Help Determine the Future of Columbia’s Neighborhood Centers

The Columbia Association’s Board of Directors (CABOD) is evaluating the future of the neighborhood centers. There are fourteen neighborhood centers spread across seven of Columbia’s villages with no neighborhood centers in Hickory Ridge, Owen Brown and Town Center. The neighborhood centers are owned by CA. However, the facilities are managed by the village associations for the benefit of the community. Revenue generated from the use of the buildings helps to fund village operations, including the day-to-day maintenance of the centers as well as capital improvements to the facilities not covered by CA. The River Hill Community Association (RHCA) manages one neighborhood center, the Meeting Room, located adjacent to the River Hill Outdoor Pool (6330 Trotter Road, Clarksville). The River Hill Meeting Room opened in 1995 and is a mid-size center at 1,681 square feet.

Although the CABOD is committed to developing a strategy to create an environment which will “work for residents and nourish the growth of a sense of community,”1 they are also considering the
cost of maintaining the facilities and evaluating the best Help Determine the Future of Columbia’s Neighborhood Centers uses of the buildings. The River Hill Meeting Room is the newest Columbia neighborhood center and served as RHCA’s offices and meeting space until Claret Hall opened in December 1999. In addition to being rented by members of the community for social events such as birthday parties and bridal showers, the River Hill Meeting Room is used for a variety of class programs, housed the Middle Patuxent Co-op Nursery School for ten years, continues to serve as meeting space for religious organizations and scout troops, is used by the village’s swim teams for events and meetings, and much more. Although a modest rental fee is usually charged, the association’s Board of Directors will consider rent-free uses of this building on a case-by-case basis. The rental rates are lower at the Meeting Room than those at Claret Hall, which is also managed by RHCA, due to the self-service nature of the facility, its size, and its more casual appearance and amenities. In the last two years, CA has invested in the River Hill Meeting Room and installed wood-look flooring in the main room, sound panels to improve the acoustics in the space, and renovated the kitchenette to make it ADA compliant. The HVAC systems were replaced in December 2019. The neighborhood centers in the other Columbia villages serve similar functions, though in some cases they were built to residential standards, do not meet existing building codes, and are not ADA compliant.

RHCA is preparing for a mid-January meeting between the village associations and the CABOD and we need to hear from you. Should CA continue to maintain Columbia’s neighborhood centers? What types of uses do you feel are appropriate for these buildings? Have you or your organization rented space or attended a party, a class, or a meeting at the River Hill Meeting Room or another neighborhood center? Does having the ability to use these spaces have value to you? Please share your thoughts no later than January 15 by contacting: Susan Smith, the Village Manager, at 410-531-1749 or manager@villageofriverhill.org; the association’s Board of Directors, see page 3 or visit www.villageofriverhill.org/board/board-of-directors; and Renee DuBois, River Hill’s Columbia Council Representative and a member of the CABOD at 443-686-0702 or renee.dubois@ca-board.org.

Let us know if the neighborhood centers matter to you and why!

1. DuBois, Renee, “Council Corner: What is the Fate of our Neighborhood Centers?” The River Hill Villager, Vol. 27, No. 7, (2019), pg. 4.

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