Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Round Up: Tropically-Depressed Edition…

Ah, Ernesto, we hardly knew ye. From storm to depression in only a few short hours, you’re now just a little breezy and (hopefully) a lot rainy. Which is fine. We need the rain more than we need the wind. Anyway, here are a few stray thoughts before the dog and I go play in the rain.

This is a good idea: Giving tax credits to those who conserve energy by installing solar or geothermal systems.

Wisely, a developer hoping to build senior housing near the Columbia Medical Campus in Thunder Hill has withdrawn his plans after strong neighborhood opposition.

What?!? Is General Growth seriously even contemplating demolishing the Rouse Company building? Don’t they know what happened last time they tried to take down a Frank Gehry-designed building in Columbia? Do they really want to open up that can of worms again?


Mary Catherine said...

The Gehry designed Exhibit center was listed on our Top Ten Endangered List in 2001 and 2002 when we heard whispers of demo to create room for more vertical lake front space. At the time- the Baltimore Sun was critical of the idea. See the editorial here:

The site was removed from the list after assurances from Rouse that no destruction of either Gehry building was imminent. We did not take that as a promise for permanent preservation, however.

I would think that Mr. Godine's comments could perhaps be testing the waters. They could also be an effort to build a case to sacrifice the exhibit center as a compromise to saving the Rouse headquarters buildings. (Please don't call it the General Growth building. yuck.).

In any case... After Frank Lloyd Wright- Mr. Gehry is the most famous 20th century architect. His early works - such as the exhibit center and the Rouse building give context to his later works- like the Guggenheim in Bilboa Spain.

For more information about Gehry- read here:

FreeMarket said...

I think Guzzone has a good idea, if the goal is to garnish votes. If the goal is help the environment, I think a better idea would be to earmark $250,000 worth of property tax revenue each year to purchase wind credits, similar to what the grocery chain Whole Foods has done recently. Home solar units can cost upwards of $50,000, and still require you to be connected to the power grid. Thus, the technology is still pretty inefficient on a cost basis, so new investment in better technology is needed. Purchasing wind credits subsidizes Corporations that invest in new technologies and build large facilities of windmills that have economies of scale.

Regarding the Rouse Building (I mean GGP building- old habits die hard), I think we should let the owners of the building do what they want with their property. They have shareholders they are responsible to, so they will use their property in the most economically efficient way possible, even if that means tearing down the old and building anew. I work right next to the GGP building, and I love to look at it, but the land it is on is worth a fortune, and we have a responsibility to respect the rights of those who own the capital.

Mary Catherine said...

For the sake of argument:

Often- in our haste to define property rights- we forget about the rights of the owners of adjoining property. For example. You might want to rezone your nice little ranch house in a residential area to allow for a Rite-Aid. Some would say- it is your property- you have the right to do with it what you want... but this thinking excludes the rights of neighbors who will be impacted by the commercial development. And allows the rights of a single property owner to outweigh the rights of many.

In the case of something like a historic landmark- or cultural landmark- the value of the landmark extends beyond that of the property owner and to the community as a whole. If a building is part of what makes a community uniquely successful, or attractive- if it represents something greater than a pile of bricks and mortar- then the community has a vested interest in it's future, as well.

I believe that the property rights of every citizen of Columbia would be negatively impacted by the demolition or loss of the two Gehry designed buildings. I can argue it on squishy- preserving our heritage, our soul.. or sense of place grounds... and I can argue it on $$$. Heritage tourism is one of our biggest industries in Maryland. Savage Mill and Ellicott City bring the top dollars to local jurisdictions. Towncenter could, as well. It will be harder to do- though- if we gut it and make it like every other cookie cutter suburban faux urban center.

It isn't always about the $$.. and decisions based solely on $$ leave us lacking in the things like art and music and architecture and open space and playgrounds..

FreeMarket said...

Mary, I understand where you are coming from. However, the GGP building is on commercially zoned property, and the folks at GGP are determining what to do with it in the ordinary course of business. Of course their decision will impact the people in the community who are not a party to the decision. That kind of thing happens everyday. Economists call those effects externalities. Sort of like, in some totally hypothetical example, if we were to pay for and fight a war so that oil companies can make record profits.

If you believe that the Rouse building (I like that name better than GGP) makes Columbia unique and successful, then start a non-profit entity to purchase the building. You could solicit donations from locals who wish to preserve the character and attractiveness of their community. I will be the first to contribute. Let us refrain from implying that the GGP Corp. has some moral obligation to Columbia residents. They do not.

Hayduke said...

Freemarket: Shouldn't externalities factor into the decision about what to do with a building? After all, isn't the free market only truly free when entities pay the entire costs of their actions? If those costs aren't factored in, is it our responsibility to impose them?

There are better ways to preserve something than having every citizen chip in several hundred dollars to buy it. Namely, quid pro quo, which it sounds like GGP is angling for here.

Anyway, I think we might work in the same building.

Mary Catherine said...

Dear Freemarket,

We (PHC) cobble together economically feasible preservation options every day. Some of those options include easement programs like Ag preservation or Program Open Space. Some options include establishing a non-profit entity and raising funds... some include lobbying for better setbacks and land design regulations. And some include creating historic districts- which have been proven to increase property values and bring in tourism dollars. Any and all of these tools are or could be available for a preservation save.

In extolling the virtues of the Gehry buildings and in lamenting a potential loss- I never indicated that GGP would have to bear the whole cost or even any cost of preservation.

Only that the buildings should not be demolished because they are an essential element of our downtown character.

I do disagree with your last statement regarding moral obligation. All entities, individual, business, charitable or for profit have a moral obligation to their community.


FreeMarket said...

Hayduke: I agree 100% that government should step in to make sure externalities are not passed to the taxpayers. If GGP Inc. was dumping chemicals in the lake or tearing down the building to build a chicken farm, that is an externality that should be stopped. However, I don’t think that means the government can weigh in on every decision a company needs to make.

Mary- Just because you have an economically sound plan, does not mean that you have the most economically sound plan. But don’t get me wrong- I agree some level of preservation is good.

Tom Berkhouse said...


So you're philosophy is: "There are better ways to preserve something than having every citizen chip in several hundred dollars to buy it. Namely, quid pro quo, which it sounds like GGP is angling for here."

Do you mean the kind of quid pro quo that Ken Ulman has arranged with GGP? You know, where he convinces GGP to leave MPP alone, and then he gets GGP a bunch more density and commercial development space via the Town Center master plan? I'm glad you're finally admitting to Kenny boy's REAL motivations.

That's just one of several examples of how Ken has back-door dealed his way into the pockets of many.