Thursday, August 10, 2006

I built this garden for us...

Of all the cities to inspire use as we think about the future of Columbia's downtown, who would point to Chicago as an example to follow?

Skeptics snickered 17 years ago when Mayor Richard M. Daley added flowers and trees to the city's honey-do list. They scoffed at the apparent folly of beautifying a sprawling, gritty urban landscape, figuring Daley for a modern-day Potemkin.

A few tulips, they figured, would be the end of it.

But the city-kid mayor raised on the rough-and-tumble South Side stuck with it. The greening project grew strong roots, giving Chicago a reputation as one of the nation's most committed environmental cities of any size. The company it keeps is not Newark and Detroit, but Portland and Seattle.

...Since Daley began investing tax dollars in greening the city, Chicago has planted as many as 400,000 trees, according to city spokesmen. It employs more arborists than any city in the country. There are 2.5 million square feet of green roofs completed or under construction, boosted by expedited permitting and density bonuses for developers who embrace the concept.

The ground in downtown Columbia today is mostly a asphalt drainage system meant to channel rainwater as quickly as possible into the lake and nearby Little Patuxent river. Rather than overwhelm the surrounding ecosystem, redevelopment, if done right, can actually help stem the ongoing degredation. I am heartened to hear that the Downtown Focus Group is pushing for a broader discussion of green building. If only this effort could be expanded to include all county development.

1 comment:

mary smith said...

Ok, Mr. Magoo (aka Hayduke).

For a broader discussion, what would you like to do, ask people to log into yahoo groups and start talking? Who would these people be?

Do you want to jump start the mainstream, or are you gonna continue to sing to the choir, preach to the converted?

We need the general population! Green building is not just an environmental thing, as much as you might think. It's a scientific thing, a higher ed thing, a fascination thing. There are many ways to generate enthusiasm, and though they are under the nose, environmentalists are stepping right over them.