Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Good Plan but Can CA Execute?

I don’t often compliment the Columbia Association but after reviewing the proposed redesign of Symphony Woods on the CA website I have to say, “nice job.”

Cy Paumier and John Slater have presented a master plan for the park that is far better than the amateur hour plan put forth by Harper’s Choice Columbia Council rep, Cindy Coyle, a little over a year ago.

The only major problem I see is the proposed location of a café. As shown in the schematic site plan above, the café would be located deep into the park tight along the property line with Merriweather Post Pavilion. I’m not clear as to whether this would be a year round or seasonal operation. If it is conceived to be a seasonal operation, I doubt an operator could generate enough revenue to pay its own way which would probably require some sort of subsidy. That is seldom a recipe for success.

If the thinking is for this café to be a year round operation it would most likely struggle in the winter months. It is too far removed from the office buildings, the parking area is not adjacent and, for now at least, there isn’t enough close by residential population to sustain it through the year.

It also appears that not enough thought has been given to the actual operation of a café. A food service operation would require a dumpster and some type of delivery area. I didn’t see any of that in the pretty pictures.

Still, overall it’s a pretty good plan and Cy and John, as well as Bob Tennenbaum and Phil Engelke are to be applauded for their efforts. The real challenge will be in seeing whether CA can actually execute or will these plans gather dust in some storage room.

More importantly, whatever they do will require that they work closely with GGP since they own the land in the middle of the donut and all around the edges.


hecker said...

I've always thought the cafe was the weakest part of the CA proposal. It seems like something that was stuck in simply to provide a reason for walking into the park, not because it actually made sense to put a cafe there.

Tom said...

I attended the presentation and thought it was still way to early to make the presentation because it did not include the whole property. I actually did not see much new thought since the March 26 presentation. Only new thought was the conceptual drawings were completed.
During the presentation Sy said a couple of times he is talking with GGP and their world wide respected landscape architect Saki & associates. He also said they would be meeting in the next 6-8 weeks. Why not wait a couple of more months before presenting an integrated plan? This would have allowed the two property owners to develop a comprehensive, joint plan. By not waiting the Board just set us up for more needless conflict when any compromise occurs.
I support upgrading Symphony Woods, but not in a vacuum. Any money spent on SW should be tied to the the long term development of downtown. This is a multi-million dollar project that CA doesn't need to spend any of the lien payer's money on if CA plays it's cards right. There will be other willing sources of revenue to pay for these upgrades if the Board can play well in the sandbox with other property holder and the County.

Anonymous said...

If they mirror this to be similar to the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden off the Mall in DC, then this is a great idea! That place is PACKED every summer weekend night and into the fall thanks to the food vendors that set up, drinks and live music!

hecker said...

If "anonymous" is referring to the cafe that's set up between the National Gallery of Art and the Museum of Natural History, it is indeed a nice place (I've eaten there) and quite popular. However it is also immediately adjacent to the national mall and some of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S. I don't think it's success has much to say about the prospects for a cafe in Symphony Woods.