Update 4:25 p.m. — Lynne Coan, communications and marketing manager for the Town of Vienna, said the Vienna Town Council removed pedestrian bridges and digital information board from the strategic plan and changed “get rid of planters” to “enhance streetscapes to encourage walkability”
As the Vienna Town Council begins to craft a new strategic plan, one of the largest sections of the document focuses on how to revitalize the town’s economy.
A full draft of the plan can be found in the agenda for the Jan. 15 Town Council work session. The strategic plan’s stated aim is for Vienna to serve as a “location of choice for unique, independent businesses that add to the town’s charm, attract visitors as well as residents and collectively serve to establish the town as a destination.”
So far, that’s been a challenge for Vienna. While there are new businesses, many of the largest additions are retail chains, and the western end of Maple Avenue suffers from rampant vacancies and “blight” like the burned husk of Marco Polo.
The strategic plan points to plans to update the town’s zoning code as one of the largest projects in the next year related to new economic development. The strategic plan says the aim is to start work on addressing the zoning code in spring 2019. The process is anticipated to take 18 months.
Part of the plan to make Vienna a destination also involves making it more walkable. The plan includes a series of recommendations on how to make Vienna more pedestrian friendly:
- Make wider sidewalks a part of new Maple Avenue Commercial developments
- Get rid of planters to allow more walking area
- Enhance traffic-light timing to improve crossing Maple Avenue
- Add more pedestrian-controlled signals on Maple Avenue
- Start a local bus shuttle service to walkable destinations in Vienna
To help diversify the economy and bring in non-chain businesses, the plan recommends hiring an economic development consultant or deputy town manager to focus specifically on economic development. One of the recommendations would also loosen some of the sign ordinance restrictions, allowing businesses to get waivers allowing signs and balloons for events on Church Street, as well as additional way-finding signage.
In an effort to reduce the rampant vacancies, the plan recommends providing a link on the website to current vacant properties and opening up those spaces for pop-up arts or other short-term uses.
The plan also says that the current Town Green could be utilized more effectively as a social hub for Vienna, with recommendations for the square including bringing events with food trucks into the area.
Additional proposals in the strategic plan include:
- Implement campaigns such as restaurant week
- Celebrate small business week for a whole week, starting on the date of the Church Street Stroll; ask businesses to come up with deals to offer that whole week
- Create a mobile app with an interactive business map
- Create an app and printout for a Vienna walking tour focusing on local history and points of interest
- Publicize where to park off-hours
- Host more events that draw people to the commercial area
- Create a Vienna dining and restaurant directory
- Create a Chocolate Escape event; ask all businesses to feature a low-cost chocolate items as part of event
- Host a Casino Night; have live music frequently
- Encourage more dining options
- Encourage local groups to adopt a spot and keep it clean
- Create training centers
- Feature a business of the week
- Additional free events: dances, dance lessons, senior events.
Lynne Coan, communications and marketing manager for the Town of Vienna, said the strategic plan is still a work in progress with the Town Council scheduled to consider a draft of the plan in the spring.