Burtonsville residents have high hopes for Burtonsville Crossing, their neighborhood's older shopping center. An informal poll by Colesville Patch showed that people want to see everything from an organic market to a gym fill the space vacated by Giant Food in 2010.
Montgomery County Council approved a plan this month that will increase the types of businesses allowed in the vacant space with a different zoning designation. The Burtonsville Commercial Crossroads Neighborhood Plan, a set of ideas for the area that includes allowing the struggling shopping center to transition to a mixed-use model, was unanimously approved Dec. 4.
Kristin O’Connor, senior planner with Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, began work on the plan to address the loss of business and lack of community spaces in the neighborhood two years ago at the behest of Councilmember Nancy Navarro (D-Colesville).
The first order of business now that the plan is approved is rezoning Burtonsville Crossing, which has steadily lost tenants, in part, due to an empty space where its anchor store used to operate. The current zoning allows for a grocery store, drug store and not many other types of businesses in the space. A stipulation of Giant's lease forbid a competing grocery store to operate in the vacated building.
"The zoning was holding them up just saying only a grocer can go in there," said O'Connor. "The terms of the lease with Giant was 'no grocer,' so they were always in a pickle with the zone that they had."
O'Connor recommended that the shopping center be zoned CRT, commercial residential town, which frees up the development to pick from a number of different types of businesses for the space, including a department store.
A sectional map amendment, documentation that will offiically change the zoning, needs to be approved by the County Council before an actual business can move in, O'Connor said. That process should be complete by March.
Representatives from Edens, the operators of Burtonsville Crossing, have been involved in the planning process, O'Connor said, and were present at the council vote this month.
O'Connor said the company is searching now for an anchor tenant, so that a business can open soon after the council vote next year.
The hope is that Edens will eventually rebuild the center to create a residential-commerical development that takes advantage of easy access to the bus depot behind the building.
"There's more incentive as we built it in the plan to put in more residential than more commercial," O'Connor explained. "Residential is the preferable use of their development rights, [rather] than a mall right there, especially with that transit station."