Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Marketing Slogan or Lifestyle Philosophy

As I was making a quick pass through Town Center yesterday I chanced upon a gathering by the "Hug" statue at the Lakefront. It appeared to be a meeting of CoFoCoDo folks with some county officials. I couldn't stay long since I had a lunch appointment with a client but I was able to make some observations and listen to a couple of the speakers.

Lloyd Knowles made a statement that really resonated with me. He spoke of the early promise of Columbia being "The Next America" and indicated that he was concerned that the new plans for Town Center were going to make it more like the current America. That started me wondering about what exactly "The Next America" means.

Back in the early days of Columbia, the Exhibit Center building (now ironically home to the Plaza condominiums sales center) featured an exhibit on the vision of Columbia entitled "The Next America." Inside the exhibit center was a multi screened slide show and a model of what the future downtown of Columbia might look like. At the time, Town Center consisted of two buildings (Exhibit Center and Teachers Building). The American City Building was under construction. The slide show spoke of a town that would be an alternative to the strip development that was occurring along the suburban arteries leading out from the cities. The bad examples they used looked like the developments along Route 40.

The thing is, I don't recall that there was much detail given about what the future Town Center might look like aside from the model that showed much more density than anyone now would tolerate. To my recollection there was no discussion of height limits. The whole "Next America" focus was more about open space and walk ability. It reflected a time when most households had only one wage earner.

What struck me about Lloyd's words were his attempt to turn this marketing slogan into something much more. I am not certain what exactly he envisions a "Next America" to look like (and when does it stop being "next?"), but he seems passionate in wanting it.

My other observation was the make-up of the CoFoDoCo crowd. It numbered around forty people none of whom was under forty. Many seemed to be long time Columbians who yearned for the old days. They spoke of a vibrant Town Center they once knew with the Columbia Cinemas and the Rusty Scupper.

One other thing I heard that gave me pause was Cynthia Coyle talking about how she was opposed to any roadway running through the little plaza where the "hug" statue now sits. This comment struck me because I believe this area to be private property, not part of CA land in Town Center. It is akin to a neighbor standing on your property and telling everyone he doesn't like your driveway!

I wish I could have stayed for more but my appointment beckoned.


Anonymous said...

Why would County officials meet with a special interest group? I was not aware of any public meetings. I suppose if I call up some County officials and want to meet with them they will oblige me too? Or must you be married to a State Delegate?

Anonymous said...

The 'whole "Next America" focus' wasn't just about open space and walkability. If that were the case, the Working Group would not have been comprised of members from such diverse areas of expertise.

The "Next America" envisioned was indeed much more than that, pursuing racial, economic, and religious integration, coexistence with neighbors and nature, purposefully-designed, functioning neighborhoods with local educational, commercial, and recreational amenities, covenants to provide ongoing exterior harmony, and improved transportation to name some of their intents. Michael Chabon recalls the plan similarly.

I believe some of the land involved in the proposal to uncircle Wincopin Circle is non-CA, private property and some isn't. There's numerous issues to be considered if Wincopin Circle will be extended through Hug Statue Park, in front of the Rouse Building, wrapped around the condos behind the library, and cut through some of the very little open space left along the river at the south end of Lake Kittamaqundi. Some of these areas may be protected because of their proximity to sensitive environmental areas. It's hard to imagine all the sacrifices such a road placement will require being accepted.

Movies and concerts at the lakefront will be disturbed by traffic, as will walks, biking, and boating at the south end. For what? A hope that changing Town Center to a grid network of streets and intersections will improve traffic or make it more pedestrian friendly? It seems a step in the wrong direction for pedestrian friendliness to bring traffic flow twice as close to the lakefront and give up greenspace in the process.

J. Newburn said...

Someone needs to say this because the sentiment gets expressed a whole lot in private. So here goes:

I think The Hug statue is creepy-looking. I've never liked it. Nor have most women whose opinion about the statue I have asked. The adult man to young girl "hug" is more like a pelvic thrust and romantic love rather than a fatherly man and girl child. The whole thing is just off, in my opinion.

While I understand fully that "The Hug" is a memorial statue to an historically important person in Columbia's lore, I, for one, would love to see "The Hug," moved to the far recesses of any future downtown development ... far, far away from possible human observation.

Certainly, I mean no disrespect to the person who is memorialized. It's the man memorialized that's the problem but the artist's work that is really off. "The Hug" is creepy in a perverse sexual kind of way.

Check it out in person if you haven't seen it. See if you agree, or if you think it's perfectly above board.

John G. Boyle said...

Jessie - I guess that this ties into your recent "How Do You See It?" post.

I've always really liked the hug statue. What that says about me, I don't know. I thought it was a sweet, Laura Ingalls Wilder sort of thing.

Can't wait to hear what others here have to say!

wordbones said...

Anon 9:09 PM,

I beg to differ. You are correct about the broader vision of the working group but "The Next America" was a marketing slogan dreamed up HRD's advertising agency.

I respect Michael Chabon and his perspective on Columbia. I too grew up in Columbia amd must have watched that slide show a hundred times (there wasn't a whole lot for us kids to do back then...we also rode the mini buses for fun!).


J. Newburn said...

Oy, I have a typo in my comment above. I wrote: "It's the man memorialized that's the problem but the artist's work ..." and there is a missing word: NOT, as in "It's NOT the man memorialized that's the problem ..."

And, thanks, John, for your perspective on how you see it.

Tom said...

What if a new home for the "hug statue et al" was described in the downtown plan? Jim Rouse and his brother have been moved around a couple of times and have always found an appropriate home. Let's see the final downtown plan before we get overly excited about this detail.