Sunday, April 19, 2009

Developer Breaks Ground for Town Center Development

April 19, 2012. GGP/MPC broke ground this morning on the first phase of the $500 million redevelopment of Columbia’s Town Center. The ground breaking comes three years after the developer won approval of the zoning amendment allowing for 5,500 new housing units and the creation of an new arts district in Symphony Woods.

The early spring morning ceremony was held in front of the vacant Sears store at the mall. The former department store is to be replaced with a new parking garage. County Executive Ken Ulman was joined by Delegate Jud Malone and Councilperson Mary Kay Sigaty in helping GGP/MPC vice president Greg Hamm to swing ceremonial sledge hammers at the building.

Alan Klein, spokesperson for the Coalition for Columbia’s Downtown was also in attendance. “We have always been supportive of this development program,” he said, “and are glad to have contributed to its success.”

GGP/MPC was spun off from General Growth Properties last year as part of the company’s bankruptcy reorganization. The new entity is a joint venture between General Growth Properties and Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and focuses primarily on master planned communities.

Just before the groundbreaking, the 34th annual Clyde’s 10K race was held in Town Center. 1,200 runners crossed the finish line by 10 AM followed by a massive consumption of carbohydrates.


Anonymous said...

The previously proposed highway name suggestion certainly deserves a few more:

Clearcut Rut
Strata Errata
Bad Idea Boulevard
Woods Wenta Way
Awful Asphalt Alleys
Forest Failing Fissure
GreenhouseGas Pass
Stalled SUV Stampede
Enviroadkill Expressway
Gridlock Green(gone)way
StewardShip Sunk Street
Unnecessary LossAcross
Little Patuxent Distension
Redlight Resplendence Route
Redevelopment Wrong-of-way
ICC (Inner Columbia Congestor)
I-can't-hear-the-concert Intrastate
Wine in the Woow that Truck Almost Hit Me
DeDeDeDe (Developer's Decimating Design Detour)

But, in keeping with this post's prognosticative view, perhaps by 2012 it will be called "an idea considered at the time, but was wisely shelved to avoid damaging Symphony Woods and instead pursue appropriate density accompanied by responsibly aligned and current transportation solutions". Would that fit on a blue Columbia street sign?

And the same applies for the highway proposed to be built across Lake Kittamaqundi and the Little Patuxent River.

Come on, we know much better proposals are possible, and in a manner that would be both more profitable for GGP and not require these kinds of sacrifices of environment and quality of life. How about a proposal that DOESN'T slice through preserved parks and replace other portions with buildings that could instead be put within the Mall loop? Is it really that offensive to the development business base to have interconnected green spaces remain on maps as "planned"? I see tremendous opportunities (unfulfilled in this proposal) to set a higher standard for truly green redevelopment without so many unnecessary losses of Columbia's green space assets.

That's why many of us are looking forward to the forthcoming alternatives designed by others. 5,500 was just a starting point for bargaining, right? How's the 2,200 under existing Columbia zoning sound instead?

The more you dream in the right kind of green, the more likely your other 2012 green dream$ will come to pass.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:41,

Or another reality begins to unfold:

As political will succumbs to a small but vocal minority, the ability to do the right thing falls by the wayside, and a half-hearted attempt to bring vibrancy to the "next American city." Initial attempts to bring retail, food and commercial buisiness fail because a critical mass cannot be reached. Moreover, the people only come for fleeting memories of better times.

Mass transit is awarded across the county line, in Anne Arundel. Crofton and Odenton are praised for thier foresight.

Meanwhile, quietly, the tax base in Howard County begins to erode. Columbia Association, faced with declining assessment base, closes fifteen pools. Other parts of the County shun Columbia and begin to start their own mixed use projects.

As gas passes $6.00 a gallon and no alternatives, and given the brown dwarf star of Columbia's auto dominated culture, a long anticipated "vehicle miles traveled" tax is implemented. This "green" initiative makes the sleepy suburb once destined to be "a better city" impossible to live in.

PZGURU said...

Anon 5:47 - what a mound of steaming horse-hyperbole!!!

You pathetically try to paint a picture that Columbia will turn to ghost town in GGP's plan is not approved lock stock and barrel.

With your penchant for deception and demagoguery, you've got a possible future in politics!!! Congrats (insert extra sarcasm here).

Anonymous said...

I'll just give Anon 5:47 the benefit of the doubt and assume they don't fully understand math, politics, the "right thing", vibrancy, existing business, why people already come to Columbia, current transit options, tax bases, why CA has neighborhood pools and their operating costs, how little what goes on outside of Columbia is affected by what goes on inside Columbia, gas pricing, the already existing "vehicles miles traveled" tax every car owner pays when they fill up, that development truly adhering to green principles is beneficial to the environment, the community, and the bottom line, and that crowding schools, congesting roads, and losing open space doesn't equate to a better city.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:47,

Since it's a small vocal minority, you won't mind if we take it to referendum rather than ZRA, correct?

Anonymous said...

Apparently even Montgomery county outshines Howard by having actual slow growth council members and a council that voted unanimously, with 100% support for a Clarksburg Republican slow growth activist for Planning Board.

Interesting comparison to Howard; we have NONE of the above.

PZGURU said...

Howard County has, instead, 2 moronic Planning Board members in Tammy Citara-Manis and Linda Dombrowski, who, inexplicably vote to deny a Walgreens (I think) store from opening at the corner of Thunderhill Road and Route 175over TRAFFIC concerns, yet both ardently support the Town Center Plan which is rife with traffic causing problems and poor designs.

(translation) "We won't approve you (walgreens) adding 50 cars at a perfectly good intersection, but we are ok with you (GGP)adding 5,000+ cars at already failing intersections."


Anonymous said...

My plans have changed since becoming aware of the way Howard Co gov't makes decisions and comparing to counties in the area that, if they don't put on appearances of fairness, are actually striving for fairness. I don't see myself being happy here in 10 years, particularly if the 5500 Columbia residences (isn't that likely to bring 10,000 cars?) are approved. Since we rarely say 'no', it looks like Wb et al will have their wish and then likely move away claiming 'retirement' etc..

Anonymous said...

I think some estimates put it at well over 13,000 additional daily car trips in Town Center, with most being during rush hour commute times. And more red lights, too. Ouch. I don't envy the folks who have to travel anywhere near or through Town Center for their daily commutes if this gets passed.

If you consider the few groups pushing most for increasing Town Center's density well beyond its means, you'll see they mostly either never lived in Columbia at all or don't now. So, if excessive density gets approved, they won't have to move away from the crush they're inviting or deal daily with its effects - they're already gone.

PZGURU said...

Not only that, but consider how many people bought residences around the mall in the last 2-3 years (the 55+ community, the brick townhouses, and the condos by LPP at BLP). I bet those owners didn't expect that they might suddenly have a road running along the back of their building instead of a grass area, OR that there might be high rise buildings instead of a view of the sky. The proposed GRID road network will be a complete disaster during peak traffic times.

It gets back to what I've been saying all along. People who want a place like Reston, or Arlington, or Bethesda, or whatever, should move out of Columbia to the city that they so love. Leave Columbia as it is (more or less) - it's just fine.

Anonymous said...

At a recent West County developer meeting, the developer atty said residential have an average 11.5 trips out per day.

Yow. 13,000 * 11.5 is an additional 149,000 trips in town center. I don't know how this can even be considered viable (much less vibrant).

Anonymous said...

That's probably an additional 63,000 trips per day with 5500 additional households. sorry.

Still, unimaginable.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Guru,

You bring a valid point for existing residences. It reminds me of the time 40 years ago when some guy bought up 14,000 acres in secret and proposed building 30,000 houses. Boy those folks that already lived in Allview Estates must have been worried sick about traffic. Good thing that people that wanted something like Reston moved (or maybe they stayed).

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:33,

I wonder about your statement 'I don't envy the folks who have to travel anywhere near or through Town Center for their daily commutes if this gets passed.' Is Town Center just a freeway for commuters to pass through? The auto-dominated view of Town Center is dated and foolish.

Anonymous said...

If anything should be on the ballot, it's the Columbia re-development number of houses.

But they'll never let voters within 100 yards of that decision.

Anonymous said...

"those folks that already lived in Allview Estates must have been worried sick about traffic"

Rightfully so, as residents feared, horrible high-speed, serious side impact crashes then occurred at the intersection of Allview/Martin Drives and 29, when traffic congested as predicted and 29 was widened, both making it considerably more dangerous to get in and out of Allview and Atholton Manor. Please don't ignore or distort the past while asking us to ignore what dangers await if too much density is allowed for existing roads and the less-than-adequate proposed mitigations. Maintaining adequate public facilties to ensure safety should be a requirement, not a goal to be discarded if the developer's desired density can't be accommodated.

"The auto-dominated view of Town Center is dated and foolish."

So, what does that make the even more auto-dominated Town Center future resulting from this proposal's 13,000+ additional car trips there?? You've already given your answer.

40 years ago, grocery stores got closer, with each new village getting one.
Now, current plans have grocery stores either getting farther away (in Wilde Lake's case) or not being planned for at all (as in this proposal for Town Center).

40 years ago, schools were planned and put local to the additional growth, even ensuring elementary schools were in each neighborhood.
Now, we're initially told 'oh, you won't need any additional schools or land set aside for them', then told 'oh, we'll have a consultant look into that'. Hah. Even DPZ's technical report came back saying appropriate student population models based on MoCo's demographics for similar development resulted in much higher estimates of just how many additional students there'll be (needing classrooms, teachers, playing fields, cafeteria capacity, etc.) So, Town Center's kids get a longer distance walk or commute to school and the schools they'll go to will be flooded. (Hopefully, certain PTA-involved Planning Board people are attuned to those details.)

And regarding transportation, now, repeated traffic studies and even this proposal's own scheme admit traffic will get a lot worse with this amount of additional density. Among the seemingly insufficient mitigations:
- decrease protection of traffic congestion laws, permitting more congested roads, longer waits at red lights, some even requiring multiple cycles to get through
- add more redlight intersections, diminishing secondary arterial roads like GWP and LPP into far less useful routes for getting anywhere in a reasonable amount of time
- allow less safe, on-street parking in lieu of adequate off-street parking
- give short shrift to meaningful planning for and incorporation of modern transit, relegating Columbia to the known traffic hell the proposed increased traffic would bring
- put multiple roads through what is a permanent open space, forested park
- put a 4-lane bridge over Lake Kittamaqundi along with an interchange connecting it to 29, obliterating what relief from road noise the lakefront offers
- oddly estimate that a large percentage of this additional traffic and others trying to avoid it, instead of using the obvious primary routes of 175 and Brokenland, will divert to escape out lesser capacity, longer route exits to the north and west (and those villages - Hickory Ridge, Longfellow, and Harpers Choice - probably were only worrying about getting through Town Center, not Town Center's traffic also using them as relief valves)
- and deep in the proposal's traffic section it basically says the road design is conceptual and subject to future change (in other words, it could get even worse)

I'd avoid voting for any CA Board candidate that supports this ZRA as currently written. Remember, the goal is to IMPROVE Columbia - not see how much it can sacrifice.