Keeping it real since 1975.

A Vision for a New Columbia - part 3: the private realm

Note: Thank you all for amusing me in my verbal dump of ideas and thoughts from over the years. It's rather cathartic to get this all out of the way and down somewhere that might spark some further ideas.


The residences are a trickier prospect to tackle. There's the balance of affordable housing, "luxury" housing, and more run of the mill (although those tend to be labeled "luxury", which seems to mean wall to wall carpeting as well as washers and dryers in the unit). Here, we come into the expectations of whoever you talk to. There's the expectations of developers to reap a substantial profit. That would mean a maximum amount of luxury residences fetching a premium price. For others, it means "affordable housing", although we rarely hear what that actually entails. We often hear that the median household income is around $74k-$85k and the median male income around $57k and the median income for females is $40k. We'll take this as read and really start bringing some numbers into what I would like to see.

Now bear in mind, up till this point, I've been talking about the area within Little Patuxent Parkway and Gov. Warfield Parkway. I'll have to start reaching outside of that area for the purposes of defining where housing would be.


Live where you work... and mean it


Since Glendening was elected Governor in the 1990's, there has been the phrase, "live where you work" being bandied about as some ideal that we should all strive for. In practice, however, we as a society has fallen short of that ideal.

The main problem is that people with money want to live in a big house with a big yard and the like. At least until they get older and the prospect of going up and down stairs becomes a problem. Then they move to a fancy-shmancy condo to settle down. This means moving to the "country" so they can have their 3.5 acres and move into a house which has rooms that are rarely used if ever. Or maybe the rooms are used to cram in the massive amounts of "stuff" that will sit in boxes for years on end. Let's not neglect the yards with ample room "to host parties" and "let the dog run free." Okay, the dog will run around the yard, but there might be a party once a year. So now what used to be farmland that can be used for biomass fuels and food is now being used as a giant dog pooping ground. Way to go for the $4 a gallon gas days! Smart move there despite the years of warning that peak oil was coming and an increase for fuel demands worldwide.

So I'm getting off topic here a bit... The point is, there needs to be a credible alternative to the typical McMansion for your older folks with $$$ and the younger families with genuine space needs and the $$$ to make that happen. That means the area around the lake and possible symphony woods. Given my previous model of residential parking underground and truck/warehouse space below that, we then have negated the garage and basement argument. With the typical residential focused building, Genuine storage needs can take place in the bottom floor where it can remain out of sight, out of mind. This leaves the above ground spaces dedicated to actual living quarters. This would come into 2 types. The single floor, but still significant square footage condos for those who can't handle stairs too well. Then there's the 2 floor model that resembles the typical house and townhouse models that people are familiar with and look for when shopping for a place to have a family. Finally, they would have substantial patios and balconies. Ideally larger that your typical Columbia town house. Say 2-4 times the size (assuming it's feasible from and engineering standpoint).

That's your premium housing and your $$$ making prospects. Plaster the roof and any available space with some good solar panels, and that even more $$$ in the bank. The management company would essentially become a mini power utility, selling off the power to the tenants to prepare for the next time the panels need to be replaced and selling the rest to the utility company so it can go to places that do not have the benefit of direct sunlight. What sane, young couple looking to have kids wouldn't jump at the chance? That's diaper money and then those kid's college funds.

This area would also be the closest to the train station along with the moderate housing since not every resident would work in TC, so to make the area appealing, proximity to the train would be essential.


Moderate housing

For the more commercial sector of the overall development, we would have our more moderately priced housing. That's the place for the young professionals and families without so much $$$. I'd personaly price these around the median incomes. Money could still be made, just not boatloads per unit. There would still be the 2 types mentioned above (just not as nice) as well as 2 more types of units. All four types would have a patio/balcony the size of the typical Columbia townhouse. Keep in mind, these are places where people will want to live.


The two additional types of units would be your typical 1 and 2 bedroom apartments/condos. This would allow for the typical young couple, 2 friends rooming together, and the typical single person living alone who is at or above the median income level. Once again, it would be living where you work (ideally), so having these near the majority of the offices would make sense.

Once again, like the luxury housing, we'd solar the heck out of the space and make some $$$ for the community association and the residents.


Affordable housing


In the area where the majority of shopping, restruants, nightlife, etc. would be located, we would have the majority of the affordable housing including section 8 housing and the like. This would consist of the typical 1, 2 and 3 befroom condos/apartments that really provide the basics and the balconies would either be small or non-existent. This would be meant for those who work at the shops and restrauants as well as entry level positions within the corporate area and students looking to get out of mom and dad's house. Since this demographic would typically be young people, they would also be near the majority of bars and clubs and would not be driving home. Particularly driving home drunk.

This area would be the farthest from the train station since the probability of them using mass transit would be unlikely. This also gives us the added benefit that if there was some theft or trouble in the shopping and leisure area, that there would be enough time and distance to apprehend the perpetrators before they can hit an easy way out of the area.


Mixture of housing


We probably could, and maybe should, intersperse different flavors of housing throughout the overall area to encourage the mixing of socio-economic strata, but the general distribution would be as I mentioned above.

That's it for today. The generalities are now out of the way and I'll need to start getting into some finer topics, which will necessitate some thought. Stay tuned!