A couple issues that sprouted up in my little piece of Columbia got me thinking. Unfortunately, these thoughts haven't led me to any conclusions…just more thoughts.
So, I'm presenting these matters to the collective wisdom of the local Anonymouses in hopes that my own thoughts might start crystallizing.
First, there's the Walgreens. I'm not exactly sure where it is in the development process, but almost all of Oakland Mills seems to know of and have an opinion about it. For those who aren't in the know, the chain pharmacy is working to locate a new branch at the intersection of Rouse Parkway (Rt. 175) and Thunder Hill Road, a decidedly non-village center site.
That last bit presents a problem. We can argue about tall buildings, but one thing that's pretty clearly part of the "vision" of Columbia is that the life's essentials would be located in our village centers. I don't think I'm slavish in my devotion to founding principles, but when there's a struggling village center that currently has no place for residents to get the medicine they really need – that is, not the over the counter junk – it seems kind of strange to support construction of a pharmacy out on the village's fringe.
But pharmacies don't play that way anymore. Unless they're part of a grocery store, today's pharmacies follow the stand-alone, along-major-roadways model. I'm guessing they do this because it's proven to be successful, and whatever niceties might be said about providing access to medicine, it's still all about the money.
(And contrary to what some may think, Columbia was never intended to blunt market forces in favor of the common good or social gains. Indeed, its true genius was exploiting them to achieve social ends…but that's for a later post.)
Also I'm also sensitive to the fact that this location, as opposed to one in a village center, would be more convenient for some (ahem...) and less convenient for others. Which way the scales tip in this instance, I can't say.
The other undecided I have is with respect to the idea of a new bridge connecting Town Center to Oakland Mills and whether this bridge should serve people, bikes, buses, cars or all of the above. I've long been of the opinion that a bridge open to all vehicles and made safe for pedestrians is the best option for Oakland Mills but others have raised good points that have me rethinking my position. Whatever happens, the bridge must be safe (in all ways) and convenient before it sees significant usage. The bridge we have now doesn't fully meet these standards and I don't know if anything can be done to make it so.
What's more, a really well-designed bridge would give our city another defining piece of architecture, which we desperately need.So there it is...my jumble of thoughts.
How about you?