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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Another take on municipal capital improvement planning

(for facilities that serve the public)

A couple years ago during the DC Public Library Master Planning process, many residents suggested that in part the libraries look to the bookstore-places like Barnes and Noble and Borders as examples of how to order their spaces.

Last summer, in "Prototyping and municipal capital improvement programs," I commented how under the Williams Administration, DC entered into a massive rehabilitation and expansion of recreation centers, but that the program of offerings was never really evaluated, meaning that each center is the same, and an evaluation of the recreation centers comprehensively as a set of offerings on a city-wide and sub-city "regional" basis wasn't performed, so needed facilities on a city-wide basis (i.e., indoor track, exposition center, etc.) were neither considered nor built, so a lot of money was spent but while better facilities were achieved, a significantly improved array of recreation programs weren't obtained.

Seeing this article from the Boston Globe, albeit about a private facility, the YMCA in Marblehead, Massachusetts, makes me think about these examples again. See "New YMCA dazzles and delights with bells, whistles, and ballet." The new YMCA has a climbing wall, a wi-fi cafe, and ballet studios, among other facilities--making the point again about the need for expansive consideration when embarking on the construction of municipal facilities that serve the public directly.

Most capital improvement projects are generational--designed to last at least 30 years without significant change. So having the right planning process upfront is crucial to doing it right. It's a shame that we spend so much money on facilities such as libraries, schools, recreation centers, and senior wellness centers, and don't achieve nearly what could be achieved, if we had more expansive and visionary thinking about what these facilities could accomplish for both the neighborhoods and the city as a whole.

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