The Washington Post published two articles (More Urban, Less Village and Remade City Centers Find Mass Appeal), both authored by reporter Kim Hart. In addition, the www.washingtonpost.com has an online chat with the reporter, panoramic views of the new development, and satellite imagery of Clarendon from 1962 to present day.
In summary, there is plenty there for everybody. An analysis of urban centers, concerns about the loss of local businesses, traffic, etc…
What I took away from the published articles and online content is as follows:
Bethesda always finds its way into every story. The following quote appears in the Remade City Centers Find Mass Appeal article:
Instead, people amble along pedestrian-friendly streets in places like Bethesda, Takoma Park and Silver Spring. Downtown Alexandria and Annapolis epitomize the model, experts say, weaving together the threads of an old-fashioned main street in a modern setting.It is unclear to me who these experts are, but they are most likely at odds with the Co Fo Co Do (Coalition for Columbia’s Downtown) crowd. As stated in their executive summary, they too look to Annapolis as a model for downtown Columbia. Could Clarendon fit their model too? I am unsure.
The Remade City Centers Find Mass Appeal article also provided some numbers behind the Urban Village trend:
Businesses in urban villages generate more revenue than those in traditional shopping centers and strip malls, planners say. Shoppers spend $84 an hour in an urban village's street-side stores; in a typical enclosed mall, they spend $57.50 an hour, according to the Urban Land Institute. Some large retailers bring in almost 20 percent more revenue per square foot in a village setting.What I find most revealing about both articles is how each piece closes:
"Retailers know the power of the place-making dividend. People stay longer, come back more often and spend more money in places that attract their affection," said Ed McMahon, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute. "No one wants to go to a strip mall to hang out."
The concluding paragraphs of the More Urban, Less Village piece state:
David DeCamp, one of the forces behind the new Station Square, said the density incentive is a good compromise to preserve some of the art-deco architecture and old-fashioned main-street style. "I don't think anyone wants to overdo it and turn Clarendon into a soulless suburb," he said.While the Remade City Centers Find Mass Appeal closes with this:
Nick Langman, co-owner of the Clarendon Ballroom, said businesses benefit from working with the neighborhood's idiosyncratic feeling, not against it. He and his partner preserved the hall's tin ceiling and ornate molding. The ballroom often has a line wrapping around the corner on weekend nights.
"You can't buy charm," he said. "You can't rebuild the sense of place that's already here."
To keep a neighborhood from turning into a shopping mall -- or a carbon copy of another town -- experts say developers should concentrate on retaining local character.The emphasis of developing while maintaining the existing character of place, coming from local business owners, experts, and others shows at least a little shared vision among all stakeholders, something we are lacking here in Howard County.
"The historical and social fabric has to be retained in the place to keep it from becoming another Ballston or Bethesda," Nelson said. "Use the market revenue to sustain a piece of that memory."
Lastly, Clarendon decided to use a height limitation similar to that proposed by Howard County DPZ. As part of the www.washingtonpost.com online chat with reporter Kim Hart, the following exchange can be found:
Questioner from Arlington, VA:
What is the county board doing to keep the independent retailers in Clarendon? Do they get tax breaks, lower rents?
Arlington County has been proactive in keeping smaller businesses in the neighborhood, especially in Clarendon. Developers who promise to rent to small businesses get the chance to add an extra floor or two to their new buildings, which can help offset the lower rent they charge the independents. Many local business owners do think the county could do more, however.
So maybe a hard cap on building heights could endanger local atmosphere here in Howard County. We should all think long and hard about this.