The Newspaper Was Already Dead; Now The Building It Created Would Be Demolished Too

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball asked me Tuesday morning if being at the old Columbia Flier building where I had spent 10 years of my career brought back memories.

The old building didn’t so much bring back memories as it made me sad again about last year’s death of the newspaper that built it .

Ball was announcing $820,000 in continued funding for youth programs and the launch of a new Boys and Girls Club across the street at Howard Community College.

Ball also announced “plans for the redevelopment of the Columbia Flier Building as a new community center that will offer important recreational, health, and social services.”

Some conceptions of what a replacement for the Columbia Flier building might look like. Courtesy Howard County government

Ten years after the county acquired the property and 13 years after the staff had fled to downtown Baltimore, it sounded like the county had come up with a constructive use for the empty building. Its sloping glass windows and white angular walls, all designed by late Columbia architect Bob Moon who was married to the editor, made it a distinctive landmark in a “brown-box city,” as Council member Deb Jung describes it.

Yet the press release about the event and none of the nine speakers mentioned the building actually was going to be demolished.

I found that out talking to Brian Kim, the head of Columbia Concepts who was going to construct and operate the new building.

Kim mentioned how the Flier building had deteriorated from lack of maintenance. It had problems with both asbestos and mold. I knew from working in four different offices there that it was not handicapped compliant and the windows were long out of date.

I was not surprised.

The building’s flaws were well known. I was just surprised that no one mentioned it would be torn down. Kim said they would try to replicate some of its distinctive architectural features.

How much was that going to cost and who would pay for it? Ball told me he didn’t know. The building hadn’t been designed yet, after all. Both the county and state were going to chip in, Ball said. But he wouldn’t hazard an estimate of the cost.

Most of the buildings that once housed newspapers in central Maryland and D.C. have been redeveloped and repurposed. There are few things as impermanent as yesterday’s news and yesterday’s newspaper building.

I hope we can have a final farewell party when the wreckers finally arrive at the late Columbia Flier building.