Seventeenth-century writer Johnathan Swift, who penned Gulliver’s Travels, said “vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others,” and Dr. Jay Hellman (Ph.D.) typifies that.
Almost three decades ago, Hellman, a developer, purchased property near the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata (that land is now referred to as The HUB at La Plata or the Hawthorne Rosewick Property). Before Hellman bought the land, he explored how neighborhoods and housing and business developments were typically conceived and constructed in the United States and saw that technology and other trends would and should change how people worked and lived years down the road.
He called that idea Virtual Adjacency. He began speaking regionally, nationally and globally to officials, land planners, academicians, and those that market, invest in, design and construct sustainable communities.
Hellman’s thinking has been featured in numerous publications and materials, including the Harvard International Review and the book, “Innovation, The Key to Prosperity: Technology & America’s Role in the 21st Century Global Economy.”
In the latter, authors Aris Melissaratos and N.J. Slabbert wrote that Hellman has been “a tireless promoter of the idea that computers and telecommunication technologies aren’t changing only the externals of our infrastructures but also some of the most fundamental aspects of our civilization – including how we work, what we do with our leisure [time], how we build towns and cities and how we learn. … He maintains telecommunications technology will change our world physically and culturally in the 21st Century, at least as much as the tractor and railroads changed it in the 19th Century and automobiles, airplanes, telephones and television changed it in the 20th.”
Hellman, The Man & the Magic of The HUB
Hellman – who has five degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – unquestionably is a brilliant man. However, the thinking behind The HUB, which he conceived, is not just based on what one finds in scholarly writings.
It is also based on thinking about and preparing for what is happening in the world and the United States and bringing on board focused and well-regarded professionals to help bring a dream to fruition.
Hellman has a background in developing unique and thriving spaces and communities surrounding the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, but his ongoing focus has been on Southern Maryland and the infill development connectivity that can be good for La Plata.
Now, Hellman, with the help of a team that understands how to produce successful and attractive principle-based planning and developments, is asking Charles County to help bring that vision full circle. The goal is to annex the approximately 306-acre property into the town of La Plata and by working with officials, town staff, the public and key stakeholders, create a development of which La Plata, and all of Southern Maryland, can be proud.
For Hellman, The HUB represents the best of his life’s work.
In the late 1980s, he wrote to the Board of Charles County Commissioners to broach how our elected leaders were planning for the needs of tomorrow. He pointed out that the area’s transportation challenges would increase and addressed that understanding how Congress and the Government Services Administration (GSA) make decisions about locating employment centers was paramount.
He identified that fiber optics, computers and technology would change how Americans work. And, indeed, they are. But where is Charles County on that curve? Unfortunately, some of the building that has occurred here encouraged sprawl, which can also worsen traffic problems.
“Jay’s thinking was far ahead of its time and recognized the future transportation issues in Charles County – long before our government did – and the need for local jobs,” says Bill Murray, project manager for The HUB.
In 1996, Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-5th District) wrote to Vice President Al Gore about Hellman’s thinking. He noted that “much of his work is focused on addressing issues such as traffic congestion, energy consumption, air pollution, and bettering the work environment for federal employees.”
Because of thinking like Hellman’s, The HUB is positioned to be one of the most innovative developments in the Southern Maryland area and beyond. The strength behind The HUB is that it marries some distinct pluses.
These include a commercial tax base that benefits municipalities, flexible work options, establishing telecommunities, fiber optic cables that provide higher bandwidth and can transmit data over longer distances, reverse traffic flow, enhancing the public’s quality of life, and a development that fits in with the town’s rural charm.
Let’s Help Bolster La Plata’s Great Legacy
The HUB may follow in the footsteps of other outstanding and well-functioning developments that take into account immediate and long-term outcomes; however, it is so much more than that quick take.
We understand that people like La Plata because they want to live, shop, work and play in vibrant communities where they can have nice affordable homes, recreational opportunities, good shopping and dining experiences … but also enjoy the county’s natural assets, such as views, unspoiled land, farms, bike paths, waterways and parks.
Again, The HUB addresses two often-ignored, but much-needed, elements that have not always been a focus when development has unfolded in Charles County: 1. Establishing local work sites and bringing in higher-quality jobs; and 2. Improving our transportation network and integrating the different ways people move from place to place.
Transportation, traffic congestion and infrastructure are issues that resonate deeply with the public, according to polls and research. Citizens wants a healthy and good quality of life with less time commuting to jobs, and more time relaxing with their loved ones and friends.
We have the elements in place that will ensure The HUB’s economic, cultural, regional, and business-friendly footprint will benefit the Southern Maryland area for many generations.
Again, the phased–in development integrates planning principles that include:
- appealing to various demographics (such as millennials, families and retirees);
- centering development in areas forecasted for growth and consistent with the town and Charles County’s growth-management plans;
- encouraging healthy lifestyles and a strong sense of community;
- ensuring infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewer services;
- having structures and spaces with different purposes, such as walking, housing, shopping and working;
- relying on best-practices in design and construction; and
- respecting nearby ecological resources (for example, better stormwater management, preserving adjacent vegetated and forested land, not building on steep slopes, and completing stream restoration).