Saturday, May 28, 2011

Columbia Questioned

There are a number of Columbia Association Board members who are concerned over the CA's sponsorship of next week's Chris Leinberger presentation.  When I first heard of this, I presumed it was due to the co-sponsorship with Howard Hughes Corp, a company that many of the CA Board have "strong feelings" about.  That was until I read this article (mostly with mouth agape).

I am really excited to hear Mr. Leinberger speak.  Really really excited.  One of the things I miss about living in Washington, DC was the ability to pick any given night and go to the local book store/press club to hear an intellectual talk about something "smart" (and make you feel smart by attending).  The CA Speaker Series is a fantastic opportunity to help add that "texture" that we want out of our synthetic community.

But...I'm not so sure this will be an entirely civil affair.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Leinberger heard a boo or two...responded to with boisterous applause (similar to whenever the Red Sox or Yankees try to start one of their stupid cheers at an Oriole game).  He is going to be saying some very controversial things, potentially including advocacy for a rail line running through our planned community (they did not seem to plan for that).  When you read the (very well written) piece in the Sun, there are a number of instances in which Mr. Leinberger says that Jim Rouse may have been wrong or that Columbia may be a borderline failure.  This will be difficult for many who would like to maintain the exact height of each blade of grass from the last time Jim Rouse touched it.  It may even be difficult for those who feel that Columbia Redevelopment is an evolution of the original plan.

This bit in particular made me squirm:

"What you have now is arrested development; you're in the 'well-done sprawl' phase," he said. "Columbia put a Band-Aid on driveable suburban from a physiological and sociological point-of-view because people moved there consciously to live in a socially inclusive place.

"The good news is that Columbia is doing well-done sprawl better than any other place in the country," but that's also the bad news, he said.

"The question is whether you tear down or repurpose the suburban model," he said. "The beauty of walkable urbanism is it just gets better as you build more."

 (emphasis added)

Holy Moley, dude.  You want to get us all killed?

I'm not saying Mr. Leinberger is wrong, but I am saying that this isn't going to be like your average TED session.  It may be more like going to see Hangover 2 with your parents.  Then again, maybe he got it all out of his system in the article.