Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Imagining Downtown

There's lots of coverage (here and here)about General Growth's plans for downtown, and for now, lots of people are saying they are optimistic about the future (at least until General Growth offers more details about its plans for housing units and density blah blah).

We have not studied the proposals yet but there is lots of talk about office buildings, retail establishments, apartments, condos, a new 300-room hotel, a skating rink, a pedestrian-friendly this, terraced that, remodeled Merriweather, perhaps a new library, children's theater, small cities think-tank center, even a new highway interchange connecting town center to Oakland Mills.


All of which sounds like fine infrastructure. But we'll also be looking for the inspiration-structure (inspire-structure?). Big inviting public spaces. Ideas for connecting a diversity of people. The unexpected.

Rouse once mused about creating a slice of Coney Island on the waterfront. A 12-year-old on a Stingray bike could ride downtown and discover hot air balloon launches and colleges that existed in inflatable bubbles. A lazy summer afternoon could be spent collecting tadpoles, or just watching people.

We didn't think of downtown merely as a place to spend money or go to work. It was a place of discovery.

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