27 October 2006
26 October 2006
Oddly, the Urban Places and Spaces blog has rail lines pretty much circling Ho Co and nothing through the county. If we could get these two bloggers together and start planning, maybe we could come up with a rail solution.
25 October 2006
The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect
participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in
opposition to any candidate for public office.
But now CA Baord Members Cynthia Coyle and Barbara Russell have thrown this in the trash. Did the good people of Harper’s Choice and Oakland Mills expect an endorsement from these board members? Can we expect Chris Merdon to reciprocate this spring, when they are up for election?
Yes, (a portion of ) the CA Board of Directors are elected each spring, but it used to be that the elections centered on issues. I am concerned that Cynthia and Barbara might have thrown the CA Board, and the election of such, into partisan politics.
20 October 2006
We the undersigned concerned citizens request:
that specific, hard data relating to housing, schools, traffic, roads, water and sewer, environment, fiscal responsibility, as well as phasing and monitoring of the proposed
development be studied and made available to the public BEFORE the Draft Master
Plan for Downtown Columbia is presented to the Planning Board and the County
I have been to the Howard County Charrette/Focus Group website and it seems the county has authored reports that address most (if not all) of these issues. So are we done? Have the terms of the petition been met? Can we move on? I’m not sure, but I was hoping to get input from y’all on this one. Please comment.
19 October 2006
Using Georgetown and Annapolis as models for downtown Columbia.
The last paragraph of the Coalition for Columbia’s Downtown Executive Summary (obtained at the press conference) Introduction states:
We favor the continuing development of Downtown, but there are many models of diverse and vibrant downtowns. We offer Georgetown and Annapolis as examples of communities that do not rely on high density to provoke an exciting sense of place. These locations are especially interesting, and they exude excitement-even though their skylines rarely exceed four stories.
I agree that both areas are exciting (but did we have to use the verb excite twice? In two successive sentences?). However, the other characteristics of Georgetown and Annapolis contradict almost all of the other tentpoles that hold up the Executive Summary. Both locations have bad traffic circulation. Both are largely gentrified areas that offer little in the way of housing options. Both have little in the way of green building technology. Both have large paid parking facilities and little free parking. Mass transit is limited in Annapolis and virtually non-existent in Georgetown (remember, Georgetown residents opposed a metro stop).
To be fair, I have been one of those folks that gets up at meetings and derides the “culture of no” that has pervaded the downtown development issue. It is in this light that I would suggest folks take a look at Addison Circle, Texas (pdf) and Downtown Markham (under development), Toronto, Canada. These two are not “holy grails” for downtown solutions, but they do provide some interesting ideas that could be incorporated here.
It appears to me that the Co Fo Co Do group thus far has shown a strong affinity for Mort Hoppenfeld. I applaud this. Mr. Hoppenfeld had much to do with how Columbia was shaped and it is important to respect an honor him. However, Mr. Hoppenfeld did write an essay, A Critique of “Town Center Options” (pdf) in 1981. The essay appeared in the publication Little Patuxent Review and here is a sampling of his writings:
“Downtown can extend the Tivoli-like quality of the summer lake front…What is the next phase to be like? I hope not identical to the existing one.”
“One example of a downtown failure was putting the new county library in a park setting.’
“Downtown needs apartments and condos: At high density within walking distance – on top of things like shops and offices.”
Lay boards, volunteers, committees and the like are essential parts of a good community and planning process, but they are insufficient.”
And lastly, relating back to item 1 above:
“Typically, those small towns which make it have their own special characteristics, such as – uniqueness and distance from other major centers, as in Annapolis, Williamsburg, Aspen. Special historical-esthetic qualities are critical ingredients to beating the odds. Lastly, comes the accidental phenomenon of the benefactor – Paepke in Aspen, Rockefeller in Williamsburg, and state government in Annapolis.”
So let us take Mr. Hoppenfeld at his word, but let us consider both his early work and his later critique into account such that we can realize a great downtown Columbia.
18 October 2006
Two recent articles in the Baltimore Sun (here and here) state that the Columbia Downtown Focus Group was a diverse collection of people. For the most part, I agree; however, there were very few people on the Focus Group that were born after the Kennedy Administration and few with young children. The persistent afternoon meeting times of the Focus Group further limited input by 9-to-5 working people. To be fair, the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning did encourage correspondence via email for those who could not attend, but the effect of diminished (or no) voice at the table I believe skewed the conversation.
Open Job Position
The Columbia Association is looking for a new host of “Columbia Matters.” If you feel you have the stuff to be the host of this TV show, please apply. Any bloggers willing to give up the keyboard for a microphone? Just a suggestion.
Social Science is not my First Science
Although I am no expert in social science, I do have an appreciation. This article in Monday’s Washington Post provides theories as to why people tend to gravitate towards similar views. It is well worth reading.
You know you grew up in Howard County if:
I received this via email from a friend. A word of caution, I originally thought of editing the list before publication, but then decided not. I don't even understand some of these. The wording is at times bawdy, but it does give insight to the minds of some that grew up in Howard County.
- -people laugh at you when you tell them your street name. and then you explain that it's from poetry.
- -your townhouse costs at least $500,000
- -you only knew of one mall until you were about 14, when you went to other strange malls-to buy homecoming dresses.
- -it's not unusual for you to go to one high school and your sibling to go to another.
- -you know what a "village" is.
- -you've ever been to a party at centennial park.
- -you know what the people tree is.
- -either you or someone you know was first employed at a snowball stand. (perhaps THE Snowball Stand on Woodstock Rd)
- -you recognize the beginning of the holiday season by the lighted trees by the mall.
- -your mall's idea of a Christmas tree is a gigantic, conical structure made of poinsettias.
- -You've been to a dance at Circle D or St. Louis
- -at leas t one of your friends has worked for the CA
- -you got excited when Chick Fil A opened. (but were a little pissed that they put it in Friendly,s place).
- -you have a derogatory nickname for every other high school in the county-Assholeton, Reefer Hill, Glenhell, Centesticle, Mt. Heroin, and Long Bitch (I,ve heard Bong Reach, but whatevv).
- -those new all-black cop cars piss you right the f**k off because you can't see them at all.
- -the words Palace 9 mean something to you.
- -you tell people from out of state that you're from Baltimore or DC just because it's easier.
- -you remember route 100 as farm land.
- -more than half of your school's population was in the NHS
- -you miss the Enchanted Forest.
- -you're disgusted at the number of high-schoolers who loiter outside of the LL Bean fountain, then you realize that it's because there's nothing else to do here.
- -the biggest event of the decade was when the mall was redone.
- -fast food restaurants have flowers on the table.
- -you're proud of Edward Norton.
- -you either get the Sun or the Post, but everyone gets the Flier. towards the Carroll County line, you might get the Eldersburg Eagle.
- -being 12 meant taking the swim test so you could go to the pool alone.
- -the condos in the Columbia ghetto sell for six figures.
- -your graduation ceremony was at Merriweather.
- -you eat at a Pizza Hut Italian Bistro.
- -you school has raffled off a Camaro.
- -Kittamaqundi is not a strange name for a lake.
- -you ate at Double T after prom.
- -M.Ds is the only place willing to deliver a pizza to your house.
- -you know that it's called "DC," not "Washington."
- -you live thirty minutes from EVERYWHERE.
- -you think an hour long commute is somehow normal
- -you know how to use a traffic circle PROPERLY
- -you've been to a field party.
- -you've had snow days where there was no snow on the ground.
- -You think that $89,000 a year for a job isn't much money
- -cool place to hang o ut after 1am is 7-11, Mobil, Giant parking lot, or Dunkin Donuts.
- -if you dont have a car, you basically cant go anywhere, because they dont believe in sidewalks in HoCo. (at least in Clarksville, Marriottsville, etc).
- -in elementary school, you went to at least one columbia roller skating rink, splashdown, cosmic bowling, Rocky Gorge mini golf, or shadowland birthday party
- -Soft stuff at the Forest Motel is the shiznit
- -when you spent 3/4s of summer at the 7-11 on Rt. 40
- -You know about the greatness that is the chicken man.
- -when you see a bunch of firefighters in a fire trunk in front of Cindy's eating some ice cream
- - you remember when HoCo had a music scene
- - you know who Mr. Boh is
- - you saw the Kinder Man when you were in elementary school
- - you've almost ran over the Columbia Bike Guy
- -you played soccer as soon as you could walk.
11 October 2006
For nearly 40 years, the Rouse Co. was like a benevolent parent, and Columbia was its pride and joy.Well it seems the answer is upon us.
But as with many families, things changed. And after the November marriage of Rouse and mall developer General Growth Properties Inc., some in Columbia are worrying that they might have been demoted from apple of the eye to misunderstood stepchild.
In 1963, James W. Rouse and his partners bought the land that would become Columbia, or "the next America" as he called it. "We must hold fast to the realization that our cities are for people," Rouse said in a 1959 speech to the Newark Conference on the Action Program for the American City in Newark, N.J. "And unless they work well for people they are not working well at all."
General Growth, which purchased Rouse in a $12.6 billion deal, isn't known for such lofty thoughts. The Chicago-based company is not in the business of planning cities or creating egalitarian neighborhoods.
"Planned communities is a business we have not been in," General Growth President John Bucksbaum said during last year's sale.
The first move General Growth Properties made was back in the spring of 2005 when they hired Thomas J. D’Alesandro IV. Prior to working at General Growth Properties, Mr. D’Alesandro was the Chief Executive Officer of the Woodlands Development Company (hired in 2003), sort of the HRD of the Woodlands. For those who don’t know, the Woodlands is a master planned community outside Houston and General Growth Properties holds about a 52% share in the Woodlands Development Corporation. Prior to the Woodlands, Mr. D’Alesandro was involved in the Reston Town Center development; he also co-authored a book about the Reston Town Center. You may also remember that Mr. D’Alesandro was in attendance at the General Growth Properties Town Hall meetings in May 2005.
By February 2006, General Growth Properties and Mr. D’Alesandro were putting things together. General Growth Properties had started work in Summerlin, Nevada, and the Woodlands, TX. Mixed use was now becoming a revenue stream for GGP. Mr. D’Alesandro was also quoted in a Business Week article.
Then in March 2006, Dennis Miller stepped down.
In the past month, GGP has been featured in two articles of interest. In the September 13, 2006 edition of the Chicago Journal :
Retail real estate giant General Growth Properties, headquartered in the West Loop at 110 N. Wacker Dr., is betting upcoming ventures on the idea that people will want to live above shopping malls.Next month, Mr. D’Alesandro will be a featured panelist at a Mixed-Use Conference in Hollywood, Florida. This conference (November 16-17, 2006), sponsored by ICSC, BOMA, ARDA and NMHC, is being touted as a "[l]andmark Mixed-Use Conference that will be of interest to anyone involved in developing, designing, financing, leasing, managing, and marketing a Mixed-Use project…”
General Growth is the second largest real estate investment trust in the United States, owning more than 200 regional malls. In 2004, when it acquired the Rouse Co., a Columbia, Md.-based real estate development and management firm, the transaction included several master-planned communities (designed urban centers built from the ground up) that analysts expected General Growth would eventually sell off.
Instead, General Growth has decided to launch an aggressive redevelopment of the properties.
As part of the plan, the company is combining traditional retail with upscale amenities-restaurants, theaters, parks. But General Growth is also moving to include housing and urban planning-all of which attempt to follow the tenets of a trendy anti-suburban-sprawl movement called New Urbanism.
The panel discussion that Mr. D’Alesandro will be addressing is found on the International Council of Shopping Centers website:
The Special Challenges of Developing Mixed-Use ProjectsI would suggest that if anyone has some time in November, stop on by Hollywood, Florida and report back what is said. I think all of Columbia would be interested.
This session sets the stage for the rest of the conference as it examines the opportunities and challenges with regard to mixed-use as a unique product type. Panelists will evaluate overall project complexity; integration of uses; risks in entitlements, zoning and government regulations. Consideration will also be given to design complexity, construction costs and getting the right mix of tenants. Finally, the panelists will offer up their perspectives on whether a mixing of uses is the solution to a location that cannot support a single-use project.
09 October 2006
The biggest hole in the planning process in America today is right at the beginning of it. We aren’t coming up with right answers because we aren’t asking the right questions at the outset. Planning deals with highways, land uses, public buildings, densities, open spaces, but it almost never deals with people. So seldom as to be never, in my experience, do you find in a planning study or report any serious discussion of the problems that people face in an urban society or how plans are directed at relieving those problems.
Isn’t it time we began to ask what we are planning for? What is the purpose of the community?
I believe that the ultimate test of civilization is whether or not it contributes to the growth, the improvement of mankind. There really can be no other right purpose of community except to provide an environment and an opportunity to develop better people. The most successful community would be that which contributed the most by its physical form, its institutions, and its operation to the growth of people.
So what have we learned after forty years? Over the last year, we have endured a discussion of residential housing density, traffic volume, building heights and the proximity of public art to the proposed road surfaces. No specific discussion has been held with regard to people, and the maximization of those people’s abilities as of yet.
The problem I fear, lies within the New Urbanist/Columbia conflict. The principles upon which the New Urbanist movement is based are known as the Ahwahnee Principles :
Community PrinciplesArguably, most of these principles have been successfully implemented in Columbia. To be honest, some are unfulfilled and some are applied unevenly throughout the city; however, it is possible to read from “It Could Happen Here” and read the above principles and arrive at the conclusion that they were authored by the same person or committee.
- All planning should be in the form of complete and integrated communities containing housing, shops, work places, schools, parks and civic facilities essential to the daily life of the residents.
- Community size should be designed so that housing, jobs, daily needs and other activities are within easy walking distance of each other.
- As many activities as possible should be located within easy walking distance of transit stops.
- A community should contain a diversity of housing types to enable citizens from a wide range of economic levels and age groups to live within its boundaries.
- Businesses within the community should provide a range of job types for the community's residents.
- The location and character of the community should be consistent with a larger transit network.
- The community should have a center focus that combines commercial, civic, cultural and recreational uses.
- The community should contain an ample supply of specialized open space in the form of squares, greens and parks whose frequent use is encouraged through placement and design.
- Public spaces should be designed to encourage the attention and presence of people at all hours of the day and night.
- Each community or cluster of communities should have a well-defined edge, such as agricultural greenbelts or wildlife corridors, permanently protected from development.
- Streets, pedestrian paths and bike paths should contribute to a system of fully-connected and interesting routes to all destinations. Their design should encourage pedestrian and bicycle use by being small and spatially defined by buildings, trees and lighting; and by discouraging high speed traffic.
- Wherever possible, the natural terrain, drainage and vegetation of the community should be preserved with superior examples contained within parks or greenbelts.
- The community design should help conserve resources and minimize waste.
- Communities should provide for the efficient use of water through the use of natural drainage, drought tolerant landscaping and recycling.
- The street orientation, the placement of buildings and the use of shading should contribute to the energy efficiency of the community.
The conflict I see is that Rouse was looking to use planning for a greater goal. To not just live, but to live and grow. In my opinion, New Urbanism does not seek the goal of human growth, but through planning sets a high standard of living. Somehow, these different (but not necessarily conflicting) planning ideals wind up describing each other.
So here we are now, today, searching for a new downtown. There is anxiety, fear and frustration. There are strong opinions. There is no discussion of growing people. To get us back on the path, might I suggest we go back to Berkeley. Not in 1963, but in 2006. During this past summer, Sharon Hudson published a series of columns in the Berkeley Daily Planet regarding development in downtown Berkeley. The culmination of her series listed (as she called it) the “Urban Bill of Rights (NIMBY Manifesto)”:
This list is not entirely applicable to our downtown project, but it is a starting point. It also provides enough substance for us to start discussing our future development in terms of people. Let us build on this.
- The right to see significant greenery, the sky, and the sun from within one’s home.
- The right to natural cross ventilation in one’s home.
- The right to enjoy peace and quiet within one’s home with windows open.
- The right to sleep at night without excessive artificial ambient light.
- The right to be free in one’s neighborhood from pollution of air, water, soil, and plant life.
- The right to be free from undesirable local environmental change caused by poor urban design, such as wind, shadow and noise canyons, excess heat caused by overpaving, etc.
- The right to adequate space for storage, hobbies, and other personal activities in and around each dwelling unit, including play space for children in family housing.
- The right to mobility, regardless of income. If automobile use is discouraged by prohibitive pricing, public transit must be adequate and low cost.
- The right to parking space for each household.
- The right of convenient access, on foot if possible, to basic daily needs, such as good quality food at reasonable prices, daily household and medical supplies, laundry facilities, etc.
- The right of convenient access, by foot, private vehicle, or transit, to places of employment.
- The right of equal access to the commons and to taxpayer-funded and other public facilities, such as government buildings, libraries, museums, bridges, and roadways.
- The right of access within walking distance to nature, recreation, outdoor exercise, and discovery, including parks, open space, and areas inhabited by wildlife.
- The right to equal and adequate police, fire, and emergency services, which shall not be infringed on the basis of income or neighborhood character.
- The right to participate in and guide, through equitable, representative, democratic processes, land use decisions that affect oneself, one’s neighborhood, and one’s community.
As we start this discussion, I will close with the concluding paragraphs of “It Could Happen Here”
Here then, is the challenge of a Good Environment – not a call to raise huge new funds; nor to marshal new pools of manpower. It is simply to change our attitudes toward our community. To build:
- A new sense of humility and social purpose in the urban designer,
- A new sense of relevance and responsibility in the social scientist,
- A new sense of conviction and courage in the public official.
To harness these new attitudes to the forces already in motion and to the resources that already exist among us will generate a new, creative thrust that will not only produce new communities, but will release among the people in them the potential for the noblest civilization the world has ever known.
05 October 2006
The job of Village Manager is not very high profile, but it is high impact. Ask any Village Board member in Columbia about their Village Manager, and I am sure high praise will issue forth. Village Managers are responsible for all things great and small. The things they take care of range from maintaining village centers and neighborhood centers, to managing village staff and volunteers, to putting on yearly local celebrations (Lake Elkhorn Festival, Taste of Wilde Lake, Long Reach Country Fair, among others) and also keeping the organization on budget.
The hours are long and they need to see our appreciation more. So if you can, stop by Owen Brown and Kings Contrivance to thank Ruth and Anne for a career of work that has enriched countless lives. Short of that, make a point within the next week to stop by your local village center and thank your Village Manager.
In closing, I want to thank Bernice Kish, the Wilde Lake Village Manager for her service and all the things you make happen in Wilde Lake. Bernice, you are priceless.
For those that attend, I suggest looking at the book "Creating a New City - Columbia, Maryland." This book, edited by Robert Tennenbaum is a first person account of how the city of Columbia came into being. A chapter written by Louis Nippard details how New Town Zoning came into being. It is a must read if you wish to understand the various aspects of the zoning regulations.
04 October 2006
In an earlier version of this post, I had the wrong link to the new HoCoEd blog. The link has been corrected. My apologies to all.
Despite Columblog’s quiet yearning for Hollywood, another nkotb. A blog about Howard County Education.
03 October 2006
Caution: Tangential Rant
I believe this is a good idea, but with one caveat. The pavilion that overlooks Lake Kittamaquandi (where “outdoor Clyde’s” used to be) must be upgraded such that seasonal, outdoor dining can be restored. I find dining under the People Tree to be a treat every summer; however, to be seated at a table that has a view of an unused pavilion which in turn has a marvelous view of the lake is beyond ironic.
Now Back to the Story
The Design Master Plan should also state which sites in downtown are to be “signature” building sites. Complicit in the signature building sites must be the recognition that those structures that are considered historic (or at least worthy of preservation) represent the highest order of signature buildings. All other signature buildings in downtown should compliment, and take some styling cues from these highest order buildings.
A short list of styling cues I can come up with (in my admittedly not-so-creative engineering mind) would be:
The glass pyramid structures atop the mall.
The tan brick that is predominant throughout downtown.
The hanging gardens and vertical/horizontal aspects of the Rouse Building (GGP headquarters).
The contemporary design and wall/window ratios of the Rouse Building, the American Cities Building, and the Teachers Building.
The white materials used on the Rouse Building, American Cities Building, and Teachers Building.
The use of rectangles, arcs, and circles to form the lakefront amphitheater.
Below the cues of the preserved buildings and signature buildings would be the other buildings that will populate downtown (I am sure there is a better architectural term for these buildings, but I do not know what else to call them). These buildings should provide differing elements so as to avoid monotony, but should be integrated within the block and streets such that they show some coordination and repeatability.
I believe this is crucial. As Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings, thereafter, they shape us.”
02 October 2006
Afternoon drive is a completely different animal, but why? A brief passage in the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning commissioned downtown Traffic study (Glatting Jackson – PDF ) provides the following information (page 5):
Existing and through traffic (i.e., traffic with neither origin nor destination
within the Town Center) is a major component of the … Little Patuxent/Governor
Warfield (north) intersection.
It seems during afternoon the afternoon rush hours, there are a lot of people that use downtown Columbia as a pass-through. I believe the culprit behind the use of downtown Columbia as a speed bump is the sprawlish developments in the Rt. 99 corridor, the Rt. 144 corridor (between Rt. 40 and Rt. 32) and the explosion of single family housing north along Rt. 32. As these housing developments have become established, traffic on Rt. 32 and Rt. 29 have become chronic parking lots. Faced with limited access to alternate routes many divert through downtown. As a resident of Wilde Lake, I have often seen the egress point of this traffic. It heads up Ten Mills Road in Running Brook, then onto Rt. 108 West to Centennial Lane. Rt. 144 traffic makes a left onto Rt. 40 for half a mile and then onto Rt. 144. Rt. 99 traffic continues North over Rt. 40 onto Bethany Lane.
The only evidence I have of this behavior is that as I commute home, if traffic has backed up from Rt. 29 onto westbound Rt. 100, the traffic on Ten Mills Road is very heavy for a residential street, and everyone is turning left at the Rt. 108/Ten Mills Road traffic light near Centennial Park. In addition, I have brought this concern to several community meetings. After each meeting, I usually hear from 6-12 people that I they in fact use such a route to commute home.
If we are to make downtown Columbia a destination again, we need to do something about traffic. Taking those afternoon rush hour drivers off the downtown roads would be a great start.