Current drawings don’t offer enough architectural detail to critique, but the convention center, whichever version, has long and monolithic facades; even with a beautiful architectural treatment they will still be long, monolithic facades. It’s not been done before (that I know of), but why not seek out new technology to allow more light (and maybe even air) into the center, possibly even penetrating the space to break the center into tightly connected pieces rather than a single big monster?
Other questions abound. The ACE/OMA hotel and apartment buildings rise higher than anything else in the immediate neighborhood, raising the question at least of whether it’s better to go up or out. The Portman/BIG ballroom helps establish a sense of urban rhythm with the juxtaposition of built and landscaped environment. but what happens most days and nights when there’s no ball for us, or even for Cinderella? That’s actually a larger question involving both proposals and all the unprogrammed edges of the convention facilities. It’s a long, lonely walk sometimes.
Asked and most likely answered, but questions like these point up the fundamental flaw in the process.
To ask private developers to create a plan that will transform a truly critical swathe of the city, of public land, is in many ways an abrogation of governmental responsibility and one of the better examples of cart-before-the-horse urban planning in our recent history.
Whichever development group is selected, we will get its vision of these 52 acres rather than our collective vision, which should have come first to ensure that we get what would be best for the city, more than what would be best for the bottom line. And as committed and conscientious as both groups are (which is actually quite rare in the political arena), in the end, they are private developers.
In the end, the process of urban planning should be returned to its rightful place — the city government that owns the land, and the people. Then and only then would we get the convention center/theater/government complex that would really serve us, and not only in terms of attracting more business. Then the horse would be pulling the cart.