Parole, a declining retail area plagued by traffic congestion, would become a thriving, scenic center of commerce and transportation, according to the draft of a long-range plan for development of the Annapolis suburb presented last night to an advisory group.
The Parole Urban Design Plan is a 30-year blueprint for the 1,500-acre area that would transform its core, centered on the Parole Plaza, into an urban mix of retail shops, office space and some residences, all connected by pedestrian walkways and open green space. That area is now a suburban sprawl of retail stores surrounded by acres of parking.
Planning and Zoning officials presented the draft to the 19-member Parole Area Management Group, which will review it and make recommendations on the plan to County Executive Robert R. Neall by June 15. Eventually, it will be proposed as legislation to the County Council.
The advisory group is made up of environmentalists, business people and area residents.
J. Shepard Tullier of the county planning and zoning department told the advisory group that some of the plans may seem grandiose. "It's got some things that don't seem very common-sensical today. Maybe they even seem radical," he said.
The draft report would divide Parole into three areas. North Parole would be the area north of Route 50, which includes the Annapolis Mall. That area would retain somewhat of a suburban character, with continued retail and office development. The most significant developments there would be the expansion of the mall and the construction of the new Women's Hospital Center, part of the Anne Arundel Medical Center.
Central Parole, the core of the community that includes the Parole Plaza, would see little change in the first decade or so of the redevelopment. But in the long term, this would become the centerpiece of the project. A number of multi-story buildings with retail stores on the ground floors and offices and housing above would be connected by a network of streets, pedestrian plazas and courts.
The core development would create a 24-hour environment with "more of an urban feel," Mr. Tullier said. Parking would be restricted to multi-level structure, reducing the asphalt sprawl.
Riva, the third section located below Patuxent Boulevard, would continue its present pattern of office park development in "campus-like" settings.
Concentrating development in Parole would divert growth from some of the surrounding environmentally sensitive areas, such as Crownsville, Crofton and Edgewater.
"The result of this is you protect the environment and you don't increase sprawl," Mr. Tullier said.
Although the plan is to guide development in the area, its loftier goals depend on private enterprise.
"If we really want growth to go to Parole, there have to be incentives for it to go here and not to other areas," Mr. Tullier said.
Some of these incentives include relaxing restrictions imposed on the Parole area in 1990 when the County Council passed a law to control growth by limiting building height and density.
The draft report recommends lowering the 16-story limit on height to 12 stories, as that is all that is necessary. But it also recommends reducing from 15 percent to 10 percent the percentage of green space required of developers.