Wheaton is a suburb in Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside the beltway. Its downtown has the worst of everything -- it is densely built up with masses of ugly concrete, but even though there is a Metro station one can't walk anywhere and there is no life on the streets. It has neither suburban pleasantness nor urban bustle. Under the O'Malley administration Maryland has a long-range plan to turn places like Wheaton and Rockville into livable, high-density urban areas, supporting private development with tax breaks and subsidies. WMATA, which operates the Metro and owns a lot of land around the stations, has a similar program to partner with private developers and promote mixed-use construction around its stations. Now the second major renewal project has been announced for the area around the Wheaton Metro.
The existence of ghastly concrete jungles and vast surface parking lots in the midst of pleasant suburbs is a crime of poor planning and stupid development. In America there are millions of people looking for a more urban living experience, where they walk to clubs and restaurants, and high-density suburban spots like Wheaton should be redesigned to accommodate them.