Sunday, November 27, 2005

No win for CA

Because I'm still not sure what to call them, I will henceforth refer to the governing body of the Columbia Association as the "Columbia Association Governing Body" or CAGB for short.

With that out of the way, I must confess similar confusion over the issue of what is to become of the old Teacher's Building on the lakefront in Town Center, CA's current headquarters and home to local restaurants Clyde's and the Tomato Palace. From the Sun:

An idea from the county-sponsored charrette about the future of downtown Columbia included razing the building to make way for an open lakefront vista. Complaints from residents have prompted the county to look for alternatives.

Many have been drawing the wrong conclusion that demolishing this building would result in the destruction of Columbia's "Cheers," which surely will not happen. The building itself is nothing special--a rectangular stucco structure with no real redeeming architectural attributes--but certainly its tenants are. However, wanting to keep Clyde's on the lakefront and wanting to get rid of the Teacher's Building are not mutually exclusive. I support them both, and apparently the county sees that we can have it both ways, too.

(Deputy director of the planning department Steve) Lafferty said residents primarily seem to be concerned about compromising the location of Clyde's. He said he believes it makes sense for the restaurant to stay on the lakefront.

"We don't expect the bulldozers to be out there; we don't expect Clyde's to lose their location," Lafferty said. "We fully expect that if the property owners decide they want to be done with the building there will be an alternative for Clyde's. It's an icon."

What I find most disturbing (or funny, depending on how you look at it) is the anger directed at CAGB over this. Since it doesn't own the Teacher's Building and its lease runs out in 2007, CA has been considering relocating to a new building for a while. Moreover, those trying to paint CAGB as a back-room deal-maker for conducting a public but unannounced meeting to discuss this during the charrette have not won my support with their protestations, which seem hollow considering that no decisions were made and that this was part of the charrette where many public but unannounced meetings took place between many public and private individuals. More moreover, CA doesn't even own the building. General Growth does, and they can do with it what they want without having to accommodate CAGB or anyone else.

Finally, all of this controversy stems from an artist's rendering of the area released during the charrette. The rendering, which was released on the final day and is in no way a legally binding part of the plan, shows a new building in place of the Teacher's Building, with improve sight lines from the mall area to the lake. It was meant to graphically represent what the finished product of this master plan might look like. It is important to remember here that master plan process, of which the charrette was a part, is still ongoing.

My hope is that the Teacher's building fades into architectural oblivion--along with several other mundane downtown buildings (cough, American City Building/Sterrett Place, cough)--and Clyde's, the Tomato Palace, and CA get buildings worthy of their stature in the community.

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