Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Park Without a Place

This week's Flier includes a reworked plan from Cy Paumier for the center top of Symphony Woods.  This is the third in a series of pathways and fountains.  From my perspective, it is still a park without a place; construction without destination; and doomed to be empty.  You may recall that the County's Design Advisory Panel panned Mr. Paumier's prior schematics as early as July 2011.  Reading their critiques, it is hard to see how anything has changed:

1) What is driving the design? The plan seems to be engineered for grade but lacks an overall theme.

2) There are four major quadrants defined by pathways, this offers very little variety of experience.

3) The park has a quasi formal layout yet lacks significant structure. Aside from the mall axis extension and a loose connection to Merriweather Post Pavilion (MPP) there seems to be no rationale for the path organization. The lateral axis western edge is especially weak simply ending at the parking lot.

4) The plans lack adequate information as to the existing tree locations, new tree locations, additional planted areas, clearings, seating areas, amenities (if any), etc. I assume more information will follow with subsequent submissions, but is there more to the park design than paths?

...At this point, I fail to see strength of design in the Symphony Woods Park submission. 

The Mall axis extension seems to be the most persistent of features and the very premise of Mr. Paumier's repeated insistence on significant build-up in this section of the Park.  We may as well carve "The Mall guys won" into the fountain platform.

But I don't work in design and I don't make these decisions. 

What I do know is that the Columbia Association Board has passed the Inner Arbor Plan and proceeded with the intention of creating a 501(c)(3) that will be tasked with developing Symphony Woods Park.  Any amendments to that Plan would be properly referred to that organization, which may then refer any recommended changes from the Inner Arbor Plan to the CA Board for review.

I don't think the Columbia Association can continue to work with Mr. Paumier.  He seems like a perfectly nice gentleman, but I don't believe he has acted professionally in his dealings with this organization. If any other contractor stooped to lobbying CA Board members to obtain a contract, we would most likely call the Attorney General's office.

Imagine this - Howard Hughes has an idea for Symphony Woods.  The CA Board declines that Plan and goes in a different direction.  Howard Hughes then recruits a community group to find candidates for CA Board elections that support their Plan (replace the words in Alex Hekimian's e-mail to read "Her name recognition and standing in the community would give her a great chance to defeat Regina Clay, who has been opposed to moving forward with Howard Hughes's plan").  Meanwhile, with elections pending, Howard Hughes then goes back to the Board and says "I can get this group to support your Plan, and help you get re-elected, but you need to incorporate our idea."

Is that in any way acceptable?

We can't encourage this type of behavior.  Even if this were a Plan worth considering, which I do not believe it is, we would be undermining the manner in which CA does business by affirming this type of base lobbying, harassment, and extortion.  You can be sure that there will be Board members who may be inclined to relent, but not enough to overrule what we've already accomplished.

If you want to stay firm with the Inner Arbor Plan and not invite a new lobbying gambit along the Lakefront for CA contracts, please contact the CA Board or send a letter to the editor.

And most importantly - sign this petition pledging to vote on April 20, and prove that not only is extortion bad for business, it doesn't work.

That's all for today.  Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!