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McCall Hoping State Will Help Fund Symphony Woods Development

The first phase of the project is estimated to cost $30 million.

Michael McCall answers an audience question at the pre-submission meeting for the arts and cultural park and Symphony Woods on Dec. 2, 2013. Credit: Andrew Metcalf
Michael McCall answers an audience question at the pre-submission meeting for the arts and cultural park and Symphony Woods on Dec. 2, 2013. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Inner Arbor Trust president and CEO Michael McCall said the nonprofit organization developing Symphony Woods is looking to attract state funding to pay for the park's development.

McCall estimated the first phase of the development for the 16.5 acres between Little Patuxent Parkway and Merriweather Post Pavilion would cost about $30 million. That would pay for the "butterfly" concession and cultural center, an interactive "caterpillar" tube fence separating the woods from Merriweather, a raised 300-foot turf-covered sitting area, wooden pathways, landscaping, and an amphitheater.

A resident asked McCall at Monday night's pre-submission community meeting where the money to pay for the project is coming from.

"Howard County stipulated in the plan that this be a new type of art park," said McCall. "The county is already the majority funder."

So far the county has contributed $3.5 million for the amphitheater. McCall said the Inner Arbor Trust is "going to work really hard" to make sure that funds the amphitheater, coined the Chrysalis, which is being designed by Marc Fornes of TheVeryMany. Fornes' design resembles a green and white sheet billowing upwards.

Columbia Association also kicked in $1.6 million in startup funds. McCall said $400,000 of those funds have been spent so far, but that the group "has commitments that extend beyond that" with the designers and architects hired to work on the park.

"I actually see going up a notch in government support," said McCall. "We would like to take this in the not so distant future to the state of Maryland."

McCall used the the music center at Strathmore in North Bethesda as an example. The state provided $48 million in funds to match Montgomery County's commitment to the music center.

"The audience for [Strathmore] is far narrower than what we can be," said McCall. "This is in the center of Maryland. We have an opportunity to make the case this is a strategically important investment for the state."

Other sources of funding mentioned by McCall included private donations in the form of dedicated bricks or park benches, and federal funds from groups like the National Endowment for the Arts.

McCall said the trust is working to apply for 510(c)(3) status, a move that would allow private donors to write-off donations on their taxes.

As for the big developer next door, Howard Hughes, which could see their adjoining Crescent property rise in value with an attractive park, McCall said the trust is keeping the company "abreast of our progress." He said no attempt has been made to get money from the developer yet.


Rob Kay December 04, 2013 at 09:52 PM
The article notes"A resident asked McCall ...where the money to pay for the project is coming from." Very good question. The answer was not comforting. Mr. McCall cited: -- the county (which already contributed 3.6 million), -- the Columbia Association (which has kicked in 1.6 million, but has commitments that extend beyond that), -- the State of MD (which I don't believe has committed anything). These sources come from our taxes Mr. McCall. I am not convinced this is the proper use of our taxes, which are among the nation's highest. Mr. McCall tried to compare this "art center" to the Strathmore facility in Bethesda, which the State supported. But unless this is going to be a real concert hall (which it does not look like from the limited info released), this seems like a pipe dream. Maybe this “art center” will turn out to be a real attraction for our county. But right now it looks more like a white elephant.
Anna December 12, 2013 at 11:56 AM
Is this plan open for further suggestions or is a fait accompli?

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