Love it or hate it, Burtonsville's always felt like the middle of nowhere, if only one that was accessible by Interstate highway. And it might stay like that, according to the recently-released Burtonsville Market Study and Consumer Shopping Survey, done by a consulting firm for the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development and discussed in this week's Gazette.
The study, which analyzed local shopping patterns to create a plan for Burtonsville's economic growth, suggests that the crossroads of 29 and 198 would be best served by a "retail village" with a village green - as opposed to a "town center," which they fear is just too large for such a small, um, town:
"The use of the term “Town Center” or “town center” has been a confusing piece in the public discussions in Burtonsville . . . It is important that someone explain the concept of the Town Center and develop consensus on what the term means and in what ways it could apply."The use of jargon like "town center" and "retail village" poisons the discussion of what places should actually feel like. (Case in point: the difference between "Downtown Silver Spring" and Downtown Silver Spring.) Nonetheless, it's important that people begin seriously talking about how they'd like this community to develop. This may not be the next Downtown Silver Spring - after all, should it? - but Burtonsville could use a heart to match its soul.
so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .
IS THIS A "RETAIL VILLAGE"? The WesTech Village Corner in Calverton is one of many new shopping centers taking business away from Burtonsville's town center.
As the study points out, Burtonsville's convenient to a lot of current job and retail centers - Spring, Columbia, Laurel - that eat away at its market share. And future developments like Maple Lawn in Howard County, Konterra south of Laurel and the LifeSci Village on Cherry Hill Road recently mentioned in the Post will only draw more business from Burtonsville, which has been suffering ever since the Route 29 bypass opened two years ago.
But if there is a "village green" as the study recommends, will there be a reason to go there if there's nothing else around it? "The Turf" in Downtown Silver Spring has given people an alternative to shopping - but Kughn Park, which preceded it, didn't attract many visitors because it was surrounded by vacant fields. No green can make a village out of the current landscape of strip malls, highways and parking lots.
A good model might be the villages of Ashton and Sandy Spring a few miles to the west. In June, we looked at how Ashton's trying to create a commons of its own with the Ashton Meeting Place, a very small mixed-use development at New Hampshire Avenue and Route 108. By locating housing, offices and retail adjacent to a village green, the Meeting Place gives Ashton residents a variety of reasons to visit. They may not always be shopping, but given Burtonsville's shrinking retail market, that may not be an issue.
Burtonsville enjoys a strong sense of community - from the BVFD Summer Carnival and Burtonsville Day every September to the civic group Citizens Involved, which for the past year has been giving the area a voice it's never had before - and, of course, the Dutch Country Farmers Market, a regional institution that could be lost. The key now is to translate that psychological community into a physical structure.