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North Brentwood nonprofit shows good ideas can grow at empty sites



Just because a business site is vacant doesn’t mean it isn’t useful, as a North Brentwood nonprofit is showing.

An abandoned auto lot in Brentwood is scheduled for development within the next two years, but rather than let the property sit empty for that time, a “pop-up” farmers market and bazaar is planned to open later this spring and remain open weekends until November. The site will allow booths for farmers, crafters, a garden, public art pieces and possibly musical entertainment and food trucks, according to Carole Bernard, executive director of Gateway Community Development Corp.

Such a plan is much better than simply leaving the site unoccupied until development gets underway — and it demonstrates how a little creativity can bring progress to a community.

The market is being funded through a $20,000 grant, and although the property is owned by Prince George’s County, the plan could help give local officials an idea of whether the concept would work as a long-term plan elsewhere in the town.

It’s a model that could be duplicated in other areas where temporary commercial vacancies could be transformed for community gatherings or pilot programs. Trying out new ideas, especially when it comes at little expense to the community and provides services for residents, could result in business ventures for long vacant properties, as well.

It’s not uncommon for properties to sit vacant for a period of time awaiting some direction, but it is common for those sites to become potential targets for vandalism or other crimes.

Kudos to Gateway, county and town officials for trying a new approach to an old challenge, and improving residents’ quality of life in the process.