"Mall people" and Montgomery County's downtowns
Imagine, DC reimagines Langley Park with a stronger street grid, a transit center for the Purple Line and buses. Could Langley Park, like Silver Spring, transform from a depressed, sprawly, and mostly low-income set of strip malls into a desirable and more diverse destination?
Rockville Town Square.
On the other hand, maybe Downtown Silver Spring isn't quite the model we want to emulate. Closely related to yesterday's neighborhood retail discussion, Just Up the Pike talks about why every walkable "downtown" in Montgomery County (like Rockville Town Square or Downtown Silver Spring) is like a mall.
In Rockville, outside of the immediate Town Square area, it's single-family homes for miles around. Only mall stores will draw people from a huge radius, and only stores that draw so many people can pay the rents required to construct a brand-new town center. White Oak Shopping Center manages to sustain independently-owned and neighborhood-serving stores, JUTP explains, thanks to greater residential density around the center. But as White Oak is lower-income and higher-crime, Rockville isn't going to start emulating White Oak real soon.
Over time, perhaps the areas adjacent to these regional "downtowns" will become denser, adding to the potential customer base for the area and enabling smaller and more locally-serving stores to survive. But those plans run afoul of residents in those adjacent neighborhoods, who will use political organizing and historic preservation laws to fight them, as at Falkland Chase.
"Town centers" are a good step toward smarter growth, but they're not going to create real neighborhoods unless we allow them to become kernels seeding larger, walkable cities. Then we can build whole townhouses or large apartments for families, studios for recent college graduates, and everything in between. The alternative
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