Date: June 25 – 30, 2006
Location: Germantown, MD
Sponsor: Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce
Chair: Richard W. Reynolds
Subject Area: Regional Growth and Planning
Summary of Recommendations:
The Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce and a number of other sponsors, invited a ULI Advisory Services panel to respond to a series of questions concerning how best to assure the growth of employment in Germantown given current market trends. The panel pointed out that the community had a number of strategically located development parcels that would serve as the base from which to create a unique identity for Germantown. It was important to save these vacant and underused sites in the Germantown Business District (GBD) for future commercial and mixed-use developments, and not residential construction.
No one can “move the market,” but Germantown had the ability to be ready to respond to the market, through appropriate visioning and ordinance planning. The panel recommended that development take a mixed-use form, with office, residential, and retail uses. Projects should only have been approved if they included the employment density assigned to that site in the 1989 Master Plan. A vibrant town center full of uses and amenities would help distinguish it from other business oriented communities. A marketing strategy and signage program would help create a common identity for those who live and work in the community, and foster a sense of pride in Germantown. Community leaders would have the challenge of setting project priorities and following them, to avoid a bottlenecking approval process that hampers development. There was also an increasing appetite for alternative forms of transportation, so the panel proposed the eventual development of a light-rail or bus transit system. The county would appoint a leader to spearhead the entire development, and the creation of public/private partnerships would be necessary. Germantown had been given the framework for a masterful and exciting business district but it was up to the local government and community to build upon that frame.