Supervisors OK new economic development, tourism strategic plan
PRINCE GEORGE — Musical artists from Petula Clark to Neil Young for years have sung the praises of “Downtown,” and now Prince George County leaders are joining the chorus.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to adopt a new Economic Development and Tourism Strategic Plan that is much more than a five-year update of the plan adopted in 2013. Included in the new document are ambitious proposals to expand county infrastructure, intensify business recruiting efforts, lure more sports tourism events and visitors — and create something that, according to the new plan, “is clearly missing from the county ... a distinguishable downtown.”
The idea, according to the plan document, is to create a Downtown Prince George that “will simultaneously provide higher-density housing and commercial development” with “the walkable, dense and social characteristics found in downtowns. ... Downtown Prince George County will provide the community a sense of place, a center for gathering and celebrating, and an opportunity to design and construct a forward-thinking small-town Main Street experience.”
The new five-year plan doesn’t specify a location for this community nexus, but it recommends that the county “undertake a new downtown site identification process” as part of the upcoming process of updating the county’s Comprehensive Plan. However, it does specify that the proposed downtown be located in the Planning Area, already targeted for intensive development, to take advantage of nearby high-density populations and transportation access, “and to avoid the preservation sensitivities found in the Rural Conservation Area.”
The new development and tourism plan includes a number of wide-ranging goals, as well as detailed recommendations for achieving those goals. In addition to the creation of Downtown Prince George, they include:
• Investing in updated water, sewer and transportation infrastructure. In particular, the plan urges the county to go forward with implementation of its existing 30-year Water and Wastewater Master Plan “with an immediate focus on the SouthPoint Business Park and other areas of the Prince George Planning Area most suitable for higher-density housing and industrial, office or commercial economic development.”
• Modernizing land use and zoning policies “to accommodate limited higher-density development” in the Planning Area, and taking a look at the Planning Area and Rural Conservation Area boundaries to determine whether adjustments are needed.
• Increasing efforts to join with “regional economic development partners to support inclusive high-tech entrepreneurism, business attraction, and business retention and expansion.” Specific recommendations including identifying and attending more industry conferences, increasing networking with site-selection specialists, and assessing and improving the tools used to market the county to business prospects.
• Aligning the efforts of educators and the business community to “train the workforce of today and tomorrow” and help “support the upward economic mobility of all residents and ... the county’s ability to create, expand and attract businesses.”
• Making the county “a leading tourist destination,” with an emphasis on increasing Prince George’s recent successes in sports tourism. Detailed recommendations include beefing up efforts to attract tournaments to the county, partnering with businesses to create additional venues and accommodations, and promoting the county’s historical, natural and recreational attractions.
Michael Buettner may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-722-5155.