Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Sun's View On Downtown

The Sun offers its view on efforts to remake downtown Columbia. We would sum it up this way...give General Growth's plan a chance, but modify it to protect the public good. To do nothing is worse because it could allow projects to proceed in an "unplanned, piecemeal" fashion.

Hmm. Is it really possible for development in one of America's original planned communities to proceed in a piecemeal way?

But we digress. Here's how the editorial department kicks off its argument:

Almost everyone in Columbia agrees that settling on a master plan to guide an energizing makeover of the city's 40-year-old town center is an urgent priority. But some residents are concerned that the wrong plan could do serious harm. The Howard County government should proceed cautiously on this matter. The proposed redevelopment may be the biggest project since Columbia's birth, and its impact will be felt for decades to come.

Certainly that's been the conventional thinking. We wonder, though, why the rush? Hasn't the world changed completely since this process kicked off? It's not like if a plan was approved tomorrow the bulldozers would rumble to life. The development industry is largely paralyzed right now -- frozen by a credit crunch and an economic downturn.

Does the downturn really "heighten the urgency" as the Sun quotes our fair county executive?

Or does the downturn buy us a little time to plan a future devoid of some near-term profit opportunity? We wonder if we have one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments when, just like the boys and girls at the original Rouse Co., we can work with a clean sheet of paper.

Perhaps everyone is comfortable that the lengthy process to date, the process that led to the current GG plan on the table, represents the faithful culmination of just that sort of exercise.

Really, we can argue either side.

One thing we know: Whatever the outcome, it'll be our legacy.

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