Opinion: Give Brambleton Plaza to the Pedestrian
I, like many other Brambleton residents, have watched Brambleton Town Center (BTC) grow and evolve since we moved here. Whether it was anticipating a library for years on end or watching tenant after tenant attempt to fill the spot south of Regal Cinemas, our family has been deeply invested and impacted by how our town center develops. I’ve heard from many neighbors that envy One Loudoun or Reston Town Center for their density or amenities and — while I can’t propose a plan to completely develop BTC — there is one small change that could be made to enhance our community’s quotidian life: turn Brambleton Plaza into a pedestrian-exclusive promenade.
The Town Center has proven its ability to attract pedestrians during certain periods of time: we’ve all seen the Sweet Frog crowds on summer nights or the Blue Ridge Grill outdoor patio packed to the brim. However, I can’t help but feel that we could be doing a better job of retaining individuals after their primary venture or encouraging residents to simply spend more time there. Through a conversion to a pedestrian-centric plaza (or a mixed-traffic corridor similar to The District Wharf), we can garner a space with more outdoor seating, public amenities, and community possibilities.
We start with extending the pavers over what used to be the street, generating a wider pedestrian walkway that joins the western block (Regal Cinemas) to the eastern block (Brambleton Library). Willow Creek Way, the one-way road adjoining Van Metre townhomes would be rounded out to complete a loop in front of Regal, providing a convenient pick-up/drop-off area to service the area. In expanding the walkway, restaurants such as AhSo and Blue Ridge Grill can extend their outdoor patios outward, drawing in pedestrian traffic and expanding their capacity on busy summer nights. Depending on the timeline, this also provides a helpful lifeline in helping our local businesses deal with COVID-related restrictions and fluctuations.
The expansion also opens the opportunity to provide pedestrians with more social opportunities. More picnic tables or benches to enjoy your over-stacked Sweet Frog bowl or to chat with your family about the movie you just saw would be a welcome addition to our community. Concerning amenities and community events, a new pedestrian plaza dramatically increases our possibilities. The Brambleton Food Truck Rally is in desperate need of seating, something that can be remedied by the substantial increase in walkable area. Additionally, parking food trucks on the new Brambleton Plaza could prevent the traffic headache previously encountered by the closure of Olympia Drive. Such an increase in pedestrian real estate provides possibilities of increased space for the EatLoco Brambleton Marketplace, area for a potential children’s splash pad, or for more event stages.
The logistics, of course, concern challenges such as fire lanes, disabled parking, and loading/unloading areas. I am not a residential planner, nor do I claim to be, so I will defer to the experts in this execution. If Brambleton decides that converting Brambleton Plaza into a pedestrian area is a worthwhile idea, I trust that they will do so while balancing the needs of the disabled and business owners communities.
It seems clear, from my view, that giving Brambleton Plaza back to the pedestrian would be welcome in our community. If you agree, I encourage you to contact Brambleton and advocate for such a change.