Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Columbia Experience

Last night I went to one of the free outdoor movies at the Lakefront in downtown Columbia and as sat there before the movie I saw as I always seem to at these movies the true Columbia experience. People of all ages and all backgrounds sitting out on the grass amphitheater enjoying each others company and dancing under the People Tree as they waited for the movie to start. It was really amazing the diversity and the number of interracial couples. Rouse did an amazing job of bringing people together of all backgrounds and making Columbia a truly welcoming community.

I am so passionate about fixing the plan for the redevelopment of downtown Coulumbia because sadly the current plan for downtown Columbia is an assault on everything I saw last night at the Lakefront. The refusal to require mixed income housing throughout in every residential component that reflects the mix of household incomes in the community despite nearly unanimous and repeated efforts by the community to say the current 10% moderate and 5% middle income housing in the plan is insufficient. Read these posts on the affordable housing needs in our community:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The plan to extend a road over the top edge of the grass amphitheater where we were watching the movie also destroys one of the great mixing places in Columbia.

And of course we have the issue of exclusive pools that remove yet another on of the main mixing area.

It is generally appalling to me that the people pushing the current plan forward either to not understand or care how their plan will destroy the very core of what makes are community successful and that Rouse was able to achieve. And to think that many of these things (with maybe the exception of mixed income housing) could be fixed without much loss of profit for the developers. Here is one idea for solutions to some of these problems:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the reason for the proposed new road from the Rouse Building parking lot passing next to the grassy amphitheater and on to the Sterrett Building parking lot?

Is it supposed to make town center more "pedestrian friendly"? Is it to allow narrowing Little Patuxent Parkway so that more buildings can be built along it?

It seems like it's an encroachment on the "urban transect" transition from the completely developed mall to the much more natural lakefront. Maybe it's proof that urban transects are just another way to promote sprawl, only in this case it's urban sprawl.

I doubt listening to a movie will be enjoyable next to a roadway. Would having such events close to a road be akin to the Lake Elkhorn/tot lot problem? I hope CA doesn't think this is a good idea.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Based on basic math and geographic reality there is no way to make the proposed road "pedestrian friendly". The Department of Public Works says that in order to put at 15 mile an hour road through there they need 10 feet wide lanes. Since it is 22 feet from a straight line extended north from the top edge of the grass amphitheater to the base of the stairs on the northeast corner of the American Cities Building, a northbound and a southbound lane would only leave room for 1 foot wide sidewalks, which aren't very "pedestrian friendly". Now if they wanted to get rid of the stairs and align the road with edge of the American Cities Building there will be a 5 foot 6 inch drop from the sidewalk to the road, which again is not very pedestrain friendly.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then I'd say skip this "outer LPP" section (along with skipping other outer LPP sections - the proposed piece running from the Rouse Building between the condos and the lake to Toby's) and instead make LPP more pedestrian friendly with more pedestrian overpasses - a less expensive and more aesthetic solution. That would keep LPP multilane and quick, while making walking safe and direct.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Berkhouse said...

Pedestrian overpasses are a great idea, and the best way to encourage pedestrian movement without negatively impacting vehicular movement.

To the Blog Host - you should be upset at the people that are pushing this current version of the Town Center Master Plan: Ken Ulman (primarily), the Planning Board which voted to support the Master Plan, and DPZ. I don't know why or how they can be supporting the amount of development proposed. It is way beyond what is necessary to "reinvigorate" the Town Center area (as if Town Center was dead). I would like to suggest that you check out Tom D'Asto's website (he's running for Council District 4 seat). He has a very well thought out approach to Town Center that I think you should at least check out. I know many people in Columbia who are crossing party lines to support him - he was the first candidate to come up with a point by point plan for Town Center. He's also hosting a greet and meet this Friday at That's Amore, and he will be talking about his points for Town Center. Maybe you could even be so kind as to post an item about it (or do you only support one Party)?

10:19 PM  
Blogger Hayduke said...

Tom: D'Asto's thoughts are Town Center are very general and, for the most part, in line with what almost everyone has been saying about Town Center development. They do not constitute a "point by point" plan. They also show an incomplete of understanding of the issues (e.g. Symphony Woods is already permanently preserved as Open Space per the CA guidelines and New Town regulations).

At this point, nobody is "pushing" the master plan. It is not finalized and has never been voted on. The Focus Group is working to address many of the issues that have been raised so that when a plan does get submitted for approval it matches the desires of the community.

As for whether the Blog Host (I like to call him Evan) would post something about D'Asto's event on Friday, I can't say. I will, however, point out that Evan only posts on non-partisan issues. He posts information about candidate forums and events related to elections, but not specific to particular parties. There are other bloggers on this site who post about political things and most of those posts have focused on a specific party, but they make their own decisions as to what they post.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Evan said...


Thanks! I could not have said it better myself. :)

12:36 AM  
Blogger Tom Berkhouse said...


Why so quick to dismiss Tom's viewpoints on Town Center? If the fate of Columbia is your main concern, then what does it matter who is proposing the best plan for Columbia? You can't stand the possibility that a republican candidate might be worth taking a look at? You sound and act more and more like an Ulman campaign manager every day.

As for MPP being preserved permanently already you're not quite right. The LAND might be preserved as open space, but the buildings on the land are not. They can be redeveloped, or closed down. If it was already 100% protected, then why was there a need to save MPP from development on the Crescent Property?

You are also incorrect about nobody pushing for the Master Plan. The Plan was being hurried through before there was a backlash by residents, and then the County decided to slow things down a bit. And, who was it that pushed to spend (or some say waste) over $250,000 for the charette? That's right - Ken Ulman. Are we really to believe that he (and Josh Feldmark) isn't pushing the plan? You are more naive (or partisan) than I thought if you don't think so.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Hayduke said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Hayduke said...

(Sorry for the re-post. I had to edit a couple sentences for clarity.)

Tom: Is there a reason you feel compelled to continually insult me? Or is the constant "naive" refrain supposed to be taken as an objective, non-emotional analysis of my thoughts and personality?

I didn't dismiss D'Asto's plan for Town Center, either. I simply said that he's not saying anything new, which is true. Anyone who's spent time reading this blog knows that Evan, the Focus Group, and many others have been discussing these issues for almost a year. And I discussed many of these issues with D'Asto over a couple beers a few months ago. My comments have nothing to do with his party affiliation.

Trust me, I know that MPP is not permanently preserved. I never said it was. Like D'Asto, I was talking about Symphony Woods being permanently preserved, which it is. These are two different things.

As for pushing of the plan, I don't think (and perhaps Evan knows better on this) that either Ken Ulman or Josh Feldmark has been involved with the master plan process at all in the last several months. Certainly, they are not pushing it through now. The orginal schedule for the plan was too fast, and after it became apparent that more time was needed, the schedule was relaxed. Considering that the focus group is still working and that DPZ has been granting the group additional meetings as they request them, hurried does not seem to be a fair characterization of the process.

Now, you are right that Ulman and Feldmark lobbied for the charrette to be held in the first place, which you seem to fault them for. But what would have been your preferred method for dealing with Town Center development? Though flawed, this process has allowed more citizen involvement than any other in the county's history.

1:44 PM  
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12:58 AM  

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