My wife was born in Westchester County, New York and from time to time we have familial obligations there which obligate us to make the drive down I-84 through Danbury, Connecticut. I don’t know the city very well, and I’m sure there are some wonderful buildings and neighborhoods there, but as we pass through I am always struck by the banality and the fractal ugliness of this:
Best I can tell, a condo in this development will cost you from $150,000 to $250,000 for from 800-2,000 square feet. From above it looks like this:
To me, it’s just terrible. And there is absolutely no possibility that this place will ever be better than it is right now. You will never be able to do anything (except perhaps go to the pool) without using your car. And every morning when you leave, and every evening when you return you will look out on the asphalt and the hash marks which make up your landscaping. I can’t see it as anything but terrible.
While walking home from doing some errands downtown the expression “great and terrible” popped into my head, as in “…the great and terrible day of The Lord…” from the Old Testament and it occurred to me, how appropriate a combination of words to describe so many places in my neighborhood:
Court Square and the Court Square Building, great architecture and design, but terribly empty and underutilized.
High Street. Great harmony and walkability. Terribly poor.
Union Street has great potential, terribly weighted down by lot after lot of surface parking.
These Maple Street row houses are terribly run down, but the city still has great expectations for them.
There are so many more examples of the “Great and Terrible” in the city, from the Riverfront Park to Byers Street, suffice it to say “potential” is our blessing and our curse.
What a contrast to the Westwood Village units in Danbury. Those will cost you hundreds of thousands whereas Springfield is willing to give a developer hundreds of thousands towards improving these very special units on Maple Street. Instead of vinyl siding and aluminum window frames, you get brick, brownstone, wood, and the potential to walk from your home to any number of cultural institutions, shops, banks, and entertainment venues. Honestly, I can see both of these amalgamations of townhouses being called “terrible” for various reasons, but only one has the potential to ever be great.
And I don’t think it is at all crazy to see shades of this: