Sunday, February 26, 2006

Downtown Discussion

The proposed master plan for Town Center will be discussed tomorrow night in a public meeting at the Spear Center (home of the former Rouse Company) at 7 pm. As much as I'd like to offer comprehensive analyses of three recent articles dealing with the plan, I'm running out of quarters to feed the blogging machine. So, here's a quick run-down.

Here's a nice overview about the plan, how it's progressed in the last few months, and why it's become such a source of consternation for some in the community. Reading the article is a good way to catch up on all the background stuff you may have missed and prepare yourself for tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, the discussion over who will manage and, more importantly, pay for the maintenance of all the great stuff promised to us in our new downtown continues. The Columbia Association is considering a partnership with General Growth, but many CA board members are (rightly) apprehensive. Said Owen Brown representative Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, "We should not be the caretaker for the developer and the county." Indeed.

Finally, there's a debate over whether there should be an architectural review board for Town Center development and, if so, who should be on that board. The story's money quotes:

"We need to let architects have a freedom of choice and an ability to be creative," said Mohammad Saleem, a manager of design services at Morgan State University in Baltimore and a Columbia resident. "Rigid guidelines will lead to the same buildings over and over again."

...The design guidelines officials are proposing would permit the redevelopment of downtown to follow a planning trend known as "new urbanism," which creates walkable communities containing streetfront buildings that are accessible to pedestrians, according to county planners.

The proposal would allow for the construction of "signature" buildings at key intersections or at important vistas that would not necessarily have to meet the criteria. But other buildings would fit into the guidelines.

But several members of the focus group called the criteria too specific and limiting, requiring some buildings to follow the criteria and no other.

"I think what's written is way too detailed and directive," said Tim Sosinski, an architect. "We need to have more flexibility."

It is interesting that the biggest complaint I've heard thus far about the master plan is that it doesn't have enough details, yet now we're hearing (as far as building design goes) we've got too much detail. Not sure what to make of that, though.

Anyway, we'll get a chance tomorrow night to talk about all this and more. Hope you can make it.

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