At the last meeting of the Downtown Building Design Guidelines Subcommittee it was down to Jim and I, finalizing heights and setbacks and such. The legions back at ROMA drew the plans and pasted up the specifications for all the curbs, pavers, planters, railings, benches, lamp posts and kiosks that would make Pacific Avenue recognizable as our Main Street.
The gang of thirty-six gathered for their final meeting, the ceremonial occasion of reviewing and recommending the Downtown Recovery Plan to the City Council. I took a seat. On the table before me lay the one hundred and twenty pages of blueprints for the new avenue. Of the thirty-six at the table, I alone could read construction drawings. I took the few minutes before the gavel dropped to preview ROMA’s work.
Small design projects are opportunities for one-offs, unique solutions fabricated for special occasions- a stair railing, threshold, or a framed view. Streets are composed of multiples, competitively bid and easily maintained or replaced. The plan before me was a recipe whose ingredients had been culled from the same catalogues of pre-cast concrete and institutional lighting that furnished airport hotels and corporate campuses around the world. But the four kiosks were precious handmade counterpoints punctuating the street. And Bonnie had handpicked the tall spreading London Planes and the flowering cherries that would celebrate the arrival of spring.
I saw in those pages in those few minutes the downtown my children would grow up and I would grow old in. I saw the trees maturing, the concrete weathering, the patina on the brass and the gentle erosion of the stone compass rose. I had the advantage of a training that put me a decade ahead of the others in the room, those who would now be voting on faith, purpose or demand.