The American Planning Association just named its 2008 “Great Places in America,” “places of exemplary character, quality, and planning.” Three local spots make the list: Union Station, a great “public space,” and Main Street in Annapolis and Clarendon and Wilson Boulevards in Arlington.
Um wonderful, I guess. Personally, I think the marketing and promotion on these awards is a little off. I mean, shouldn’t this be a Great Places Hall of Fame or something? It’s not as if Union Station was built yesterday, and yet Mayor Adrian Fenty, and Harriet Tregoning, Director of D.C.’s Office of Planning, spoke at a little awards ceremony at Union Station this morning. I wondered what they said, exactly: “If Union Station’s architect David Burnham were here today, he would be mighty proud. Unfortunately, he could not attend because he died in 1912.”
Can today’s bureaucrats take credit for any aspect of Union Station’s greatness? In all seriousness, I was curious. I put this question to Sean Madigan, spokesperson for Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. For one thing, stated Madigan, Union Station was a mess in the 1980s, and a massive amount of local and federal funds was committed to rehabbing the building and adding retail.
Okay, that’s nice, yet still a historical detail. Anything, say, a little more 21st century? Well, a 150-bike rack is currently being built on the western side of the building, not too far from the METRO entrance, said Madigan.
“In theory, you could ride your bike from Columbia Heights, park it, get on a train to New York for the weekend,” stated Madigan. “Maybe it’s [for] people that live in Baltimore and keep a bike there. Or even people that live in the city, and this is just one more way to get around town.”
Fair enough. I’d call that progress. The truth is, with or without the bike rack, Union Station is not lacking for much. If you’re up there listening Burnham: good work.