Wednesday, June 22, 2011

lipstick on a pig

Signs Along Route 198 (There Are So Many)
Façade improvements are helpful, but Burtonsville needs a lot more help than that.

A few stores along Route 198 in Burtonsville are receiving new façades as part of a neighborhood improvement project sponsored by the county's Department of Housing and Community Affairs:

From the Gazette:

The county will spend up to $250,000 total on the facade improvement project, but it will probably not cost that much, Mahmud said . . .

“You need to take a long-term view,” [property owner Yoav] Katz said. “You cannot take a short-term view. We have been in the area a long time, and we are committed to the area, so we are taking a long-term view.”

Very few who shop or live in Burtonsville would say that Route 198 is an attractive street, so perhaps this project will help the community's image. And it's not surprising that property owner Yoav Katz, who once offered his land for a new Dutch Country Farmers Market when they were evicted four years ago, has agreed to participate.

I believe that small design interventions can have a big effect on a community. "The Turf" in downtown Silver Spring was an exceedingly simple design that dramatically improved its neighborhood. But I'm disappointed that three years after the big community charrette which was supposed to get people excited about Burtonsville again, all we'll have to show for it are minor aesthetic improvements.

Can all of the people quoted in this Gazette article truly believe that despite Burtonsville's many issues, this will draw people back, especially when they can take their money two exits north to Maple Lawn? Of course, this is the same Route 198 where shopkeepers insisted that sidewalks were a "waste of time," so perhaps this is the best we can hope for.

At least the façade improvements are going up in the heart of Burtonsville's "Restaurant Row, home to one of my favorite local hangouts, Soretti's. Lipstick on a pig it may be, but hopefully this small project can draw more customers to a business that definitely deserves them.


perrik said...

I recently took one of our cars to Wilson Tire for new tires and an alignment. Since I didn't really want to hang out in their waiting room for two hours, I decided to hit Dunkin Donuts (it was 9am, too early for Soretti's).

Good grief, what a terrible walk. It had rained the night before, so I had to navigate ponded water, muddy grass, and muddy mud. I could have walked on the shoulder of Rt 198, but I rather enjoy being alive and intact.

A few days later, I took a different car to a specialist in a light industrial park up in Gaithersburg. While it was being serviced I was able to walk quickly and safely to the nearby deli, using this really neat thing called a "sidewalk".

Given the choice, I'd rather park once and walk to several different stores rather than drive from parking lot to parking lot. The shopping district of Burtonsville is so compact that I shouldn't have to do that!

Yeah, I've been making more and more trips to Maple Lawn instead. Rumor has it that the pet food store in Burtonsville Crossing is headed to ML in the not too distant future.

Cyndy said...

I disagree with the "lipstick on a pig" idea as it relates to the businesses on 198. Most of those businesses are a lot nicer than they appear to be from the outside. The Chinese restaurant is really outstanding and there are several other excellent restaurants there as well.

From what I can tell, that area currently functions mainly as a thoroughfare for cars passing through on their way to 29 or 95 and it would probably be good for all of those businesses to get a bit of a facelift so that more people would think they were attractive enough to stop in for a meal or some coffee. They would definitely benefit from improved parking areas. The asphalt in front of all of those businesses is a total mess and unsafe to walk on.

I love sidewalks, but I'm having trouble imagining the people of Burtonsville going out for a stroll to their favorite local restaurant with all the cars there on 198. If the ICC diverts enough traffic away from that area maybe they could think about making it into more of a townlike atmosphere, but right now it kind of seems to be stuck being the way it is, so a new and improved version of itself would be a good thing, for now.

Thomas Hardman said...

I remember posting here, some years ago, that Burtonsville really did need some sort of bypass or traffic relief. Heck, I keep coming back to the subject and nobody seems interested in doing exactly what actually needs to be done. Anything less is, as Dan puts it, just putting lipstick on a pig.

Of course, recent developments are likely to make it impossible for any sort of bypass-type traffic relief to happen. Right where such a road would need to go, just west of town, is a development waiting approval to start construction. Once in place, Burtonsville will be condemned forever to be a car-oriented traffic hell that people mostly just want to get past.

Steve Ammann said...

I disagree with the title as well. I've lived in Burtonsville all my life, and the more meetings I attend, the more I get involved in community affairs, the more I realize that all people do is talk. Nothing ever changes around here because people plan and argue and then plan some more. I'm thrilled to see updated facades. Yes, I'd love to see a redesigned area that is walkable and green but at this point I don't see it happening. People seem stuck in the past but at least our buildings do not have to be. Just because they change the facades does not mean that more changes cannot happen in the future, but for now, I'm just happy to see something happening. And I agree with the other poster that the restaurants housed in these buildings are fantastic- namely the chinese restaurant, chapalla's, and Cuba De Ayer. They just look uninviting from the outside. I, for one, am thrilled.