Wheaton Downtown Study (2022)

The 2022 Wheaton Downtown Study will explore the potential for small businesses and individually owned properties to continue enriching the community while complementing and evolving alongside the larger-scale physical redevelopment. In keeping with the “complete communities” goal of Thrive Montgomery 2050, planners seek an integrated, synergistic central business district that welcomes a diverse mix of residents, businesses, and visitors within comfortable walking, biking, rolling, and transit distance. The result will be a block-level refinement of the larger plan detailing how existing properties can adapt and transform while retaining Wheaton’s unique texture and history.

The Wheaton Downtown Study represents a new kind of process for the Planning Department: it allows for targeted refinements without changing the plan’s core recommendations. But similar to the Sector Plan process, the study will include qualitative research, data collection, and extensive conversations with community members and key stakeholders. Those findings will inform recommendations to allow the evolution of downtown Wheaton, including adaptive reuse or expansion of small properties as well as public realm improvements.

Vision of the Study

Planners envision Wheaton as a complete community, with a mixture of accessible residential and commercial uses. Wheaton’s future character could be a combination of larger, redeveloped sites next to smaller, adaptively reused properties, along with safer streets for pedestrians, cyclists, and wheelchair users. In addition to engaging property and business owners in confirming that vision, we want them to better understand what resources are available for their own individual redevelopment, expansion, and adaptation needs.

Beyond Wheaton’s demarcated downtown, this study will also continue to support the creation of strong edges around the Wheaton triangle. Though our focus is on integrating different types of development to strengthen Wheaton’s urban fabric, we will consider Wheaton’s uniqueness as a whole and how this burgeoning mix of new development and adaptively reused existing structures can both improve individuals’ experience of Wheaton and generate broad public benefit. Ultimately, the Wheaton Downtown Study will help enable a community with space for small and large businesses alike to grow along sound, accessible infrastructure and within a thriving Montgomery County.

Context to 2012 Sector Plan

Since the 2012 Wheaton Central Business District and Vicinity Sector Plan was approved, implementation of the plan has been underway. This study allows planners to zoom into key elements of the vision that was created in the plan and adapt work accordingly. The Planning Department has also spent the last decade developing countywide visions for things like multimodal safety, equity work, and housing attainability—so this study will help us weave all those threads together into the broader Wheaton plan and beyond. This study will not update the recommendations of the 2012 Plan, but rather explore how existing properties can evolve to further the vision established nearly a decade ago. The 2012 Wheaton Central Business District (CBD) and Vicinity Sector Plan rezoned most commercial properties in the area to consolidate redevelopment efforts for broad public benefit. Since then, several bigger properties have redeveloped in keeping with that vision by adding residential housing, improving the streetscape, and creating some limited public open spaces. The larger-scale mixed-use development has brought jobs, housing, and an economic boost to the area, but it also contrasts with the district’s longstanding small-scale character, which no one wants to lose.

Participation in the Study

Community members are a vital part of every planning process, and participating in this Study means your seat at the table has been reserved. Conversations about the neighborhood’s priorities and goals for the future will benefit from residents’, property owners’, and business owners’ knowledge and experiences, ultimately ensuring that the Study’s results reflect the whole community’s values and shared vision. There will be opportunities to weigh in throughout the process, from in-person and virtual events to online comment periods and formal surveys. Stay informed and learn about how your feedback matters by signing up for our e-letters. We will notify you of any updates, news, upcoming events, and draft documents as those are made available.

Last Updated: September 16, 2021