I attended the GGP/HCC sponsored Voices of Vision lecture last night. The entire night can be summed up in one sentence: Ann Forsyth is a rock star of the planning world. Yes, it was that good. If HCCTV plans to show this lecture on its cable channel, take off work, unplug the phone, and make a bowl of popcorn.
The evening started out with brief remarks by the HCC president and Doug Godine of General Growth Properties. Dr. Forsyth began her presentation with a brief history of sprawl and the historical struggle against it. This led to a summary of development in Irvine (California), the Woodlands (Texas), and Columbia and how each of these master planned communities had in fact matured with very little effects of sprawl within their confines. This is basically the premise of her book Reforming Suburbia, a must read for anyone who has an interest in Columbia or minimizing sprawl.
During this part of the lecture, there was also a veiled reference to the people who actually developed Columbia and the Woodlands. I’m not sure if I got the reference correctly, but suffice it to say, I believe it would be in contradiction with CA’s recently enacted temperance policy.
Dr. Forsyth then went on to talk about downtown Columbia. Her remarks were general in nature, but she did provide two examples of cities that she thought Columbia could learn from: Almere (Netherlands) and Hammerby Sjostad (Sweden).
It found some personal joy in the mention of these two cities. As I stated at the Columbia Downtown Master Plan public meeting (February 27, 2006), I have always thought Columbia has more of a European design and that we should look to downtowns in Europe for ideas. (Let me be clear, I lay no claim to the idea of a Columbian-European heritage, but it was nice to hear someone else say it.)
In particular, Hammerby Sjostad had developed their downtown around a “green or blue” plan. This plan ensured that all residences had views of either greenery or an adjacent (blue) lake. I found this to be an excellent idea.
After Dr. Forsyth was finished, she took questions from the audience. This is where she really shined. She answered questions on affordable housing, density, traffic, energy efficiency/green buildings, and others that I cannot remember. As each question was asked, she was able to provide complete, multi-faceted answers. A few times she had made reference to the fact that she had entire presentations loaded on her laptop relating to the subject of the question. I think myself, Hayduke and the 75 or so attendees would have stayed and enjoyed those other presentations too.