This Saturday, October 25, 2014, stakeholders from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will come together to map out a vision for community and economic development along the MTA’s proposed new light rail, The Purple Line. Since the MTA’s announcement in 2011, opinions on the purple line—and the fate of the communities along it—have run a spectrum of emotion, from apprehension to excitement. Assuring that the train running through 16 miles of suburban Maryland brings with it the promise of each community’s desires is a daunting task, but also a rare opportunity. It requires a collective effort of the players involved. Enter the Purple Line Community Compact.
Compacts are not just a way of mitigating the angst and conflict that can arise from changes in urban fabric, they provide a common creed for communities and a road map for major players involved in development. Seattle, Denver, Portland and Atlanta have all reaped the benefits of successful corridor planning and community engagement. While a non-binding agreement, a compact provides a common vision, and a commitment by major players to build and follow a framework for future development. Compacts often include commitments to preserve housing choices, support small businesses during and after construction, connect workers with jobs, and efforts to create vibrant, sustainable, and equitable communities. Community Compacts are typically signed by elected and appointed government officials; leaders of community, business, and labor organizations; and representatives of key public and private institutions.
Leading the Purple Line compact creation process is The Purple Line Corridor Coalition, an alliance of government and community leaders administered by the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG). Building on stakeholder input and goals identified at the coalition’s March 2014 kick off workshop, “Beyond the Tracks,” the PLCC will lead stakeholders through two fall brainstorming workshops. The first, on October 25th, and a second on November 17th will work to identify shared principles and supporting strategies behind four key objectives, or “buckets”:
- Ensuring Housing Choices for All
- Supporting & Growing Local Businesses
- Building a Thriving Labor Market
- Celebrating Neighborhood Identities
The PLCC expects to receive feedback from more than 100 leaders with significant interest in the health and vitality of the Purple Line corridor, including local and state government, community organizations, business associations, design and development firms, and other organizations. Stakeholders will also have the opportunity to post their thoughts, ideas and feedback online through the PLCC website between workshops.
The strategy behind a community compact process is that, once the conversation begins, common goals will come into focus, providing a window to formulate strategies to support and mobilize actions towards each goal. When Baltimore stakeholders were developing the compact for the Red Line, stakeholders included several strategies to mitigate community impact during the construction phase, including employing “rapid response” community liaisons, creating an aggressive marketing campaign for affected small businesses and enlisting regular, multi-lingual communication mechanisms throughout the process.
Community Compacts are a first step in realizing sustainable, economic development within a new transit corridor. Its common community vision can be a catalyst for action. Yet, a compact is just the beginning. Once the ink has dried, the real work of planning the corridor—which includes fundraising, initiating programs and implementing policy—begins in earnest. The goal, which the PLCC hopes will be realized through the compact process, is to make those next steps clear and hold purpose.
Learn more about what a Community Compact could realize for the Purple Line Corridor by visiting the PLCC’s website, which also includes compacts developed by Baltimore and Seattle, projection maps from the NCSG and the report from March’s workshop, “Beyond the Tracks.” Community organizations interested in participating can learn more here.