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Planners Recommend Mixed Uses, Pedestrian Safety Measures in Long Branch Sector Plan

by Valerie Berton on December 10th, 2012

SILVER SPRING – After World War II, veterans and government workers flooding into the region transformed the East Silver Spring community of Long Branch into a populous gateway suburb.

Today, the multi-ethnic, bustling community is poised for change again. Planners have drafted a blueprint for Long Branch that envisions a mix of development within a pedestrian-friendly community anchored by two Purple Line stations. On Thursday, they will present a draft plan to the Planning Board they hope will set the stage for positive change in Long Branch while protecting its diverse businesses and community character.

Reflecting input from members of the community collected over three years, the draft recommends new mixed-use zoning, varied housing options to serve residents at different life stages, and a safe, connected pedestrian and bicycle network. Overall, planners expect the transit stations – at Arliss Street and University Boulevard – to catalyze redevelopment and reinvestment.

After reviewing the draft, the Planning Board will set a public hearing this winter to invite testimony from residents, business owners and anyone interested in the future of Long Branch. After the hearing, the Board will refine the plan in work sessions and send a draft to the County Council for consideration and eventual approval.

The plan focuses on commercial and residential areas along Piney Branch Road between Flower Avenue and University Boulevard. The plan would strengthen two commercial areas on either end of Piney Branch Road and designate the road as a boulevard that connects the community and provides a strong identity.

Residents attending community meetings have expressed concerns about safety, health, housing and connectivity. The plan seeks to address those issues by encouraging reinvestment. Redevelopment of commercial areas, most of which lack an inviting environment, could draw more people and help reduce crime.

With most streets designed for moving cars, heavy traffic, few public gathering spaces and large surface parking lots, the community lacks a safe, appealing public realm. To that end, the plan recommends zones that require developers to contribute public amenities, such as creating a better environment for walkers, cyclists and transit riders.

The Long Branch Town Center at Flower Avenue and Piney Branch Road provides the greatest opportunity, from infill development on surface parking lots to adaptive reuse of the Flower Theatre, which is recommended for historic designation. Its location near the Arliss Street Purple Line station makes it a natural for public realm improvements.
The plan recommendations are presented in phases, with the first phase covering development before the construction of the Purple Line. Phase two addresses longer term development, when the full funding agreement for the Purple Line is in place.

Planners develop master and sector plans to create a framework for each community designed to last 15 to 20 years. Those plans help policy-makers – such as the Planning Board and County Council – develop land use strategies and decide on proposed development.

WHO: Montgomery County Planning Board

WHAT: Consideration of Long Branch Sector Plan Staff Draft

WHEN: 9 a.m. Thursday, December 13

Park and Planning Headquarters
8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring


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