Ranson and Charles Town’s Future? Sustainable, connected, in character

On Wednesday, September 14, Ranson and Charles Town citizens and leaders sloshed into Charles Town’s Old Opera House from a dusk downpour to celebrate the conclusion of an intensive week of planning with their consulting team.

“Unless you were on the third floor of city hall this week to watch these people work,” said Ranson Mayor A. David Hamill, “it would be hard to imagine how hard they went at it.”

Susan Henderson, of PlaceMakers, who led the land use and coding component of the three-component project team, turned the compliment back on the mayor, the staffs of the two cities and the citizens who showed up for so many discussions during the week. “We’ve been overwhelmed at the participation,” she said.

Henderson, Sean Garrigan and Rick Hall — leaders of groups working on former industrial sites and the transportation segment of the project — gave the Wednesday night crowd a peak at how Ranson and Charles Town might look after decades of growth guided by the ideas and plans tested and refined during the previous week.

You can download the complete presentation here (3.9mb .pdf). To get an overview of project goals and the roles of the three federal agencies that funded the effort — the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) — check out the column to the immediate right. And follow the progress of the workshop from the opening night till the closing evening at the Opera House in the posts preceding this one.

Henderson’s portion of the program focused on what she called the project’s “connective thread,” the SmartCode zoning that stitches together all three components with design rules for enabling compact, walkable, mixed-use environments. Watch the video below to get a feel for how the Ranson SmartCode can do that.

Garrigan, partner in Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates, explained how his group attached storm water management issues without sacrificing the goals of responsible land use and transportation planning. “There are ways to site buildings,” said Garrigan, “so that you can not only maximize the economic opportunities but also address important environmental concerns.”

Hall emphasized the same synergy. “We have a saying,” said Hall, “that goes this way: ‘LU1, TR2.’ That means land use planning first, transportation planning second. If you plan first for responsible land use, we can finds several different ways to satisfy transportation goals within that context. If you try to do it the other way around, trying to make land use fit an already designed transportation plan, it’s as if you’re fighting with both hands tied behind your back.”

Illustrations of key segments of the team’s combined work is below. As Henderson cautioned in her introduction, these are illustrative of an array of alternative designs among a great many options. One advantage of the SmartCode is that there can be a broad range of approaches if development and redevelopment adheres to a few simple rules about what’s appropriate in what “character zone.”

It’s also important to remember that the illustrations depict build-out over time, perhaps a long time, depending upon market influences. So while portions of the plans described on Wednesday night can get on track as soon as the cities choose, other aspects await opportunities beyond their control.

The "transect" of Ranson, a visual summary of how Ranson becomes more intense as it moves from countryside to downtown. The "character zones" of the proposed SmartCode zoning overhaul, designated T-Zones 1 through 5, are based on the varying character that occurs along this natural system. Click for larger view.

           

Development character typical of T5, the most intense zone under the new SmartCode. Click for larger view.

           

Development character typical of T4, the proposed SmartCode's designation for general urban neighborhoods. Click for larger view.

           

This T4 animated sequence reflects adaptive reuse and infill development within existing neighborhoods.

           

Development character typical of T3, the SmartCode's sub-urban designation. Predominantly single family in nature, but still very walkable. Click for larger view.

           

This T3 animated sequence reflects transportation improvements on an existing segment of Fairfax Blvd.

           

Existing conditions within the Ranson Old Town project area. Click for larger view.

           

A revised zoning map, based on the proposed SmartCode zoning overhaul. Darker areas reflect areas of greater intensity; lighter areas, lesser intensity. Click for larger view.

           

Old Town's five project sites built out under the regulation of the new zoning ordinance. Click for larger view.

           

Proposed site plan for George Street/Fairfax Blvd, north of the tracks, to complete redevelopment begun by the APUS building. Click for larger view.

           

The same proposal, built out, viewed from the air. Click for larger view.

           

Lancaster Circle at City Hall, with enhanced pedestrian access, parking, and redevelopment all around. Click for larger view.

           

The same proposal, built out, viewed from the air. Click for larger view.

           

Proposed site plan for Powhatan Place at North Mildred and East Beltline. Click for larger view.

           

The proposed mixed-use neighborhood center at Fairfax Blvd. and Beltline. Click for larger view.

           

The same proposal, built out, viewed from the air. Click for larger view.

           

Proposed site plan for completing the connection between Fairfax Blvd. and Fairfax Crossing, reflecting the oval spec'd out in the original plan of Ranson, circa. 1890. Click for larger view.

           

The same proposal, built out, viewed from the air. Click for larger view.

           

A proposed development scenario for the longstanding Clayhill Farms, a walkable, garden neighborhood based on the principles of agrarian urbanism. Click for larger view.

           

The same proposal, built out, viewed from the air. Click for larger view.