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.