Friday, February 1, 2013

Symphony Woods: A Matter of When

Last night was a good night for the future of Columbia and a good night for the Inner Arbor Plan.

I appreciate all of the proponents that took the time to come out last night and wish I could have had the chance to chat with you, but I went into last night's event with the goal of speaking with as many opponents as possible.  This is a collaborative process and I appreciate the opportunity to disagree, yet still talk constructively about the future of Columbia's downtown treasure.

Despite seeking out opponents, the one word I kept hearing last night was "When?"

"When are we going to see the first pathways go in?"
"When is the art sculpture projected to be placed?"
"When can I take my grandchildren to the children's theatre?"
"When are we going to get people to start using the woods?"

"When" is an inspirational question in this context.  It is urging us forward towards an exciting goal. 

That's not to say there weren't those that wanted a divergent path.  A handful of people I spoke with asked whether the Columbia Association could marry the Paulmier Plan with the Inner Arbor Plan and start construction on the former immediately.  This approach carries with it a number of concerns and roadblocks.

First, the Paumier Plan, as conceived in the public, is not what was accepted by the Planning Board.  The revised Plan would require meandering paths and better connectivity with Merriweather Post pavilion.  The Planning Board also expressed a lack of excitement or draw by the Paumier Plan, which is a conceptual defect that cannot be cured by redirected paths.  Some time last Fall, the CA Board saw what I have referred to as the "Melted Cruciform" Plan, which was plain ugly.  Beauty may be in the eyes of the beholder, but we all recognize disfiguration when we see it.  I can't, in good conscience, vote for that Plan to go into Symphony Woods.  Maybe there is another opportunity to add additional pathways to that portion of the woods, but the Paumier Plan is not it.

Second, I do not believe the relationship between Cy Paumier and the Columbia Association is a good one.  It has reached a point where we must part ways, and that includes any and all Lakefront Planning.  Out of respect for Cy, I will not go into any further detail here, but I will say that so long as I am on this Board, I will not support any further professional relationship between CA and his group.

Finally, as I've noted before, there is a balance, flow, and general concept to the Inner Arbor Plan that is not so easily amended as spending 5 minutes in Photoshop.  Even ignoring the issues of congruent design, Cy Paumier has criticized the Inner Arbor Plan in the Flier (with too many inaccuracies and falsehoods to count) making any productive collaboration between the two designers unlikely.

But this is peripheral.  I really don't want to get into the negative back-and-forth that mar conversations about Columbia's future.  The general sentiment last night was that the community supports this Plan.  There will always be nay-sayers.  There will always be those who say "We want progress, not this progress."  But there's a reason these folks lose their battles (and elections): The positive message always rings true.

We're moving in the right direction.  To answer all those "when's" from last night, the answer is "soon".  But we need your continued support and the confidence to be heard.  Excitement will not tolerate silence.

Have a great Friday doing what you love!!  It's impossible not to.