Busboys & Poets, the D.C.-born restaurant-bar-coffee shop-bookstore chain, is expanding its growing roster of locations with a new one in Columbia’s in-progress Merriweather District.
Busboys & Poets’ eighth outpost will fill a 10,700-square-foot, two-story space in the planned 391-acre development, and will be the company’s largest to date.
Owner and founder Andy Shallal told Baltimore Fishbowl Columbia’s progressive values were a draw factor in the expansion decision. He has friends there who have been pushing him to open a branch of his business for years, he noted.
“I wanted to make sure it’s a place where racial and cultural connections are constantly uplifted, where people feel a real sense of community, where hate doesn’t play out in the day-to-day civic life,” he said. “All of those things were considerations when deciding to come into a place like Columbia.”
The space will include two levels of indoor and outdoor seating–including an outdoor terrace–plus an all-day menu, an event space and, as included in all locations, a bookstore with activist- and social justice-oriented offerings.
Shallal, an artist and activist who also ran for mayor of D.C. in 2013, opened the first Busboys & Poets in 2005 at 14th and V streets in Northwest D.C. His business has since expanded to downtown, Brookland, Takoma and Anacostia in D.C., as well as Hyattsville in Maryland and Shirlington in Northern Virginia.
But this is the first time he’s gotten to work with an architect to design a standalone location, which he said was another attractive factor. JP2 Architects, which Howard Hughes Corporation hired to plan the new district, is designing the building.
The Howard Hughes Corporation’s Columbia region president, Greg Fitchitt, said in a statement that the developer considers Busboys to be “truly a perfect fit for our community of Columbia, founded on the pillars of progress and innovation.”
The corporation is pursuing a $5 billion, 30-year redevelopment in the Howard County suburb, with building centered around the recently renovated Merriweather Post Pavilion. It will include more than 14 million square feet, with 4.9 million square feet of mixed-use development on 35 acres, plus a new hotel, restored wetlands, parks and more.
Howard Hughes Corp. has already brought in a new space from Clyde’s Restaurant Group, in the form of a live lakefront entertainment venue called The Soundry that opened last year.
The Merriweather District is expected to have a grand opening for its first wave of additions, including Busboys & Poets, in 2020.
This story has been updated.