Below is the testimony delivered by DCACC Vice Chair Joanne Davis at a Howard County Council hearing on July 14, 2016 in support of tax increment financing legislation that would fund a publicly owned parking garage to support Merriweather Post Pavilion, as well as the broader redevelopment of Downtown Columbia.
I am testifying tonight in support Council Resolution 105-2016 and Council Bill 56-2016, the Tax Increment Financing (“TIF”) legislation. This, the TIF, is a well-established, if not well understood, method for financing public improvements. It is the piece of the very complex downtown plan that is needed in order to build a public parking garage to provide parking for Merriweather Post Pavilion.
As was stated in the Downtown Columbia Plan that was passed by you back in 2010:
This Plan calls for the formation of a Downtown Arts and Culture Commission, an independent non-profit organization, to oversee the planning, coordination and implementation of artistic and cultural activities, opportunities, events and works displayed in Downtown.
Based on this charge from you that is contained within the Downtown General Plan, the following mission statement was adopted:
The Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission's mission is to promote artistic and cultural activities in Columbia, Maryland and to ensure that the amphitheater at the heart of this community, Merriweather Post Pavilion, continues to thrive as a world-renowned home to performing arts.
So, you know where I am coming from. You created the Commission. And now we are here to start making an arts and culture district in downtown Columbia a reality!
Imagine. Imagine all the people… Imagine the people in a downtown that is a center of arts and culture. And then look at the plans. SMILE! 50 years after its birth, Columbia is implementing a real plan to create the downtown imagined by the original planners. Work places, housing, restaurants and retail all are to be expanded – and that is and will be wonderful.
However, for the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, best of all is the realization of this downtown filled with art and culture.
The TIF is the piece of legislation that, once passed by the County Council, will provide for both (i) the accelerated construction of needed infrastructure downtown and (ii) help facilitate the transfer of the ownership of Merriweather from Howard Hughes to the DCACC by ensuring a permanent parking solution for the venue. Thereafter, some of the net income from Merriweather will help subsidize and energize many artistic and cultural events in Downtown Columbia. The Commission intends to support the full panorama of artistic and cultural endeavors.
In other words, providing the necessary infrastructure to build and serve the arts and cultural district of Columbia is critical to the mission of the Commission and to an integral part of the Downtown Columbia General Plan.
Merriweather was named the second best amphitheater in the United States by Billboard magazine in 2010, the fourth best in the United States by Rolling Stone in 2013. Check out the modern source for all knowledge, Wikipedia, for the amazing history. With the upgrades completed this year and planned for next year, Merriweather would likely be rated the first best! As Council members, you’ve had a guided tour. This venue that is so well regarded can be used for more than the rock concerts. It can be used and enjoyed by people of all artistic tastes and preference. And, best of all, its popularity will bring financial resources and artistic inspiration to support a broad spectrum of arts and cultural events.
We have built it. They do come. But, there must be a place to park, not only for Merriweather concertgoers, but also for all those who will come to enjoy what is our new and wonderful Downtown Columbia. There are no subway stops, no buses that can accommodate the 90% of concert attendees who travel from outside Howard County to this gem of a landmark here in our home. The TIF will provide the funds to build the garage, 2500 parking spaces. Drive into the garage, park once, and then gather and engage in so much more that is offered downtown.
But for the TIF, the lack of a parking garage and other infrastructure enhancements would diminish Merriweather’s future viability;
But for the TIF, the possibility of creating a destination arts and cultural district in downtown Columbia would be significantly decreased; and
But for the TIF, the vision of a downtown infused with or visual and performing arts will be greatly diminished.
In other words, but for what the funds derived from the TIF can do, our community will lose the richness of an arts and culture district.
The DCACC enthusiastically encourages you to pass this legislation!