‘Down­town’ a key goal of new PG plan

Su­per­vi­sors OK new de­vel­op­ment, tourism road map

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Buet­tner Staff Writer

PRINCE GE­ORGE — Mu­si­cal artists from Pe­tula Clark to Neil Young for years have sung the praises of “Down­town,” and now Prince Ge­orge County lead­ers are join­ing the cho­rus.

The Board of Su­per­vi­sors on Tues­day voted unan­i­mously to adopt a new Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Tourism Strate­gic Plan that is much more than a five-year up­date of the plan adopted in 2013. In­cluded in the new doc­u­ment are am­bi­tious pro­pos­als to ex­pand county in­fras­truc­ture, in­ten­sify busi­ness re­cruit­ing ef­forts, lure more sports tourism events and vis­i­tors — and cre­ate some­thing that, ac­cord­ing to the new plan, “is clearly miss­ing from the county ... a dis­tin­guish­able down­town.”

The idea, ac­cord­ing to the plan doc­u­ment, is to cre­ate a Down­town Prince Ge­orge that “will si­mul­ta­ne­ously pro­vide higher-den­sity hous­ing and com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment” with “the walk­a­ble, dense and so­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics found in down­towns.

... Down­town Prince Ge­orge County will pro­vide the com­mu­nity a sense of place, a cen­ter for gath­er­ing and cel­e­brat­ing, and an op­por­tu­nity to de­sign and con­struct a for­ward­think­ing small-town Main Street ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The new five-year plan doesn’t spec­ify a lo­ca­tion for this com­mu­nity nexus, but it rec­om­mends that the county “un­der­take a new down­town site iden­ti­fi­ca­tion process” as part of the up­com­ing process of up­dat­ing the county’s Com­pre­hen­sive Plan.

How­ever, it does spec­ify that the pro­posed down­town be lo­cated in the Plan­ning Area, al­ready tar­geted for in­ten­sive de­vel­op­ment, to take ad­van­tage of nearby

high-den­sity pop­u­la­tions and trans­porta­tion ac­cess, “and to avoid the preser­va­tion sen­si­tiv­i­ties found in the Ru­ral Con­ser­va­tion Area.”

The new de­vel­op­ment and tourism plan in­cludes a num­ber of wide-rang­ing goals, as well as de­tailed rec­om­men­da­tions for achiev­ing those goals. In ad­di­tion to the creation of Down­town Prince Ge­orge, they in­clude:

• In­vest­ing in up­dated wa­ter, sewer and trans­porta­tion in­fras­truc­ture. In par­tic­u­lar, the plan urges the county to go for­ward with im­ple­men­ta­tion of its ex­ist­ing 30-year Wa­ter and Wastew­a­ter Mas­ter Plan “with an im­me­di­ate fo­cus on the SouthPoint Busi­ness Park and other ar­eas of the Prince Ge­orge Plan­ning Area most suit­able for higher-den­sity hous­ing and in­dus­trial, of­fice or com­mer­cial

eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.”

• Mod­ern­iz­ing land use and zon­ing poli­cies “to ac­com­mo­date limited higher-den­sity de­vel­op­ment” in the Plan­ning Area, and tak­ing a look at the Plan­ning Area and Ru­ral Con­ser­va­tion Area bound­aries to de­ter­mine whether ad­just­ments are needed.

• In­creas­ing ef­forts to join with “re­gional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment part­ners to sup­port in­clu­sive high­tech en­trepreneurism, busi­ness at­trac­tion, and busi­ness re­ten­tion and ex­pan­sion.” Spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions in­clud­ing iden­ti­fy­ing and at­tend­ing more in­dus­try con­fer­ences, in­creas­ing net­work­ing with site­s­e­lec­tion spe­cial­ists, and assess­ing and im­prov­ing the tools used to mar­ket the county to busi­ness prospects.

• Align­ing the ef­forts

of ed­u­ca­tors and the busi­ness com­mu­nity to “train the work­force of to­day and to­mor­row” and help “sup­port the up­ward eco­nomic mo­bil­ity of all res­i­dents and ... the county’s abil­ity to cre­ate, ex­pand and at­tract busi­nesses.”

• Mak­ing the county “a lead­ing tourist des­ti­na­tion,” with an em­pha­sis on in­creas­ing Prince Ge­orge’s re­cent suc­cesses in sports tourism. De­tailed rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude beef­ing up ef­forts to at­tract tour­na­ments to the county, part­ner­ing with busi­nesses to cre­ate ad­di­tional venues and ac­com­mo­da­tions, and pro­mot­ing the county’s his­tor­i­cal, nat­u­ral and recre­ational at­trac­tions.

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