Wednesday, May 28, 2008

georgia crossing: no style, but lots of potential for wheaton

JUTP is in New Orleans - regular news posts start up again in June!

Georgia Crossing Shopping Center, located on the former Anchor Inn site at University Boulevard and Georgia Avenue, will open later this summer.

Two years after the Anchor Inn, a Wheaton seafood restaurant and local institution, was demolished, the corner of Georgia and University will see life again as the new Georgia Crossing shopping center nears completion. Many Wheaton residents complained about the quality of the development at a focus group last month, and even I myself referred to it as a "shitty strip mall" in November.

After visiting that "shitty strip mall" yesterday, still under construction, I have to admit it's not that bad. With its oddly-colored yellow and grey panels and lack of ornamentation, Georgia Crossing may not win any architectural awards, but it'll go a long way to creating the kind of vibrant community that Wheaton's longed for.

A site plan of Georgia Crossing, showing the first phase along University Boulevard and a future phase, which resembles a conventional strip mall. Image courtesy of Steven J. Karr.

For starters, the tenant mix emphasizes Wheaton's reputation for diversity and good food with a number of ethnic restaurants. Among them is Peruvian eatery El Pollo Rico, whose former location on Ennalls Avenue burned down last February. In recent years, El Pollo Rico had gained a regional reputation for its excellent chicken and questionable hiring practices, and it's put Wheaton on the map, even if by infamy.

Yet unlike many of the neighborhood's existing strip malls hiding behind parking lots, Georgia Crossing isn't afraid of the street. It sidles right up to University Boulevard, leaving room for a nice wide urban sidewalk. Preserving a line of mature street trees shades the space and that invites outdoor seating and pedestrian activity, creating a vibrant streetscape.

A second phase of the project, which would add a second line of shops directly behind the first, is more like a conventional strip mall. You'll see the sides of both strips - and the parking lot - from Georgia Avenue, which may not contribute much to the street life there. Nonetheless, Georgia Crossing is a step in the right direction. If you think it's ugly, you're not alone - but in a couple of years, you won't even notice. Enticing tenants and smart urbanism will hopefully make this more than just another strip mall for Downtown Wheaton.


Anonymous said...

Preserving trees -- right on! About the other shops affected by that fire, are any of them moving to this new place? What about Ranger Surplus?

retgroclk said...

It appears that there is still limited parking.

I am of the belief that many people are using public parking spaces for Metro parking.

Visit the Wheaton Triangle- there appears to me more cars than people shopping.

Public transportation is poorly conceived for the area-- take the Metro-- walk about 1/2 mile to Target or Giant and walk back to theMetro carrying bags of groceries or your Target purchases- it is not safe and it is a long walk when carrying something.Georgia Avenue Crosing- from the Metro to the new shops- a bit of a walk if you are handicapped in some form.

Improvement is a nice idea for Wheaton, but it is not commuter friendly. When Georgia Avenue Crossing is completed, it will only add to the traffic, as well the new condos that arebeing built at the Metro and further up near Blueridge Ave.

Someone saw profit and did not think beyond . Too much development and not enough attention to pedstrian friendly roads or driver roads.

One more failure of the long term effects of "Smart Growth"

Thomas Hardman said...

Everyone knows that Georgia Avenue, all through the urbanized zones, is long overdue for being "freeway-ized". By this I refer to plans for a grade-separated crossing at various locations, such as the failed intersections at Georgia and Randolph, Georgia and Norbeck (MD-28), and it's getting pretty obvious that something will have to be done to take the majority of the traffic along Georgia and University in downtown Wheaton -- and Viers Mill as well -- onto their own "through traffic only" circuits.

Face it, what downtown Wheaton needs is an upper deck for traffic that amounts to a traffic circle, and a lower deck for traffic that amounts to a freeway overpass. But that may not much matter as the petroleum driven world starts to grind to a halt due to overpopulation and the modernization of "the developing-world nations".

Something like 90 percent of all traffic passing the "Wheaton Triangle", on any of the arterial roads, is through-traffic bound for points several miles or more outside of the Wheaton Central Business District. All of the non-local traffic needs a way to pass through without interfering with (or being interfered-with by) local traffic. And we need more and better ways for local traffic to access public transit that is of a more purely local nature.

A possibly bad example is to be seen at the District's Dupont Circle. Dupont Circle has a surface layer that is the intersection of four major streets, an east-west, a north-south, a northwest-southeast, and a northeast-southwest. One of those (Connecticut Avenue) goes under the surface deck, and beneath it all is a MetroRail station. Maybe it's time to do something like that in Wheaton.

Anonymous said...

The parking is still an issue, but love the idea of the trees and outdoor dining.