Montgomery County's new "Focus On Place" strategy aims to transform automobile arterials like Georgia Avenue into pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly grand boulevards.

Montgomery County, MD (2005)

Client: Montgomery County Park & Planning Department

Thirty years ago, Montgomery County, just outside of Washington DC, adopted one of the most progressive planning policies of its time. “On Wedges and Corridors” declared that new development would take place along the county’s major transportation corridors, while wedges of open space between the corridors would be preserved. The county set aside one-third of its land area — nearly 100,000 acres — off-limits to development, preserving it for open space and farmland.

Today, as the rest of the county fills up and pressure for development in the Agricultural Reserve grows, the County is embarking an another progressive planning effort: to capture the County’s future development potential through a more focused pattern of sustainable growth. Vibrant, mixed-use centers, along with attractive, shared-use boulevards and great public spaces, will ensure economic growth for the county, while enhancing the quality of life of its residents.

After attending a PPS How to Turn a Place Around workshop in New York, the Montgomery County Park & Planning Department hired Project for Public Spaces to help develop and adopt a new planning policy framework based on small-scale, community-oriented neighborhood planning. PPS was also charged with promoting this new framework to the Montgomery County Council, other county government officials, and the public.

Montgomery County is protecting its Agricultural Reserve by focusing growth in the county's centers. Underused commercial strips like this one will be redeveloped into vibrant mixed-use centers.

Today, Montgomery County Park & Planning is working closely with community stakeholders, citizen associations and other government agencies in identifying pilot projects — an aging commercial center, an arterial road and a community-gathering place — where it can implement this new planning approach beginning in 2006.