To their credit, the Columbia Association has dedicated a significant amount of resources at reorganizing. As detailed in their documents, the $65M organization is currently treading water. Over the last few years, they have seen declining revenue from residential property assessments and a small but consistent drop in fitness club memberships. It would be a gross overstatement to say the well is running dry (and to be crystal clear, no one has said that), but the revenue stream just isn’t what is used to be.
The Big Thinkers at CA have done some soul-searching on this topic, and speaking generally, the Columbia Association looks to demographics as the answer. Columbia, MD in 2012 bears little resemblance to Columbia in 1980. Sure, the street network is largely intact. Most of the houses on those streets are well maintained (some are not). In most neighborhoods, the trees that were mere saplings during the Reagan Era have now grown tall and leafy.
Based on data from the US Census and other sources, the Columbia Associaton has found that the Columbians are much different than they were in 1980. Much like those saplings planted long ago, they are mature. Young adults arriving in 1980 (or earlier) exhibited different spending habits and engaged in different activities.
Reading through their business plan document, I am impressed. The document is short on details (it reads like an outline) but it is very broad in scope. It starts out with an interesting introductory paragraph from the President:
As we have discussed, I feel that it is time that we changed our Business Model from a sport and fitness centric to that of a wellness-vitality model. I have expressed the reasons for my thoughts many times and now feel that this is the time to initiate CA’s new face and business model.
Another point to consider is that this will not happen overnight. This business plan under consideration has a long horizon. There will not be a wholesale “the following tot lots are hereby closed and will be transformed into bocce courts. You have until sunset on Friday to play on the swings.” No, this will be a slow evolution, the decision will be carefully considered the supporting data widely disbursed.
What is important today are the broad policies, because once they are put in place, momentum will build. So Columbia, it is up to you: Should the Columbia Association transform their focus to the growing 65 + crowd while supporting the most popular amenities and programs for the remaining 80% - 90% of the population? If you have lived in Columbia for forty years, CA needs to hear from you. If you moved into Columbia last Friday, CA needs to hear from you. If your children have moved out, CA needs to hear from you. If your children are growing in this community, CA needs to hear from you. If your children have children, CA needs to hear from you. This discussion will have profound implications for at least the next decade. CA has started the discussion, let’s provide a response and keep the dialogue going. hocoblogs@@@