Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Pedestrian Chevy Chase

Today's Herald-Leader had an article about the parking situation in Chevy Chase, and that means the shopping area not the residential area. The local businesspeople wish to call it a problem but it is just the latest situation on parking.

When I was growing up, and living not too far from there, I spent a lot of time in Chevy Chase. There was a great range of stores and things to do. From food to services to some auto related places, all in a 2-3 block area, that served to immediate surroundings.

From the corner of High and Ashland, southward out High St, we had a Gulf gas station, then a pair of apartment over retail buildings with its parking tucked neatly in the back. The retail contained a driver's school, a general retail space with an average turnover rate, a barber shop, ladies tailroing and a wig shop. Rounding the curve we found a pharmacy, a florist and a small grocery. Again some apartments over retail with a hairdresser and some professional offices followed by the infamous Saratoga restaurant. Passing the other apartment/retail and the Ashland gas station and we are at Euclid Ave.

Working our way back toward Ashland Ave. we would find, on either side of the street, a TV/Appliance store(which had previously been a five and dime and a Kroger grocery, before it moved around the corner), the Chevy Chase Inn, a liquor store, the Fireplace(restaurant), the Ashland theater, the Toddle House(restaurant), a doctor, a jeweler, a florist, some more retail including a hat shop, hairdresser, barber, interiors, crafts, dresses, hardware and another liquor store.

Continuing to the next block were two gas stations, three banks(I watched two of them being built), a real estate office and a suburban style grocery.

From Euclid southward, I can remember the Texaco station, another liquor store, an apartment house(again with parking in the rear) of 32 units, an enlarged Kroger, three cleaners, some hidden retail behind a realtor's office, the hardware store, a barber, a hairdresser, a pharmacy, shoe repair, an ice cream parlor and a church. And this is not all inclusive, I have not even touched Ashland Ave.

This area was a walkable area, most if not all, of these stores has a majority of their customers walk to do their shopping from the surrounding neighborhoods(at least 4-6 blocks).

The problem with parking is that now the businesses have become so specialized and the extended families of the patrons of the past now live so far away, that they have to drive to the store yet they want the convienence of the way it used to be.

Former Councilman Bill Farmer Jr., made a statement about the area being a "pedestrian area" and then confused me by adding that "people want to walk as short as they can." A pedestrian area is ALL ABOUT walking. A pedestrian area is designed so that you can park the car and WALK to all the shops and then walk back to the car.

The streetcar used to come out this way when it traveled out High St. and made the curve onto Hanover and back to Main St. The 1931 plan called for it to be extended on out Tates Creek Rd and be an "out and back" type route instead of a continuous loop type, but as I have noted before, by 1938 the streetcar was gone. The time for the streetcar to return could be close at hand and this pedestrian area is ripe for becoming a TOD area as an intersection of a Tates Creek to downtown and a Fontaine/Euclid stretch of a car line to UK. The retail hub that this area used to be in the '40s -'60s could be revisited and built upon into the future. Then, again it would be a location where I would spend a great deal of time.

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