Alan Klein held a press conference this morning at the Hug statue in Town Center to officially announce his candidacy for county council. I couldn’t help think of the irony of this setting. The Hug statue honors the memory of Mort Hoppenfeld, one of the early planners of Columbia for The Rouse Company.
In other words, it is a statue honoring a developer.
Mr. Klein doesn’t seem to care much about developers, except when he spins their “vision” to support his views. During his prepared remarks he spoke of Jim Rouse and Mort Hoppenfeld citing their values that he claims “have not been represented on the council.”
In a critique of Town Center written in 1981, Mort wrote that “Downtown needs apartments and condos: At high density within walking distance- on top of things like shops and offices. This is hard to accomplish, but HRD knows how. They may need help with zoning.”
I’ve said it before but it does bear repeating; Jim Rouse and by extension Mort Hoppenfeld, were developers first and foremost. While it is certainly true that they introduced innovative concepts to community planning and development they also understood that those concepts needed to economically viable in order to succeed.
I just don’t get that Alan understands this part of the equation and I further suspect Mort would not have been pleased with Alan’s interpretation of his “values”. In fact Mort understood the need to adjust to changing times. What he and the other planners originally conceived in the sixties may not be appropriate today.
“What was concluded then were not so much answers as hypotheses or best bets as to what would work best for the evolution of the communities and the people in this city. Now there is the potential of information and experience to modify the hypotheses, to “answer” the questions. Certainly conditions within and external to Columbia have changed and needless to say, will continue to change.”
Alan and his supporters don’t seem to understand this dynamic. He said he believes that the council should mandate that a grocery store be part of every village center, including Town Center. I wonder how he intends to force a grocery store to locate where they don’t want to be.
Another ironic moment when occurred when Alan spoke of his early involvement in politics. He recalled that, as a six year old, he actively championed the candidacy of JFK with his playmates. After relating further episodes of his continued political activism through adulthood he told the assembled audience that he was not a “political animal by nature.”