbor Plan was discussed at a CA board meeting on Oct. 11, 2012, and presented before the board again on Jan. 24, 2013. An additional public information session was held on Jan. 31, 2013.
The proposal will now return to the county government development process, which will continue with the Site Development Plan process solely for the sections of Symphony Woods Park included in the Final Development Plan process, according to Marsha S. McLaughlin, director of the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning. CA President Phil Nelson said after the Feb. 14 meeting that he hopes to start that part of the approval process "as soon as possible". The 16-step development process would begin anew with a new Final Development Plan submission for parts of Symphony Woods Park not included in the initial Final Development Plan. CA staff will be meeting with county government officials about moving forward with that, according to Nelson.
Both the Site Development Plan and Final Development Plan processes provide numerous opportunities for public input. This website will be updated with dates and times as they are scheduled.
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