Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Central Corridor -- by any other name, would it smell any less

Posted by Craig Westover | 2:39 PM |  

The Pioneer Press today editorializes on the “long-term challenges of vision, identity, image” of the Central Corridor project.
"They have a master plan for the whole system," says Jack Silverman, vice president, account management at Bolin Marketing and Advertising in Minneapolis. "There should be a master identity plan as well."
Just because a high-powered PR campaign didn’t get the Vikings their stadium, doesn’t mean it won’t work to sell light rail to the masses. Paper-hanging has proven effective in the past.
Shortly, the Central Corridor Development Strategy Task Force plans to meet with a Toronto consultant who specializes in land-use and planning issues on transit-related development. The group's role is to create a vision for the corridor in St. Paul. Surveys and focus groups are likely. Careful listening is essential.
Okay, I’m willing to go along with the idea that a Toronto consultant is the best source to advise on the Central Corridor project. But create a vision? I thought we had a vision? I thought it was a “community vision” based on “shared Minnesota values”? Or am I confusing light rail with the Great River Park Project, which had as one of its advantages connection the Central Corridor.

Listen carefully? Like the Central Corridor Coordinating Committee? The St. Paul Legal Ledger reported --
The public had a chance to submit comments and suggestions involving either light rail or the busway during a 45-day comment period that ended June 5.

The next day the Central Corridor Coordinating Committee recommended that the Metropolitan Council support building light rail along University.
Lots of consideration given to some of those comments in the less-than-24 hours from the end of the comment period to the recommendation. Might it have been a foregone conclusion that light rail won out over the busway? Also from the Legal Ledger --
Morris [Central Corridor project manager Steve] added that in the intial stages of the project 10 years ago, the name had to be generic because no one knew where a light-rail system might go.
Back to the Pioneer Press and this vision thing --
Bruce Corrie, an economics professor at Concordia University, has high hopes for a global cultural district along the eastern end of the corridor, starting at Lexington Avenue. To that end, Corrie has organized a committee to look into that idea, which would encompass business, arts and culture.
Sounds like an shared community vision to me. I bet you could walk into any part of the neighborhood and ask anyone what their neighborhood needs and they’d shoot back with “a global cultural district.”

More PiPress --
The trick will be to find commonalities among the stakeholders, from the car dealers and Asian restaurants to the residents who remember Rondo — in a way that encourages a sense of opportunity and ownership.
And a good trick it will be because it will be a vision forced on the community. It will be a vision of what the planners want that will not necessarily have any connection to the ebb and flow of the neighborhood -- a global cultural district, for example. It will be a playground for visitors, not a functioning neighborhood. A façade of a city, not a vibrant and living city.

Ownership is not engendered by accepting someone else’s vision. It grows from working out commonalities through daily and immediate interactions -- not by studying relationships, writing a report, and implementing a 10-step plan over five years. Not by spending $840 million dollars of someone else’s money.