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Improvements on deck for a busy corner of Chelten Avenue in Germantown



As part of a larger effort to improve Germantown's walkability, a problematic corner on Chelten Avenue is getting a low-cost, high-value makeover. The spot in question is the northwest corner of Chelten Avenue and Greene Street, right next to the southeast corner of Vernon Park.

"It has some pretty inherent design flaws that have been present ever since it was constructed," explains City Planning Commission North/Northwest Senior Planner Matt Wysong, noting a walled-off fifteen-foot-wide area, whose floor is lower than the rest of the sidewalk. "It renders it very unusable. It’s hidden and also a vacuum for trash...[It also tends to] attract people who do not-so-legal things."

Efforts to revamp the corner got underway about a year ago when Wysong first met with a group of local designers. They had ideas for low-cost, low-maintenance ways to improve the intersection. These included knocking down the wall that divides the space and putting in decking to correct the grade change. There'd be no need to dig up or replace the existing concrete.

Wysong also points to better seating and regular tree pruning as simple ways to spruce up the space. And since Vernon Park is invisible from Chelten Avenue (thanks to the line of stores along its east side), taking down the wrought-iron fence that currently divides the plaza from the Chelten and Greene plaza could be a great way to offer a new "front door" to the park.

There is $17,000 in the pot for the project’s initial design and engineering, cobbled together from some money left over from a city planning contract for yearly on-call services through the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities.

Those kinds of dollars -- "not enough to plug into a large project," says Wysong -- are just the ticket for a small-scale improvement like this. Wysong estimates that the design phase will be done by this spring, with construction beginning in early 2016. The complete overhaul would cost about $200,000, he guesses, which could come from a combination of state-level and foundation grants.  

With a little local elbow grease and a bit of funding, the ultimate goal is to make the corner "a more usable, more active place," in line with efforts to improve Germantown’s overall pedestrian infrastructure.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Matt Wysong, City Planning Commission

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