A ‘Bowling’ sign still marks the entrance to The Arcade at Glenmont Shopping Center, where thousands of duckpin enthusiasts once spent many hours back in the 1950’s and 1960’s when bowling was a hugely popular sport.
The Arcade is now surrounded by a mix of discount carpet stores, Chinese eateries, a dollar store, a Hispanic food store and a check-cashing outlet.
Montgomery County planners consider the Glenmont Shopping Center ripe for development, but forging consensus among 15 properties with 13 owners has proved difficult in the past, according to county planner Michael Brown.
A document prepared by Brown for the Glenmont Sector Plan Update claims that the “Glenmont Shopping Center has a poor vehicle circulation pattern, inadequate pedestrian facilities, and a low aesthetic value. The pattern of multiple ownership has contributed to a lack of revitalization.”
Brown told the Planning Board at its Jan. 26 meeting that little private development has come to Glenmont since the 1997 Sector Plan for the Glenmont Transit Impact Area and Vicinity. Only two properties have been improved since then--Capitol One Bank in 1998 and the Shoppers Food Warehouse in 2002.
However, lately the community has seen public development with plans for the relocation of Fire Station #18 and the nearly completed WMATA parking garage.
Brown is taking up the challenge to renovate the 19.6-acre shopping center, which sits at the corner of Randolph Road and Georgia Avenue. He said he has already set up meetings with 9 or 10 property owners.
Kris Kumaroo, founder and former president of the Greater Glenmont Civic Association, has also observed that Glenmont has seen few changes in the last decade, even as development has taken place up and down Georgia Avenue.
“I think they should start it over,” Kumaroo said in an interview with Patch, referring to the shopping center. “They should raze it to the ground, figure out the proper traffic patterns, bring in some anchor stores and start again,” he said.
Although the sector plan update is only in its preliminary stages, business owners are anticipating big changes. “They want to level the whole shopping center from what I understand,” said Tom Barnsley, one of the owners of the Country Boy Market in Glenmont.
“I know that a lot of the merchants up there are banking on a big developer coming in and buying everybody out,” Kumaroo said. “That’s what they are looking for.”
Highway construction plans to build a new intersection raising Georgia Avenue over Randolph Road could spark a revival at Glenmont. Funding is in place for the ‘grade separation’ that would raise Georgia Ave over Randolph Road, and work on utility relocation has begun, according to county planners.
At its Jan. 26 meeting, the Planning Board approved the scope of work document, which outlines the purpose of the sector plan update, its methods and outreach vision, and the anticipated schedule.
Brown’s proposed schedule anticipates community meetings in April and June, and a public hearing in September. The sector plan update could reach the Montgomery County Council by spring 2013.
Planning Board Chair Françoise Carrier called Brown “young and ambitious," and Commissioner Norman Dreyfuss told Brown he liked his “aggressive scheduling.”
“The last Glenmont plan was not very well received by the community,” Carrier added. “I expect that you will face very active discussion during your community outreach.”
The first community visioning workshop will be held February 4.