“We want great and brilliant design for our public places. We do not want design of public spaces offered by developers, for the result will likely be a function of the developer’s bottom line and their own narrow interest, not “world-class” excellence.”
The City of Maryland Heights’ plan for development in Howard Bend consists of hearing developer’s self-interested ideas, when it should promote a vision based on good land stewardship and the best interests of the community.
Last fall, when developers presented their idea for Maryland Park, a mixed-use development of big-box retail, office space and residential units, the Planning Commission was successful in getting them to “pretty up” the plan with more walkways and plantings. But the plan itself was based solely on the developer’s profit interest and had nothing to do with the health of Maryland Heights as a whole or appropriate use of land in a flood plain.
As Fischer points out, the key to Citygarden’s success is that the planners’ only interest was excellence of design. They figured out what they wanted. Then they figured out how to accomplish it. Importantly, they did not have a financial or political interest in the outcome.
By contrast, the Maryland Heights Planning Department and Planning Commission are very focused on the financial and political aspects of development. Any development that generates business or utility taxes is alright with them. More square miles of development gives them more political clout in the region (they think).
As long as they hang on to this outdated way of thinking, they will be ineffective in leading the effort to make our community a better place to live and work. As it is, the developers are the dog, the city is the tail, and it’s pretty clear who is wagging whom.
It is time for Maryland Height’s leaders to step up and commit themselves to excellence, to good planning and design that sets the community’s broader needs over short-term gain and developer’s interests. Stay tuned to this blog for ideas on how they can do just that.