Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's alright we told you what to dream...

General Growth must have turned up the signal beaming to my implanted micro chip, because after reading this story, I'm left feeling excited about its forthcoming plan for downtown.

While many of the details are left out -- probably because the plan isn't finished and won't be released until at least August -- there is enough meat to get a sense of the ideas being tossed around in the former Rouse HQ.

Assuming GGP does not change its mind, and that is not anticipated, the basic structure of its plan would include:

• Seeking zoning changes to authorize construction of 5,500 housing units.

• 3 million square feet of commercial offices.

• Construction of 750,000 square feet for retail.

• Development of the lakefront and the crescent, the area next to Merriweather Post Pavilion and the single largest parcel of undeveloped land downtown.

The plan, first expected this month, probably will not be released until August, Godine said. Even then, he said, some aspects of the company's plan might not be final.

Godine said the plan also will include "position papers" on several issues that have generated strong community interest. Among them will be work-force housing, traffic, arts and culture, environmentally responsible, or "green," buildings, open spaces, pedestrian access, the environment and nature.

Of particular interest, especially to wonks like me, are the position papers.

As the county's Town Center plan drifts closer in spirit to its catch-all comprise plan for the Smith Farm, GGP, unencumbered by outside special interests, is poised to breathe some visionary air into the discussion.

Now, I could be wrong. The plan could be the sum of all nightmares. But I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt. It's clear they are aware of citizens concerns (nobody is that out of touch), but just as importantly, they've brought in outside experts to help build the vision (a new Working Group?). Moreover, I recently heard that the company is committed to being a leader -- not just a follower -- in sustainability. (I wonder if they've seen the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Neighborhood Development standards?)

Of course, a great plan does not equal carte blanche. So, here's my obligatory drumbeat for an implementation process that includes strict guidelines, benchmarks, incentives and deadlines, which you have heard before.

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