ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball was joined by state and local officials and numerous community members today to break ground on the newly named Dr. Edward L. Cochran East Columbia 50+ Center, located at 6600 Cradlerock Way. The expanded center will be nearly 30,000 square feet and is expected to be completed by July 2023. Photos of the event can be found here.
The current center serves a diverse and vulnerable community that includes approximately 86% who are 60 years or older, 7% below the poverty level and 35% who live alone. This expansion project has been a long time coming and is an urgent priority. We want our residents to feel welcome here, to feel safe, and to connect with their community – and the namesake of this new building has demonstrated those values through their leadership. This brilliant public servant has contributed so much to Howard County government over the years, on the school board, the Council, as Executive, and to Howard Community College. He never thought of himself as a politician but as a community advocate, which is why we will be naming our newest center the Dr. Edward L. Cochran, East Columbia 50+ Center.
The work to establish the structure of modern government in Howard County was supported by countless engaged citizens working together,” said Dr. Edward L Cochran. “I am proud of the results that have been achieved in our County in the past, and I anticipate that the facility we dedicate today will add to that enviable record.”
The East Columbia 50+ Center was identified as one of the top priority projects in a 2015 Master Plan for the Office on Aging and Independence, but little progress was made until 2019. The plan noted that 40% of Howard County’s older adult population resides in East Columbia. The Ball Administration allocated $5.5 million in the most recent capital budget towards the center.
“I’m proud of the partnership my colleagues in the State Delegation have maintained with the County to ensure this project remained on track,” said Senator Guy Guzzone. “By securing an additional $1 million in state funding, this vital community space will have an incredible impact on the lives of our expanding population of older adults. I’ve seen the growing need to ensure our community is inclusive and accessible for residents of all ages and I remain committed to that progress.”
"Our County's aging in place population is one of the fastest-growing demographics," said Howard County Council Chair Opel Jones. "Providing equitable access to a variety of learning experiences, exercise activities, and social events for our aging-in-place communities is vital for their mental health and our community vibrancy!"
“The new East Columbia 50+ Center is a life-changing infrastructure investment for residents of Howard County. Community members will use this center for exercise programs, food access, social programming, health services, civic engagement, and much more,” said Councilwoman Christiana Rigby, District 3. “I am so grateful to County Executive Ball, our State Delegation, the County Council, and the East Columbia 50+ Center Steering Committee for their hard work and dedication to move this critical project forward.”
The existing East Columbia 50+ Center is 3800 square feet (sf) with a capacity of 60 and is the only center without access to a dedicated fitness center. Its total attendance pre-pandemic was nearly 17,000 annual visits and more than 32,000 visits to use fitness equipment. The current 50+ space is insufficient to offer desired programming to meet the needs of the community.
The expanded 50+ Center (29,400 sf) will include:
- Community meeting space
- Commercial kitchen and dining space
- Programs in art, lifelong learning, languages
- Fitness equipment room and exercise studio
- A social day program for at risk seniors
- Emergency generator
The new building is also striving to attain a LEED Gold certification through features including:
- Native landscape species
- Highly efficient mechanical, electric, and lighting systems
- Low-emitting building material (Low VOC)
- Solar panels
- Rainwater collection
- Paving with high solar reflectivity
“We are the little engine that could, and we did,” said Meridy McCague, East Columbia’s 50+ Center Director. “We have dreams that we hope will be continued to be guided by those who fought so hard for this day. East Columbia 50+ is strong and resilient, and our future is bright.”
“We strive to represent our seniors, and we want to make sure the needs of seniors are met,” said Reginald Avery Chair of the Commission on Aging. “This center is going to be the best is this country.”
“This committee worked tirelessly to bring us to today, they demonstrated patience and persistence for over two years, and today we celebrate the end of that journey,” said Pearl Atkinson Stewart of the 50+ Steering Committee. “This center will serve future generations and render needed services to the 50+ community.”
“Plain and simple this project has always been about equity for our seniors,” said Pastor Tyrone Jones III Chair of PATH and pastor at First Baptist Church of Guilford. “More seniors of color use this senior center more than any other place in the entire county. Building the East Columbia 50+ Center is about more than providing adequate space, this groundbreaking project today is about honoring those who have helped to build the fabric of our community, this is about providing support and needed care for our elders and sages who have lived in Howard County for many generations.”