Thursday, April 13, 2017

The South and West Mall Promenade

One great decision was made when the Metropolitan at Columbia Town Center was built; there's a wide promenade that's landscaped along the Mall side of the property. Although the developers of this new Apartment building may not have intended to do this, they started what could be an entire promenade trail along the entire exterior "ring" road surrounding the Mall. Here's how.
First, I'm only going to focus on the southern and western portions of the Mall Ring Road because that's where the current development and redevelopment are occurring. Since the two new buildings of the Metropolitan currently under construction are part of the same development, I'm going to assume that the promenade will continue along the Mall side of those buildings. If this is true which I hope it is, the Promenade will extend from Broken Land Parkway to Gramercy Place crossing Town Center Boulevard and the soon to be extended Twin Rivers Road.
The main focus will for this post will be on the south side of the Mall Ring Road known as "Corporate Row" These Office Buildings have been built sporadically throughout Columbia's history with small parking decks in their vicinity. They appear distant from the Mall and the new Metropolitan Apartments. In an effort to unify generate foot traffic other than office tenants, the owners of Corporate Row have begun designating the ground floor(s) of these buildings as Retail. Since these buildings appear at the far southern end of the Mall parking lot, they need to feel more connected to the rest of the Mall Ring Road and therefore, Town Center as a whole.
So how do we do that? We expand the Promenade in front of the new Metropolitan Apartments southward into the Corporate Row area to create a flow and connection between all of the buildings. First, a better crossing between Gramercy Place and Mall Ring Road is required. I'm thinking either a three way stop or a traffic signal would be in order with clearly marked crosswalks. The area directly south of Gramercy Place is a surface parking lot with a parking deck behind it. Within that surface lot is a drive thru pad for the Columbia Bank.
My plan is to remove the drive thru and turn the surface lot into an extension of the Promenade. To create a more welcoming environment, the parking deck that acts as a backdrop for this extension of the promenade will be a painted mural with landscaping around it to offset the drab concrete that currently flanks the parking garage.
The next structure is the high rise known as 60 Corporate Row. This building juts out onto Mall Ring Road more than its neighboring building but I believe the Promenade can be extended without relocating any roads. However, I would relocate the front doors of the building to Mall Ring Road so that any planned ground floor Retail can be easily accessed from the Promenade. There are plans for additional ground floor Retail in the back of this building but I don't think it will be accessible enough.
I would next extend the Promenade to 40 Corporate Row. Here the Office Building has better setback than 60 Corporate Row. There is Ground Floor Retail being proposed for both the front side of the building that faces Mall Ring Road and the backside which doesn't have very good frontage. There is also some space in between 40 and 60 Corporate Row that I would turn into a pocket park. The way this land is set up now has lots of concrete and stairs. I would flatten the land to get rid of the stairs and plant more greenery and landscaping with better lighting and seating.
Behind 40 and 60 Corporate Row is 50 Corporate Road. there is Ground Floor Retail for lease here but this space isn't visible enough from Mall Ring Road. 50 Corporate Center foes however have Little Patuxent Parkway frontage, so it may be a better idea to reconfigure that building so that Ground Floor Retail is available on that side.
Although the long term goal for this Promenade is to circle the entirety of Mall Ring Road, there are many other parts of the Road that will probably be subject to redevelopment (such as 1 Mall North, near Lord & Taylor, and the buildings just north of South Entrance Road. That is why this post is focused solely on the South and West Mall Promenade.        

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your thinking we need to preserve pockets of green space Downtown. There will be no promenade in front of the buildings next to the Metropolitan. The Mall Ring Road south of the Metropolitan is part of Symphony Overlook Downtown neighborhood. There has been no FDP presented for that neighborhood as yet, although it looks like the Transit Center will be located there. Perhaps you can offer your idea to the Howard Hughes Corporation.