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Friday •  April 21, 2023

$143 Million Lakefront Library in Downtown Columbia: Just Another Day in “Howard Hughes County”

By Steven Keller

The following images and numbers speak for themselves. The 100,000 sqft, $143 million cost Downtown Columbia, Maryland-based “Lakefront Library”, proposed by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball in partnership with developer The Howard Hughes Corporation, is over three times the cost per square foot than any of the other recently-opened regional libraries shown here.  Included below are final and accurate full closeout construction costs for these libraries, as reported by the builder.

At 45,000 sqft, the Elkridge Library & 50+ Center that opened in 2018 is approximately half the size of the proposed Lakefront Library, yet cost over $125 million less (over eight times less) to build at just $17.4 million.


The Silver Spring-based Wheaton Regional Library which opened in 2019 boasts a 92,000 sqft structure, including library, full community center with gym, and an accompanying parking garage…all for ~$46.2 million. 

A neighboring Silver Spring Library that opened in 2015 with a 90,000 sqft structure cost just $39.7 million.


Thousands of Howard County students spend every school day in one of the over 240 trailers (“relocatable classrooms”) currently residing at HCPSS schools. These trailers are weather and security threats, poorly ventilated, and far less functional learning environments than standard in-building classrooms.  An upcoming HoCo Watchdogs post will be covering this issue in much greater detail.

Another full 1,600+ student capacity high school could be built with funds left to spare for the proposed cost of the Lakefront Library.


At least FOUR new 500+ student capacity elementary schools could be built with the funds that will be spent on this Lakefront Library, which proponents have proposed to serve as the replacement for an existing, fully functional 47,000 sqft Central Branch library that the county spent $1.8 million dollars renovating just 7 years ago.


Applying this $143 million in funds to school construction & maintenance could get thousands of HCPSS students out of unsafe trailer classrooms and help to cut into the almost half a billion dollars in deferred maintenance that have left many HCPSS schools severely aging infrastructure that threaten the health and safety of students and staff.


According to page 3 of the 2024 Proposed Capital Budget, County Executive Ball and Howard Hughes plan to spend $11 million dollars just to have plans developed for this Lakefront Library33% of the cost of Talbott Springs Elementary School and 65% of the cost to build the Elkridge Library & 50+ Center…..***just for the plans for this Lakefront Library!!!***

***Call to Action for All Concerned County Residents***


Do you want your tax dollars spent this way? If not, please take the time to contact your County Council representatives ( ) and let them know that there are far better ways to spend $143 million of our precious county tax dollars.



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