12 January 2007

Serendipitous Placeholder

I intend to write more about this later, but I wanted to put this out there for initial comment.

I attended the final General Growth Properties sponsored “Voices of Vision”. The guest lecturer was Adam Lerner, Executive Director of The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar. His presentation began with a brief discussion of how Belmar was developed in the city of Lakewood, Colorado (Belmar is Lakewood, Colorado’s downtown district). The second half of his lecture focused on the arts activities going on in Belmar. Mr. Lerner is certainly a very creative person and presented some programs that I (without a doubt) would like to attend. What I found particularly interesting was the Q&A after the lecture. One exchange I would like to share (and I transcribed this as best I could, so please forgive any inaccuracies) was the following:

Mr. Lerner was asked if tall buildings are appropriate in a downtown and what was the definition of human scale. Mr. Lerner responded that there was no hard and fast rule regarding human scale, that towers (tall buildings) were not necessarily out of hand, and it really depends on the context. He also remarked that he had not seen the plans for the proposed Plaza Tower for downtown Columbia, and wondered if the tower brought life to the area or did it suck? After a brief pause, he amended his remark to ask if the tower sucked life out of the area. Would people who lived in the tower be brought to the street level, or would they just drive their cars to and from the tower and not interact with the city? I had a chance to chat briefly with my social acquaintance, Guilford, after the lecture. When I asked him what he thought, he remarked, “I know what the headline will be tomorrow, ‘Plaza Tower Sucks’.” Regrettably, I don’t think he got the full meaning of Mr. Lerner’s statement.

And on This Side of the Mississippi

As fate would have it, the regionally located (Washington, DC) Urban Places and Spaces blog had a post yesterday about arts-based revitalization. The blog post relates some regional arts revitalization efforts going on and provides plenty of links to other arts-based efforts. It is certainly worth reading.

As I said, I will post more on this later. It was a really great lecture. Anyone else that attended, please post your thoughts. In addition, I would like to hear what people thought of the entire lecture series.


Richard Layman said...

I live in DC. (Please change.) Thanks. Sorry I missed the presentation, it sounds interesting. As far as downtowns go, tall buildings aren't out, although you have to be very careful at how the bottom two levels meet and connect to the street. See The Bigness Complex and Big Urbanism for more about this and why downtowns developed the way they did.

B. Santos said...


Location has been changed. Sorry about the mixup. I have checked out "The Bigness Complex..." and I agree. Height isn't the only thing. Keep in mind there are some here in HoCo that are a bit averse to building height because of a proposed 23 story building. Many site the relatively lower skyline of DC as a model alternative. Thoughts?

Richard Layman said...

23 stories is high. It may matter, it may not. I can't really say. Four things to think about: (1) how the building connects to the area around it (context) (2) especially at the lower floors, and if there is retail; (3) how it will look from farther away (viewshed) and (4) what impaact there will be on mobility/transit/road infrastructure.

Those are the issues really, not so much "height" just as "height." Plus remember you need population density in order to support the kind of community amenities--retail especially--that people want. FYI, it's been many years since I've been to the Mall at Columbia and I've never been to one of the neighborhood shopping centers.

In the city, (4) is less of an issue if a building is constructed within the mobility shed of extant transit (TOD). It wasn't til I went on a tour in Annapolis at the Preservation Maryland conf. and saw this big project under development on West Street when I got a better appreciation for "nimbyism." Is it nimbyism when most everybody drives, where there are limited mobility options, where the community doesn't have the rich transit infrastructure possessed by DC?

In the Annapolis case, the thing will generate a few thousand trips to and from each day. And West Street is relatively small...

By the way this experience is the source of my suggestion that light rail/the Purple Line be "extended"--a different line really--from New Carrollton to and around Annapolis, although Dan Malouff, points out that railroad-based service from DC is probably the simplest way to acoomplish this. See: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/192900288/

Anonymous said...

Instead of yet another of these iconic style of Metro maps Metro posts for people to more quickly understand where each line of the system goes, how about a to-scale map that is geographically correct? One that shows:
- actual routes and
- distances between stations?

Accompanying that should be a table or two to show:
- costs for each leg and station to build initially and operate annually
- times and average speeds to get from any station to any station (about 20 mph with stops, right?)
- how many acres of greenspace will be consumed for building the tracks,
- how many acres of greenspace will be consumed for stations and each station's parking lots
- population within walking distance of each station

Building the lines shown will be very expensive for a system that still only serves a small percentage of the region's population. And it won't put a dent in traffic congestion.

A public transit system for the region needs to be better than cars in multiple ways and not continue to be astronomically expensive to build and operate to draw any substantial percentage of commuters off the roads.

Personal rapid transportation is that system. Having ridden both Metro and light rail, I can say they are way too slow, way too expensive, way too inconvenient, and decimate considerable greenspace.

Richard Layman said...

I wrote a long comment which blogger didn't keep. In short PRT is crap--throughput is negligible compared to the 15,000 to 60,000 passengers/hour in light or heavy rail, and 6750 to 10000 per hour on regular or rapid bus.

Your map idea is fine, but should be extended to the regular road network, especially given that road costs are subsidized to the tune of 50% from general funds.

The other stuff I am too lazy to rewrite.

Richard Layman said...

Those passenger numbers are per lane of one mile of road or equivalent. For cars it ranges from 800 (urban arterial) to 2200 (freeway). Given that most cars have only one passenger, throughput is negligible.