Monday, March 07, 2011
How many meetings have you been to in order to have your concerns about the new Edgewater Library heard? None I bet. Do you even care? Do you know that a 98 year old building will be torn down for a parking lot and that the curb will be cut for a driveway across the Broadway sidewalk?
Lets face it most of us rarely use the library. So if the library is taken off line for a year or so we won't really notice nor be inconvenienced. But we actually do care. Water, Police, Fire, Roads, Schools, Parks and then Libraries. It may be at the bottom of many lists of most important government services, but at the same time it represents a very important marker of the quality of our social culture.
It represents something about us and our society, that if lost, would represent a loss of progress, a regression, a reversion backwards towards a darker age. So we really do care.
So the library is important. But how about the building? Again what do we care? We're getting a new building, hoorah! That's great. New is better, right? Yes, often.
But I get it. Few of us really care about the mundane details of library design nor the urban impacts of a new building on our streets and community.
Yet on the other hand there are some who care greatly. Indeed they actually care about every little detail. Sometimes every detail about everything that goes on in their community. You meet them at a party and when you've heard enough you move on. Maybe at the next party you arrange your movements to minimize the length of your conversation with them. Sure you're glad they care, and sure you're especially glad that they seem to have the energy and interest to try to get their opinions heard by the powers that be that actually make all the detail decisions that go into something like a new library.
So how many meetings would a person super interested in every and all community details have attended about the library by now?
None? Really none?
We know our government is not representing us when they can't take the time and effort to listen to us. The problem for our governments is that listening is hard. Or maybe it's hearing that's hard. Whatever. It's like a constant party where there is one person after another waiting to talk to you about their interests.
But then that is their job. They are paid to listen.
So without any formal meetings with the community, ground has already been "broken" with a golden shovel for the new Edgewater Library. The plans are drawn and a 98 year old building is about to be torn down and the curb cut for cars to cross the sidewalk to another parking lot on a stretch of Broadway already loaded with too many parking lots. A stretch of Broadway that is served by a bus line and two el stops within a half mile.
Let me say simply that neither action is good urban design. Let me say simply further that not involving the community in the design process is not good government process. Above is a picture of one more bit of a historic neighborhood never to be recovered. You can't build new hundred year old buildings.