Tuesday, February 09, 2010

In This Months Business Monthly

During my teenage years Columbia was a rocking place. The new town was expanding at a frenetic pace. As the first generation of kids who grew up in the planned community, there was no doubt in our minds that this growth would continue and that we’d end up with a real city much like the foam core model on display in the Exhibit Center in Town Center.

That didn’t happen.

For a variety of reasons Columbia got off track. The town grew but it lost its edge of innovative planning. The newer neighborhoods and villages were indistinguishable from new community developments almost anywhere. Columbia's Town Center continued to add office buildings but no character. Reston, which had been overshadowed by Columbia for years, reclaimed the community planning spotlight with a wildly successful pedestrian oriented Town Center.

That will all change now and though this change is good it is none the less unsettling for those who grew comfortable with what Columbia had become.

You can read this month’s column here.


Anonymous said...

"indistinguishable from new community developments almost anywhere"

And won't the level of hyperdensity proposed for Town Center make it indistinguishable from Silver Spring, Reston, or Chevy Chase? Certainly from a traffic congestion standpoint, it seems that way. It was interesting to hear one Council member mention driving over to Reston to take a look around, but that the drive was on a Sunday afternoon, not during a weekday and not during a morning or evening commute. That didn't sound like an adequate comparison.

"Reston, which had been overshadowed by Columbia for years, reclaimed the community planning spotlight"

Oh, really? Then why does Reston consistently get ranked far lower on a certain magazine's (Money) best places to live rankings than Columbia? Reston Rerun, here we come. In 2008, I think Columbia was in 8th place, Reston a far lower 37th. That doesn't seem like the right direction to go.

"pedestrian oriented Town Center"

Reston's so oriented to pedestrians they built not one, but two fences impeding pedestrians and bicyclists from town, transit, and path. Seems oddly similar to the "just write us a check" not-so-"innovative solution" substituting for full spectrum housing being included in Town Center. Since it seems both sane traffic and full spectrum housing are being omitted from the plan, maybe the new Town Center signs will just read "Non-luxury car drivers just keep out"?

wordbones said...

Anon 9:13 AM,

Please don't forget that the best place ranking was for Columbia AND Ellicott City. That fact is often ignored by those who use this ranking to support their argument that Columbia doesn't need any redevelopment.


Anonymous said...

WB, thanks for pointing out that Columbia needed to be combined with EC to get thsoe rankings. Columbia could even get on the radar screen on its own. Quite a shame for a city that began and managed to remain a national prize for 20 years.

Now for Anonymous. Before even dealing with your issues, let's just get real honest - you dislike development because it increases traffic, you dislike people who have more money than you and you distrust developers and government. This drives your opposition to the plan and you're far more interested in finding fault with it than trying to solve the challenges so we can keep Columbia and Howard Co competitive and viable long term.

Downtown Columbia will be on a completely different level than the towns you list. None of those places were designed by the caliber of planners that did our plan, which has far more in the way of open space, cultural amenities and overall scope. Downtown Columbia will rise again to be a model of innovative planned development - this time built on smart growth and sustainability principles that were not on Rouse's radar screen 45 years ago. But I guess you'd prefer that we gradually lose the jobs and visitors as a way to reduce the traffic!

WB took care of the magazine ranking.

I agree 100% that Reston likes to call itself a walkable community but it's really not. Again, anyone who studies the Columbia plan will see that it blows away any other place that calls itself walkable in MD. Do you believe the plan for our downtown falls short in the walkability area?

Despite not really caring much about affordable housing, I must defend the housing plan and the people who created it. A week before this vote, the housing advocates, GGP and the Council were all very far apart on the issue, despite GGP having already agreed to adhere to the maximum level of affordable required anywhere in HoCo under the current County program. It turned out that the County program is broken and some wanted to solve the whole problem within this project on the back of this one developer. So the Council told the advocates and GGP to come up with a solution and they did. It was actually a case study in good government with opposing community groups pulling together for a solution with the blessing of the legislature. Don't see that much in government anymore do we? The housing fund is praised by housing advocates, experts in affordable housing development, the County housing staff and even the developer. Why didn't you mention that GGP's "check" for the County to use for affordable housing is around $45 million! My assumption is that your criticism would have lost some of its punch if you let that fact out the door. We're all sorry that's not "innovative" enough for you, but I believe Rouse would be thrilled to see that investment and how it will be used to provide a full spectrum of housing.

And finally, the good old reliable class warfare complaint. Who the heck do you think is paying to keep our schools at #1 and all the other services you get to enjoy here in HoCo? Here's to lots of luxury car drivers coming to downtown to work and shop and dine and leave their money right here! What a great way to set the table for the moderate income people who get to live in the new downtown to get to the next level!