Inflammatory! Outrageous!

Who asked all these people what they thought should happen in Richmond? And why are they telling us what to do?

That’s the sentiment expressed (with my, ahem, rewording) about the master plan by planning commission members. The TD reports that several members were upset by Richmond residents’ request that the West Hospital at VCU be preserved:

“They’re kind of able to do what they want,” said commission member William M. Hutchins. “Why alienate them? They do a tremendous amount for the city.”

Commission Chairman Robert Mills said he found “inflammatory” some of the references to VCU, including the focus on preserving the old, art deco-style West Hospital.

Never mind that the concept of a master plan is to focus on design elements that make a city livable. Never mind that the point was to ask residents what they love about this city- what needs to stay and what needs to change.  If residents’ ideas ruffle the feathers of the power-brokers, we should ignore them.

John Sarvay at Buttermilk & Molasses recently posted about the difference between traditional zoning and the design-focused (form-based) zoning pushed by the master plan:

Traditional zoning worries about what people do inside of the buildings they own, and seeks to keep like clustered with like. Form-based code worries about architecture and design, about a building’s relationship to its neighbors, about creating functional and useful urban space.

So a major point of a master plan is to influence the architectural style used around the city. In that light, comments about which buildings contribute to making Richmond a livable, interesting city are completely appropriate.

It seems to me that any downtown landholder could be incensed by a master plan telling them how to build or what to preserve. Why would we be especially worried about VCU’s feelings?

Pictures of the building VCU wants to demolish, and the master plan wants to preserve:

west.jpg

west2.jpg

West Hospital, photo by taberandrew

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