Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Pioneer Plaza

In Ferndale?

Another big center planned for Whatcom County. The above photo is not Pioneer Plaza as it hasn't been built yet. Photo shows a plaza at Western Washington University.

Around the time I graduated from Western, I thought the concept of a campus could be applied to a town for permanent residents. A "plaza city" complete with the gym, campus union building, and central heating system.

Dorms for transient students could be replaced with apartments and condos for permanent residents.

There could be shopping, parks and offices.

The academic program would be replaced with some sort of employer; such as a factory.

During college, I designed a "city in one building" as others were doodling in their class notes. My concept of a "campus city" was mentioned in May 1980 Council-Grams, a journal put out by National Council of Teachers of English.

Anyway, a similar planned unit development has been proposed for Ferndale over the years. Maybe not quite like my idea, but something with more variety than just a shopping center or residential subdivision.

Can something like that survive in this area?

Good question.

Since my college years, I have also marvelled at the amount of retailing in the greater Bellingham area. Seems like more stores than people. Of course I am from a much smaller town with few shopping alternatives. Bellingham seemed to be adding new centers and shopping everywhere.

With local industries laying off folks, I wondered, "where do the customers come from?"

Somehow many of these businesses thrive.

More recently, I concluded that the massive run up in California home prices is having a spill over effect in our local economy. Enough independently wealthy "recent home sellers" are moving into this area to keep up the consumer spending even though there doesn't seem to be much in the way of job producing industry.

Of course a big center like Pioneer Plaza could bring in it's own money generating industry, for instance if something like a Microsoft were to locate in it's office complexes.

Then there are the folks in this area who don't wish to see growth here. That's another commentary.

Anyway, it is interesting to see how this proposal will play out.

Notice, on the picture of that plaza at Western, the sculpture of people lifting a stone.

Can our local economy, region, world hold up to all the new people and things planned?

Of course one big center with the jobs, residents and recreation close by would be better for the environment than having to commute to things; that is if the people are being born and coming anyway.

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