YLG "Exploring Opportunity in Experiential Retail"
ULI Washington Young Leaders Group hosted ' Exploring Opportunity in Experiential Retail' on January 26th.
February 22, 2023
The Montgomery County Department of Planning convened a two-day Technical Assistance Panel with the overall goal of addressing community needs as they pertain to traffic safety, regional connectivity, environmental sustainability, and economic development. The panel was asked to explore potential opportunities for new infill development, bikeways, future bus rapid transit (BRT), and the potential for creating a “complete street” – a boulevard with wider sidewalks, comfortable public transportation stops and safe access. These goals are in line with the Thrive Montgomery 2050 plan, which envisions how the entire county can focus on growth, development, safety and resilience for the coming decades – particularly in the east county, where the University Boulevard corridor is located – while still keeping the agriculture reserve and parklands intact.
The TAP panelists listened to stakeholder concerns and spent time discussing some of the best ways forward, taking into account traffic patterns and the potential economic development and housing needs of the surrounding community, and the panelists’ own professional expertise.
The Panel’s recommendations focused on ways to improve the quality of life for neighborhoods along the corridor (and enhancing property values) by improving the walkability, attractiveness, and safety of the area, making the transportation network safer for pedestrians, bikers and vehicles, and accommodating growth and adding to the housing supply while substantially enhancing residents’ ability to access and enjoy neighborhood amenities.
The recommendations are organized into three categories: transportation, development and placemaking. Transportation recommendations focus on implementing a road diet, with both short term and long term goals to make the changes feasible as well as ensuring that they comply with the Vision Zero goals laid out for the county as a whole. Crosswalks and intersections near the neighborhood’s high school should be improved, as well as the complicated navigation surrounding the Four Corners Transportation Network.
The development recommendations were concentrated on improving the availability of housing by creating housing infill on opportunity sites for larger projects and building “missing middle” housing on single-family parcels. Policy changes can also be implemented to increase the housing supply, including those pertaining to zoning, impact fees and parking requirements.
The placemaking recommendations focus on adding more context and connectivity to the area, including better wayfinding options and creating a placemaking concept that takes into account the history and character of the corridor. The panel believes community engagement is crucial, and can make this a more successful endeavor overall.
The economically and racially diverse corridor of University Boulevard has much to offer. The Panel’s time spent on the TAP devised a number of suggestions to improve the housing, transportation and connectivity of the area, and these ideas will benefit the community as a whole well into the future.
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