Residents Envision A Denser Wheaton
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Wheaton residents, business owners and developers told planners last week that they want more residential and commercial density near the Wheaton Metro station, a public space and a more pedestrian-friendly central business district.
The suggestions were made at a brainstorming forum intended to gather opinions from the community as work gets underway to update the so-called Wheaton sector plan for development in the 484 acres surrounding the Metro station near Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road.
Many in the crowd of more than 100 at the Crossway Community Neighborhood Center in Kensington seemed excited about the prospect of more development around the Metro. And although most seemed wary of having too many national chains or franchised businesses in downtown Wheaton, participants agreed that increased density would not destroy Wheaton's ethnic and cultural flair.
Wheaton resident Ellen Griffiths expressed enthusiasm about development around the Metro.
"I don't want to see it deteriorate," she said. "I want to see it thrive."
Several people suggested creating a public center in the central business district, most likely in what is known as Parking Lot 13 in the Wheaton Triangle area. A place to gather for entertainment, people-watching or relaxing would make the area more appealing to residents and visitors, participants said.
"There's nowhere you want to stay downtown," resident Moira Ratchford said. "It's not attractive."
As county planners begin to update the sector plan for Wheaton's central business district, it is important to talk to residents about what they want for the town's future, said Sandra Tallant, Wheaton redevelopment lead planner with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
"Wheaton is the next frontier," she said.
Last week's session allowed residents to tell planners what they want to see along Wheaton's sidewalks and roads and how they want to define the community's cultural identity, an important guideline for the updated version of the 18-year-old sector plan.
Rob Klein, the director of redevelopment programs for Wheaton, said more people are warming to the idea of "quality density," which he said means development that's not overbearing and flows with the rest of the district.
Safety was a concern for many who attended the forum. Although Wheaton is a reasonably walkable community, Klein said, walking from venue to venue often seems to be at pedestrians' own risk.