The mixed-use Town Center Development Plan envisions a new approach to downtown Mount Rainier, Md., a historic community near Washington, D.C. The plan, which will be phased in with construction due to start next year, encompasses a pedestrian-oriented town center with a special focus on the city’s artistic, historic, and environmental traditions. This New Urbanist vision articulates multilayered ideas including a grand boulevard and a traditional main street; vehicular, bike, and pedestrian improvements; modern and architectural design styles; and design guidance for civic, residential, and commercial buildings. The design by Washington, D.C.–based Cunningham l Quill Architects includes a community green space in front of City Hall and the public library designed to replace an uninviting bus turnaround area.
The program also reimagines the area’s commercial corridor as a revitalized, neighborhood-serving Main Street with smaller-scaled buildings, pedestrian-friendly signage, attractive and simple fenestration, colorful awnings, porches, and outdoor seating. The judges agreed that the upgrades will serve the community well, saying they will “breathe new life into the neighborhood.”
One of the most critical components of Mount Rainier’s sustainable development plan was its open and inclusive public participation process, says architect Lee Quill. Civic leaders, artists, business and property owners, and residents attended seven community meetings, including a hands-on charrette design session. There, participants discussed ideas and concerns about a range of issues including transportation, land use, streetscape, infill opportunities, and historic preservation. Following the meetings, the ideas were integrated into the initial design sketches. “The community was an active participant and shaper of the plan,” Quill says.
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