Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, July 19, 2013

why Clarksburg, Maryland doesn't have a town center

Extract from UWM Urban Retail Centers document
Not enough population. See "After nearly 20 years, future of Clarksburg Town Center plan may be at a crossroads" from the Washington Post. From the article:

Residents — the approximately 2,300 in the Town Center and 11,000 in surrounding Clarksburg developments — are left to do much of their shopping in Damascus, Urbana or Germantown. The rail or bus transit integral to the 1994 master plan is years away, if it comes at all. Rush-hour traffic on I-270 and Route 355 can be mind-bending.

If there were a market for the retail, it would already have been built.  Sector and neighborhood plans typically call for more retail than is supportable from the local population.  And by not providing more information about how much population you need to support the retail you want, plans typically under-provide for residential housing.

In work I quote a lot (summarized in "The long term shake out of local retailers and independent commercial districts"), from the late 1990s, it says that you need 30,000 people to support a typically sized neighborhood center of 50,000 s.f.

Now, with the rise in Internet commerce, both in terms of the destruction of various retail categories--meaning fewer stores to open--and in terms of a shift of 10 to 15% commerce to online options (from prescriptions to books to food) it's that much harder to support neighborhood/district shopping centers.

I'd argue that the number of people needed to support 50,000 s.f. of retail is probably closer to 40,000 people, plus the retail mix shifts more to restaurants, and most retail categories are in regional shopping centers of various sorts, and restaurants rely on high income consumers especially younger people who go out more/don't know how to cook.

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4 Comments:

At 6:43 PM, Blogger dan reed! said...

I work part time for a company that involves me going to lots of different grocery stores. One thing I've learned is that Giant's busiest store in the entire chain (highest sales, I assume) is the one at Route 355 and Route 27 in Germantown - the closest supermarket to Clarksburg. They've basically got a captive market.

There is a shopping center being built in Clarksburg today - not the Town Center, which was supposed to happen first, but a strip mall that was allowed to be built earlier so residents would actually have a grocery store. I guess 13,000 people (and however many thousands follow them) are enough to support that shopping center, which will have a Harris Teeter.

Population is one thing, but it also doesn't help that Damascus has a new shopping center that opened maybe 5 years ago and is almost completely empty, while Germantown is getting a new power center with a Wegmans and other stores next to the Giant. I don't know how much the Montgomery County Planning Department considers the spillover effects of stuff like that, otherwise they probably wouldn't have approved either project.

 
At 11:55 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

It all contributes. Interesting that the Giant you mention is the busiest...

 
At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

non places like Clarksburg are not worth the time or energy to worry about- I hate being in areas like that. It is better that we concentrate on older more viable areas than suburban wastes.

 
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