Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Keep Columbia Weird

Dan Reed from Just Up the Pike shared this article the other day on Facebook. It's a tad long but definitely worth your time. Entitled "How to Keep [Your City] Weird", it takes a look at the ramifications of preservationist attempts to maintain the essential character of a community.

The author, Kriston Capps, uses the city of Austin as the focal point of the piece. As you read you come to realize that what makes for the essential character of a place is very much in the eye of the beholder.

Today, when the conversation turns to Keeping Austin Weird, it tends to mean keeping people out. Developers, Californians, festival-goers, franchise owners: The list of factors threatening to emblanden Austin grows longer and longer. To the extent that Austinites are trying to erect barriers to entry for people who might like to live there, the city risks losing something worse than cool: its sense of hospitality.

"Emblanden". What a great word. And I wonder if that may be happening to Columbia.

Okay, I know some people think that Columbia is the very definition of suburban blandness already. But there truly is a very real, and good, "Columbia weird" vibe worth appreciating. And yet fighting tooth and nail to the preserve our "Columbia-ness" may just be what kills the entire thing.

Capps makes the case that preserving a community for the benefit of those who got there first is not only exclusionary, but also ultimately destructive to the health of the community overall. It makes housing more expensive. It keeps out the kind of "immigration" that brings diversity and life. Some notable quotes:

  • Picking character over people winds up hurting both.
  • Affordability is critical for a city that is both weird and chill.
  • Change sucks, but it’s better to live somewhere uncool than unfair.
  • To protect a city's character, residents need to welcome change.

Yesterday Ilana Bittner of HoCoMoJo shared this news about a beloved Columbia tradition which many would claim as a part of our essential Columbia-ness:

Symphony of Lights Festivities, one of our community's treasured holiday traditions, is taking a hiatus during the development of Merriweather Park and sprucing up of Merriweather Post Pavilion, but we're thrilled to collaborate with our friends at Howard County General Hospital and BHC - Bonnie Heneson Communications - to offer a virtual Symphony of Lights! Don't fret, it'll be back next year with new lights and fixtures.

I have a feeling that there may be hue and cry over this change to our annual holiday tradition. After all, some are already disgruntled by changes at Merriweather and the forward progress by Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. And now look--they're destroying Symphony of Lights!

Breathe. Just breathe. We'll all pull together and find some other "Columbia weird" ways to celebrate the holidays together. Maybe we'll create something new.

In the meantime, donate here to Brighten the Lights so they'll be ready for next year.






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