Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Florida Market redux

A big problem with big projects is that simultaneous construction of a lot of big buildings designed by a limited group of people in the same style produces a sameness that can only be described as dull. That is what's wrong with downtown DC and many other places.
West Loop, ChicagoPeter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times. Moto, a restaurant that uses liquid nitrogen and lasers, is next to a meat dealer in the West Loop area.

Sunday's NYT Travel section has a piece about the "West Loop," the Chicago meatpacking district that is being transformed, "In Chicago, Slaughterhouses to Art Houses." (I wrote about this in November, see "More Thoughts about Buildings and Food.")

But at least it's being transformed from the ground-up, the architectural character isn't being destroyed in favor of some kind of suburban sameness (why hasn't the Post printed any renderings from the New Town folks?, it can't be because they are god-awful, although they are, because they publish other bad designs, such as Shalom Baranes' image of the "new" Waterside Mall area in SW DC).

Anyway, my sense is that in the end, what happens in the West Loop of Chicago will end up being a lot more interesting than anything produced out of the New Towns project in DC. Kind of like the difference between Southwest DC before it was transformed by urban renewal to what it is today. Likely today, the property value and vitality of SW would be greater today had it remained what it was, and been constantly improved comparable to similar neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill.

Speaking of which, Frozen Tropics has an excellent blog entry, "Plans Advance for Florida Market," which points out how few presentations by the New Town group were made to the relevant ANC, ANC5B, whereas the group tended to make their presentations to ANC5A and ANC5C, and bused people in from ANC5C--likely because they could call the shots better in those places.

In "Capitol City Market," In Shaw makes a point more clearly than I have--that many many people and businesses will be negatively harmed by this project, and it made me think about this project as a crapshoot, how some phantom new group of workers is to benefit rather than the people and businesses already there, and their customers.

Frozen Tropics also links to DCist coverage, see "DCist: Capital City Market Revamp?," and says that the reader response favors reality over "renewal." Here here!

This makes sense to me, as my old fuddy-duddy self is being proven wrong over the entertainment-led renewal of H Street NE's nightlife spearheaded by Joe Englert and various partners that he is bringing to the table. People seem to be always looking for new places and things to do, and the various Englert establishments (Argonaut, Showbar, Rock & Roll Hotel, Red & Black with more to come), along with the Atlas Performing Arts Center, the H Street Playhouse, DC Sanctuary, and the H Street Martini Lounge, are providing those reasons.

The Councilmembers that need to be contacted are:

-- David Catania
-- Carole Schwartz
-- Phil Mendelson
-- Sharon Ambrose (on record as opposed)
-- Jim Graham
-- Chairman Cropp
-- Mayor-Elect Adrian Fenty (he needs to know the kind of ground up, equitable development projects that we are looking for)
-- Chairman-Elect Vincent Gray (same thing, he needs to look for equitable ground up projects, even if he is best friends with Growth Machine leader and election fundraiser Herb Miller...)

An "Emergency Bill" needs 9 votes to pass (there are 13 Councilmembers). And it has to be renewed, so as Frozen Tropics points out, new Councilmembers will weigh in on this too. Councilmember-Elect Wells (Ward 6) sees the need for improvement but wants to maintain and extend the current character (Ward 6 residents live closest to the Market, which is located across Florida Avenue in Ward 5).

I believe the next reading will be scheduled for December 19th.

Although I do worry that Councilmembers are likely to pass this because it matters so much to Vincent Orange, who is leaving Council, and he needs this feather in his cap to be able to demonstrate to future clients that he can deliver. Still, the bill can be killed during the next go around.

And in my previous litany of other good examples, even though I wrote about it before, I forgot to remention the River Market in Little Rock, which has a demonstration kitchen on the ground floor, and a teaching kitchen on the third floor, and the market is connected to downtown and North Little Rock by streetcar.

I think this is another excellent example as well--a market as a place that brings people of all ethnicities, races, and economic classes together, just like the Florida Market does today (and so does Eastern Market, because of the leadership of the Market 5 Gallery in the North Hall.)
Ground floor demonstration kitchen, River Market, Little Rock, Arkansas
River Market. Ottenheimer Market Hall. 400 President Clinton Ave. Little Rock,
Teaching Kitchen, River Market, Little Rock, ArkansasPhotos courtesy of Daman Hoffman, River Market.

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