OMG!!!…Andres Duany used our neighborhood in The Smart Growth Manual!!!

No Weinland Park meeting about development is complete without rolling out  The Smart Growth  Manual  written by Andres Duany, Jeff Speck, and Mike Lydon with the map of Weinland Park from the 2006 Weinland Park Plan held forth like a piece of the True Cross before the quivering mendicants. Since historic preservation is one of Andres Duany’s main points your local blogger has always wondered how this jived with the destruction of a National Register District advocated in the plan (#2 on the map). One of the things Duany never mentions in his book is that smart growth is incredibly complicated and fraught with political minefields; something you wouldn’t know from the book which is short, breathless paragraphs combined with pictures of sparkling “smart” development. It seems very easy but recent experience has shown many in Weinland Park it’s not always so simple. But it’s a book about smart growth not the finer points of community collaboration and combat. Hint: possible sequel. So your local blogger decided that perhaps the best person to explain the paradox between plan and reality would be Mr. Duany himself.

Sent: Monday, May 09, 2011 10:21 PM

Subject: Weinland Park and Smart Growth

Dear Mr. Duany,

As a resident of Weinland Park in Columbus, Ohio, I am well acquainted with and a fan of your Smart Growth Manual. And I have read in question and answer sessions with you online that feedback is important to the process and in making sequel to the book.

However, your inclusion of the Weinland Park plan in your book has taken on a mind of its own. You see, the northeast portion of the plan, shown as redeveloped is part of a National Register Historic District that has to be demolished in order to build the infill. There has been no end of debate as to how the demolition of approximately 21 of 90 contributing buildings of the district that were marked in the plan for demolition made it through any type of planning process, let alone City Council, but it did. At the present time the plan in limbo since developers recognize that demolition is not likely (although for some hope springs eternal). In addition, pleas for preservation or adaptive reuse have fallen on deaf ears because no one want to deviate from the plan.

Consequently, every time the plan is rolled out in a local forum its inclusion in the Smart Growth Manual is mentioned and then I have  mention it entails the demolition of one-third of the National Register District. I’m fairly certain you did not have demolition in mind since other parts of the book mention preservation as a cornerstone of smart growth. Just thought I’d let you know that the book has indeed sparked vigorous debate. And it’s OK to change the plan isn’t it?

the oracle speaks:

On May 11, 2011, at 3:21 AM, Andres Duany wrote:

Jeff, I dont know what he is talking about.

Andres Duany

Please excuse the demonic spellcheck.

Date: May 11, 2011 2:37:38 AM CDT
To: Andres Duany
Subject: Re: Weinland Park and Smart Growth

We use Goody Clancy’s Weiland park to demonstrate some point. . . I forget which.  It’s a good plan for demonstrating that point.  The condemnation (news to me) is irrelevant to the point.


which Andres forwards to me

FYI. GOOD LUCK.    Andres Duany

And so there we have it, Weinland Park is in The Smart Growth Manual but it seems no one is quite sure why but in the end it really doesn’t matter now does it? It’s like the Shroud of Turin, it might be completely bogus but as long as you believe…

EDIT July 21, 3:00 P.M. :

The initial exchange was not the most fruitful but Jeff Speck contacted your local blogger hours after the publication of the post to clarify his position. The email exchange above has been edited at the request of Mr. Speck and certain personal details that were  not relevant to the discussion have been removed. In a recent email exchange Mr. Speck clarified his email conversation with Mr. Duany: he did not have the relevant material at hand to answer my initial inquiry. However he later provided a substantive answer at the request of your local blogger as to why the Weinland Park plan is included in The Smart Growth Manual. In addition, he suggested a pro-active tactic for residents when The Smart Growth Manual is cited in meetings:

There is a substantive answer, that ‘the plan was included to illustrate the value of setting development priorities that favor infill over sprawl, and in ignorance of the historic preservation challenges on site.’  Every time the book comes out, you can make that point, rather than scratching your head in confusion.

It’s good advice. And Mr. Speck is obviously correct that the demolition of the historic district is irrelevant to the larger point of the relative benefits of urban infill in lieu of sprawl. It opens doors to further discussion about development for residents yet grounds us in some of the finer points of smart growth and New Urbanism. In addition, residents, local developers, planners, and architects might also want to focus on the the aforementioned general theme of the Weinland Park plan rather than a literal interpretation of the map. Because the general theme is why it’s in The Smart Growth Manual not because of the details. It obviously presents some development hurdles but what Ohioan doesn’t like a good challenge?

Your local blogger would like to thank Andres Duany and Jeff Speck for their help and input and extend a warm neighborhood welcome and invitation to come and visit.