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Getting Closer to Shovels in the Ground

We fought long and hard for the changes that will be coming to Downtown, and now we’ll finally get to see the plans for the first project! Tonight at 6:30, Howard Hughes Corp. will present its plans for 817 residential units and more than 76,000 square feet of retail space. The meeting will be held in room 400 of The Rouse Co. Foundation Student Services Hall at Howard Community College. Hope to see you there!

-Brian

It Is Happening Here

On September 26, 1963, Jim Rouse gave a speech entitled, “It Can Happen Here” in which he outlined the goals he had for Columbia. Monday night at The Columbia Art Center, Barbara Kellner spoke about how his speeches moved people to act.

His ideas were, without a doubt, ahead of their time. Note the passage where he says, “that the ultimate test of civilization is whether or not it contributes to the growth— improvement of mankind. Does it uplift, inspire, stimulate, and develop the best in man? There really can be no other right purpose of community except to provide an environment and an opportunity to develop better people.”

That’s some heavy stuff for the early 60’s. So are we there? I’ll leave that up to you to discuss, but I think we’re a lot closer than most. Just look at all the good stuff happening all around us.

It hasn’t always been easy. Just like any community, Columbia has had her ups and downs. But I am very optimistic about where we are today. We continue to move forward armed with with the confidence Rouse had in us. In our ability to live the Columbia Dream of developing better people.

We’re still here and still going strong, 47 and a half years after he gave this timeless speech:

-Brian Dunn

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“If you don’t create change, change will create you”

 

Yesterday, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman gave his annual State of the County speech.  He talked about managing well, partnering well, and investing well – the “principles that have guided this administration from Day One.”

The two things that stood out to us were his comments on downtown (of course!):

I am extremely proud of the community effort that we went through for downtown Columbia. The master plan we passed last year embodies the vision and values of the community, respects our history and establishes downtown Columbia as a dynamic, attractive place to live, work and play.

And his emphasis on the impact from the coming expansions at Fort Meade (BRAC and Cyber Command):

… after talking about base realignment for years and seeing jobs trickle in, we’re now poised to see the flood of jobs we’ve heard so much about. Already, 500 positions have been moved on base, and by September, that number will grow to 5,800 -- over 5,000 new jobs in 9 months. That’s staggering.

And by the end of 2012, we are expecting an additional 15,000 private sector jobs to have accompanied this expansion….

Wow.  There is no question: Columbia and Howard County will see some stunning changes in the next few years and decades.  We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: we can look at change as a problem or as an opportunity – but either way, it’s coming.

We choose to embrace change proactively, and we believe Columbia, with our tradition of “creative, forward thinking community planning,” is a great place to do that.

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If you’re interested in more of what the county executive had to say, you can read the full text here or watch it on video on Comcast Ch. 99/Verizon Ch. 44:

January 25 – 7 p.m.
January 26 – 1:30 p.m.
January 27 – 11:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.
January 28 – 1:30 p.m.
January 29 – 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
January 30 – 1:30 p.m.

Tomorrow’s Downtown

Phil Engelke is a local architect and urban planner who has worked on projects all over the globe. Last week he was kind enough to walk around Columbia’s underutilized downtown with us to talk about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as we begin our redevelopment.  Thanks, Phil!

Back in March of last year, on a much nicer day, my sister and I went to the lakefront in hopes of interviewing people there about what they wanted to see Downtown.  The only problem was, there was no one to interview…

Shifting Into High Gear

It looks like the new execs at the Howard Hughes Corporation have made some big changes here in Columbia.  We don’t know what to make of them yet.  All we know is that this project needs to keep moving forward.

From the comments in the Sun article, it looks like both our elected officials and the new Howard Hughes leadership understand that the momentum of the community’s plan is intensifying.

The new CEO of the corporation, David Weinreb, said, “We’re shifting into high gear now. This is the time to be making bold moves.”

County Executive Ken Ulman and members of the county council stressed the enforceability of the plan, regardless of land ownership.

“This points out exactly what we’ve been saying for the last three years,” Ulman said. “The plan is the plan. It does not depend on ownership. They can embrace the plan and build the downtown … or not. On the one hand, it feels like we’re starting over with new people, but we’ve got a plan to protect the interests of Columbia and county residents.”

County Councilwoman Courtney Watson was more blunt. “We don’t have to approve the rest of the process unless the company performs. I think we’re in the catbird’s seat,” she said.

Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty can take much credit for insisting that the legislation be written for any developer of downtown, not just General Growth Properties, who happened to be the developer at the time.  We should thank her for her foresight.

As David Weinreb said, it’s time to “shift into high gear.”  For over five years now, we’ve been engaged in a comprehensive planning and creative process.  Now, we’re looking forward to the process of building the vibrant, connected, and walkable downtown we’ve envisioned.

Edward Norton on the Legacy of His Grandfather, James Rouse

Yesterday, Columbia’s own Edward Norton spoke at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design on “Social Entrepreneurship and the Built Environment – James Rouse and His Legacy.”  Norton has been involved with Rouse’s Enterprise Community Partners for over 20 years.  Jonathon Rose, an urban planner from Boston whose firm emphasizes affordable green solutions, also spoke.

The event description includes this great, succinct summary of Jim Rouse’s work in Columbia:

Few individuals have played such an important role in shaping urban America, as James Rouse. In the 1950’s, Rouse was a pioneering developer of indoor shopping malls. In the 1960’s, he created the planned community of Columbia, Maryland as a collection of socially progressive, self-contained villages. Today Columbia is home to more than 100,000 people. Frank Gehry did some of his early work in Columbia, having been commissioned by Rouse to design Columbia’s exhibit center and firehouse, as well as the Rouse Company headquarters.

From the Harvard Crimson this morning:

“He was very ahead of his time in social ethics,” Norton said of his grandfather.

Rose added that Rouse’s greatest strength was that “he had a holistic view of developing…he could see the whole.”

This “holistic view” was presented as the need to consider all aspects of the urban society, including education, infrastructure and the environment when developing a city.

“A city isn’t just a dense bunch of buildings,” Rose said. “[They] will not work unless people have a connection with nature.” …

Norton himself said he still feels the influence of Rouse.

“He remains a very active presence and inspiration,” Norton said.

Edward Norton and Jonathon Rose at Harvard forum

Excerpt from Event Description

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A Bright, Bright Future for Howard County: County Executive Ulman talks about the “transformative” changes coming to our area

The spotlight was on County Executive Ken Ulman on WBAL TV’s Sunday Q & A. Asked about the plan to redevelop Downtown (around minute 1:30), he hit the nail on the head: “We have a great downtown, a great mall, a lakefront, Merriweather Post Pavilion – but you can’t walk from one to another!” He went on to talk about the $26.5 million “rebuilding” of Merriweather “for the next generation.” (Hey, that’s us!!!)

Then, the question is posed: “You guys are on the cutting edge of the cyber security world out there. Are we going to see more jobs coming to Fort Meade because of this?” His response? Absolutely.

See the rest of his comments here, starting around minute 3:00, about the “transformative” impact of BRAC and Cyber Command on the region. Columbia and Howard County are perfectly located for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  If we are going to capture that opportunity, we must start preparing.

County Executive Ulman on WBAL Nov. 28

Welcome to Columbia

We already blogged about the formation of The Howard Hughes Corporation, but we haven’t formally welcomed them. So, on behalf of Columbia 2.0 and all of our members, we would like to welcome our new partners to town. Just as we did with GGP, we expect to work with them and hold them accountable to the community as the downtown plan moves forward.

And speaking of GGP, we would like to thank them for all the amazing work they did for us over the past 5 years. They went through some hard times, but never wavered in their support for Columbia. Thank you and good luck as you continue your mission.

And in the “good first move” category, they’re keeping Greg Hamm at the helm. Here’s to a successful partnership with THHC, as we continue to build upon the vision of Columbia.

A Pioneer Departs

Libby Rouse has passed away at 96 years old.

As the quiet, reflective, and strong-minded first wife of Jim Rouse, she helped shape what Columbia is today, seeing him through its conception and founding.  In fact, it was her dislike of the “piecemeal” fashion in which suburbia grew, thus isolating her – “I had to drive the children everywhere they went” – that helped inspire the vision of a planned and connected community.  She advocated for a town that “was more rational than the suburbs and worked better for families and children” just at the time Jim Rouse was thinking hypothetically about a bold, defining new project.

Libby Rouse also impressed upon her husband the strong religious and egalitarian ideals we see reflected in our community’s long-standing faith organizations and the incredible diversity Columbia has fostered from Day One.  In applying those ideals to city-building, she said “[Jesus] would want families close to one another … He would want people to have needed privacy, yet he would want no exclusiveness in communities.”  And, as a strong supporter of the arts, she spoke about a community that would allow “each individual to grow to his fullest, most creative uniqueness.”

Today, Columbia and the Rouse family lost a pillar.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, and our thanks to Libby Rouse for her invaluable contributions to our community.

In her debt and in her memory, we carry forward these ideals: respect for family and community, love of the arts and appreciation for creative thought, and the courage to be visionary.

 

An Affirmation

There has been a lot of talk about last Tuesday’s election already, so we’ll spare you more analysis except to say that it was proof that our current leadership is leading us in the right direction, toward our shared vision of a vibrant, sustainable Columbia and Howard County.

We join New City Alliance in congratulating the Howard County Executive and Council on their victories and look forward to working with them as we all move Columbia forward.

READ, SEE, and LEARN MORE at our Facebook pages for Columbia 2.0 and New City Alliance!

Also, a new community forum has recently launched for all things Columbia.  Get the latest on current Columbia community and cultural events at www.facebook.com/ColumbiaMD and www.ColumbiaMD.com.

GGP Set to Emerge from Bankruptcy; Columbia Set to Move Forward

Jim Rouse, on the early days of Columbia: “One day I got a call from one of the members of our board who was a banker on Wall Street.  He said, ‘Are you in trouble in Columbia?’  I said, ‘Why, sure, we’re in trouble, we’re always in trouble.  What trouble is it that Wall Street is aware of?'”

Today, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper approved General Growth Properties’ reorganization, clearing it to emerge from bankruptcy sometime in the next couple of weeks.  The date we keep seeing is November 8, but it’s not set in stone.

GGP shareholders receive full recovery – rare in these cases.  A lawyer for the stockholders said, “This is a very happy day. It reflects a spectacular and quite brilliant result. … The management of the company and the board have done an absolutely superb job.”  (How often do you hear something like that in a bankruptcy case…?)

The reorganization plan splits GGP into two companies.  GGP itself remains the second-largest mall owner/operator in the country, while the smaller of the two companies will specialize in redevelopment and master planned communities like ours.  The Las Vegas-based Howard Hughes Corporation (THHC) is chaired by William (Bill) A. Ackman and also includes the South Street Seaport in Manhattan and Summerlin in Las Vegas.

Maybe we’re biased, but we think Columbia brings something special to the THHC portfolio.  The dream of Columbia – a planned community with an emphasis on socio-economic and racial diversity – was so unprecedented, so bold, 43 years ago, that it still amazes us that Jim Rouse was able to pull off what he did.  That rich and unique tradition of the very best community planning carries on today with the approaching comprehensive Smart Growth redevelopment of our downtown.

Let’s get to it!

Tomorrow’s Transit, Today – Together

Every morning, I drive into DC for work. And let me tell you, it ain’t no fun. On a good day, it takes an hour and 15 minutes. On the worst of days, it can take 3 hours, like it did a few days after Snowmageddon.

Such problems are not unique to our region, but thankfully, we have forward-looking community leaders such as Sharonlee Vogel who are fighting to address them now.  As Chair of Transportation Advocates, Sharonlee organized and moderated a forum this morning about what the future of transportation should look like in Howard County and the region.

Before I braved my way in DC, I attended the forum. Although much of what was discussed surrounded the future organizational structure that will provide transit services in the county and region, I was curious how this would actually be incorporated into the redevelopment of downtown. And after hearing many people speak on the topic, a few things became clear.

First, the new development we will see must be clustered around transit stations. It must be pedestrian-friendly, attractive, and connect the rest of the neighborhood to the transit station. These mixed-use centers will foster that “sense of place” so many people feel is lacking downtown.

Second, transportation choices will be key. Public transit, walking, and cycling all must be given equal consideration. Living, shopping, entertainment, and employment opportunities must be within walking distance of transit stations so that people can easily use transit in place of cars.

And finally, we need to make a real, long-term commitment to transit if we want it to succeed. We must work with local and state officials to ensure that the quality of our transit service is safe and reliable. And our local policies must support and encourage transit usage.

One more thing (and I hate to even mention this): I saw some of the same old faces of the people who continually gripe, continually criticize, and never offer any answers.  When are they going to start focusing on solutions instead of problems?

Guys, we are all working towards a better Columbia.  Please, let’s work together to accomplish this, instead of undermining each other so that nothing gets done.  “No one wins when everyone loses.”  We have a real opportunity for everyone to win here.  Let’s not squander that!

These are just a few quick thoughts I had after the forum, but I think they are worth exploring. What about you? Let us know your thoughts…

- Brian Dunn

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