Friday, April 3, 2009

Cy Paumier

Go to any of the village centers and look around . . . what do you see? Most likely shops and concrete and bricks. Who worked on planning and designing those village centers? Cy Paumier did.

Paumier grew up in Canton, Ohio. He says growing up in Canton was somewhat similar to Columbia in the sense that the town had a concept of a village center and a black population close to 20 percent. Paumier received his bachelors in Ohio in landscape architecture. From there he went to Harvard for his masters in urban design.

By the time he was working on Nun's Island in Montreal, he heard about Jim Rouse and Columbia through the press. He moved into Bryant Woods in 1969 and went to work for the Rouse Company as land planner.

"The people that moved here in the early years were obviously pioneers in the sense that they knew they might be living next to an African American family or somebody else, some other nationality. So you didn't move here unless you were prepared to be a part of an integrated experience with people of all backgrounds. And I think that made for a rather exciting community. "

In 1972, with the economy in recession, Paumier left the Rouse Company and joined Land Research/Design International with several friends and former Rouse Company employees. LRD worked on The Woodlands among other projects. In 1976, LRD rewrote Columbia's zoning ordinance, mandating that no more than four town houses could be built in a row.

While on the topic of housing, Paumier comments that of all the townhouse developments in Columbia, his favorite happens to be the one where Elizabeth Bobo lives, in Harper's Choice.

So what hasn't worked in Columbia and what has? In Paumier's opinion, cul-de-sacs.

"Maybe the one thing that didn't work as well was the Cul-De-Sac which at the time everybody thought was God's gift to the city planners. But it turns out its probably safer to live on a Cul-De-Sac but it also doesn't help to encourage a sense of community because you don't get any linkage.”

Symphony Woods, he says was never fully realized because there was no real plan in mind for the open space area, no paths, no amenities, nothing but Merriweather Post Pavilion to draw people in and nothing after to keep them.

"No one's ever really cared enough about it to do a plan, CA hasn't been encouraged, nobody in the community has been saying we ought to create a great park there. So along comes General Growth [Properties], General Growth's got a couple hundred acres that they've got to develop right? They've got all the land in the world to develop, why don't they just focus on what they own. I mean they don't have to start taking CA's land . . . its crazy!”

Paumier agrees that 10 percent of the trees in Symphony Woods are dead and need to be removed. Sunlight, he says, is the key to a great park. With all of the trees, dead or alive, there isn't enough light getting through to make Symphony Woods a functioning park. Part of his plan is to remove the dead trees and install paths and a central water feature. He wants to see the woods become a children's park.

On the brighter side, Paumier says the education system has worked, the diversity has worked and the village center's he helped design still work.

"I think the neighborhood village concept is the single most important concept and to the extent that all but maybe one or two of the village centers are working.”


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bearmom32 said...

Actually, Cy Paumier's favorite townhouse community is geographically located in Harper's Choice, but the community is an outparcel and so residents of Scarborough cannot vote in the village elections and do not pay the CA assessment.