Town Center Vision
Residents want to maintain Poolesville’s small town or village character. It is important to describe what that concept means to ensure that local residents, businesses and community leaders know what to expect when they become part of the community. A small town or village:
- Is predominantly residential and has supporting commercial and public facilities at or near its center;
- Is compact compared to its surroundings, and to traditional suburban tract development;
- Is easily distinguishable from surrounding land which is usually farmland or forests, and is usually located in the midst of rural or only slightly developed areas;
- Encourages personal interaction and pedestrian movement among local origins and destinations through mixed land uses.
This description of a “village” reflects the rural, small town environment that Town residents value and is intended to help guide the development and planning activities of the Town going forward. Poolesville’s current mixed use zoning and land use designations in the business districts were initially established to help expand the village idea.
Town Center Emphasis
The Town’s goal is to create a dynamic commercial area in Poolesville that blends the existing strip malls into a core downtown area that is visually appealing, has buildings of the right style, size and scale that face each other, and that encourages personal interaction and pedestrian movement. Such a core downtown area creates a street character and sense of place that functions as a social magnet, makes
walking interesting, and stimulates economic growth and vitality.
There are four shopping centers located along the Town’s central artery, two of which serve as “bookends” to the Town’s commercial corridor. Most other businesses are operated from standalone buildings that are not uniform in their physical appearance, the way they are arrayed along this corridor, or their relationship to each other. This circumstance was noted in a 2008 Market Study commissioned by the Community Economic Development Committee (CEDC) to assess the Town’s economic situation. The study report stated that businesses were spread too thin within the Commercial and Central Business Districts. The absence of a definable more compressed town center suppresses a more robust and sustainable marketplace.
A Citizens Survey conducted in 2010 reflected the strong desire of Town residents to protect and maintain Poolesville’s historic heritage and small town character by a large margin over many other Town traits. These sentiments were also stated in the 2003 Citizens Survey. Some 2010 survey responses expressed the desire for an attractive downtown or town center such as that found in neighboring Leesburg or Old Town Gaithersburg, and economic development to sustain businesses through greater focus and cohesion of commercial interests within that Town center.
There are a number of short term and long term initiatives the Town is pursuing in order to support development and redevelopment in the Commercial Districts.
- Inform property owners in the business districts that financial assistance is available (grants, low-interest loans, etc.) for those wishing to make improvements to their property, i.e. TIZ, Heritage Montgomery, and other Federal, State or local sources;
- Establish financial incentives to support existing or new businesses;
- Exploit all opportunities to accelerate Poolesville’s Streetscape implementation;
- Refine and strengthen the Architectural Guidelines for the Commercial Districts;
- Emphasize Poolesville’s farming and trading history as another focal point for day trip visitors;
- Explore alternatives to expand the Thrift Store into larger commercial retail space within the business districts;
- Explore alternate uses for the Old Methodist Church, possibly by organizations associated with local tourism, historic heritage, etc.;
- Determine the viability of senior resident housing in the business districts;
- Maintain season or holiday related banners along Fisher Avenue and work with owners of historic structures to introduce lighting designs to enhance the Town’s visibility and appeal.
- Establish a mechanism to actively pursue and promote new businesses for the Commercial District;
- Give super-priority status to development or re-development projects proposed within the Commercial Districts, to include water and sewer allocation.