By Tracey Leong

COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — Howard County is transforming its community, breaking ground on the first mix-use neighborhood to redevelop downtown Columbia.

A multi-billion dollar project will transform the Merriweather District into a technology hub for families to thrive.

“We are just at the beginning of this journey. As today’s groundbreaking marks the first of many milestones to create our first live, work, play environment,” said David Weinreb, CEO of Howard Hughes Corporation.

The Howard Hughes Corporation is unveiling their innovative vision for the mix-use neighborhood with “smart city” technology.

“We will transform Merriweather District into the first city in the country that will actually have been built with and operate fully autonomous technology throughout this district,” said Anuja Sonalker, CEO and founder of Steer Tech.

The development will also include one of the country’s leading cybersecurity giants.

“The Merriweather District represents the future of Maryland’s tech evolution, and as the future home of Tenable’s new headquarters, it also means hundreds of new jobs in Columbia,” Gov. Larry Hogan said.

It’s a renovation with bold ambition to create a downtown that is walkable, bikable and livable.

“A destination point for families, this entire development that Hughes is conducting I think is going to be something that will attract young people and millenials from all over the country to what we will have here in Columbia,” Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said.

The innovative project represents the future of cities, with the Merriweather District leading the charge.

“It’s about putting people to work, it’s about creating tax revenues, it’s about helping us to be able to build new infrastructures, like new schools — which this is going to help us to do. Civic institutions like more arts and entertainment here to downtown Columbia,” Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said.

In total, the downtown Columbia revitalization will have 14 million square feet of mix-use development.

Money Magazine has named Columbia the “Best Place to Live” in the country.

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