Live blogging from the March 19, 2009 meeting of the Montgomery County Planning Board. The Planning Board conducts much of its work on the White Flint Sector Plan in “worksessions” on particular topics. Today’s topic is the continuation of presentations by property owners and developers on the projects they would prepare in the new White Flint.
Derrick Berlage for Nicholson Court. A large group of owners of small properties on Nicholson Court, south of Nicholson Lane, and northeast of White Flint Mall. They want the MARC station. Significant “green buffer” to the southeast, bordering the neighborhood of White Flint Park. Residents of Randolph Hills neighborhood want a pedestrian connection to the rest of White Flint; more than 1,000 homes in their neighborhood. Want to be like Rockville Town Center. We wnat the MARC station and we will fight for it; Montouri property doesn’t want it and they will fight having it there. If people are going to transfer to Metro, they’ll do it in Rockville. These are people who will come to White Flint as a destination. If there is a MARC station here, we want more FAR. We need 2.5 FAR (density) to encourage “quality” development. Make commercial rights transferable. (Alfandre: would you be willing to commit to plans to get that flexibility?) (Hanson: here access from east to the MARC site; Montouri no access unless Old Georgetown Rd is extended. How do we make a community out of this, instead of three separate developments.)
Combined Properties: we don’t have updated and specific plans for the properties. Need is for plan to be flexible. I don’t know what demand will be in the next five years. Want a 2.5 FAR. Take Nebel along our property line to go around the sector grid. We don’t want streets through our property. (Alfandre: we’re going to have a street network.) We understand, but not through our property. (Alfandre: when that building comes down, possible we’ll show in the master plan a street network there.) School: don’t put it on our property. Not the ideal place for kids to walk to school. Don’t put affordable housing requirements on us either. And we don’t think we can meet the energy or sustainability requirements either. We can do no net loss of pervious cover, but 20% pervious is tough for us. Lower density properties won’t be able to do structure parking. We want quicker staging.
Cryor: Wash Bus Journal article on retail. Always talking about housing, workforce and retail. We know that much of retail is taken up with banks. They don’t want those big buildings. What kind of retail are we actually looking at? Internet and lifestyle. Are we being realistic about retail being such a big part of it, given what is happening today? We talk about restaurants and dry cleaners, but what is next to those?
Combined: changes through the years. Big box today is contracting. Even 20,000 sq ft is declining. Guy who developed big box concept, is now creating “micro-retail.” But look at streets we like and love, all have evolved and continue to evolve. Constant state of flux. So we need flexibility. Two kinds of street activation: individual storefronts within a block of primary shopping area, another with a lot of dead storefronts they were required to put in. How to revise that? Where’s it going? Don’t know.
Cryor: homeowners are worried about flexibility. Is it changing? What’s the magic spot? Not a 20-story building. That’s the hardest part. What does that say to that neighborhood that’s four streets away. Alfandre: need building types that are able to be changed. How to do that for the future. Flexibility for the future. Separation of uses is the conundrum. Want to create at lest some of the neighborhoods here in WF. How can we begin to change codes to allow more flexible separation of uses? Permit new uses that can be tranformed to another use. And in the process of rethinking our parking.
Robbie Breuer for White Flint Mall. We’ve met with communities nearby. Streets need to be neighborhood streets, not commuter streets. Agree with much of the Public Hearing Draft. David Kitchens with Cooper-Carey architects, reviews concept plan. Elements defining the Sector include Strathmore and Grosvenor Metro, and the WF Metro. Another defining element is the 50-foot tunnel easement along Rockville Pike. Culture, Commerce and Conference: three important concepts that make this district viable. Integrated road grid network proposed. Trying to extend the neighborhood toward the retail core. Proposing neighborhood streets. Includes bike path along edge road. No longer have a mall ring road. Outdoor festival area paralleling Rockville Pike, with the ability to close the road for festivals. We want to renovate the mall and then turn it inside out. Predominant use will be residential. Residential facing the street activates as much as retail on the street. High density along the Pike with “eddies,” promotes street wall along Pike, but also air along the streets. Give the height, but give it back between buildings. Steps down towards neighborhoods. Buffer area at the south end; did not put cut-through roads connecting to neighborhoods, at the request of the neighborhoods. Smaller retail components in the middle, replacing the mall. Puts five levels of parking underground; up to 10,000 spaces, depending on studies. Four stories by the neighborhoods, rising toward the mall core, with 15-story residential towers to the north side. 20 and 25 story buildings by Rockville Pike. Festival area between Pike and new extended front of mall at three stories. Wants more density, transferrable throughout so heavier development is along the Pike. Current proposal is 2.25, but wants 2.8 avg across the property. Also wants taller heights even to accommodate the density proposed. No school. Older schools developed in the 1930’s doesn’t mean that need that much space for schools now. Concern of neighbors about the use of White Flint Park. Can’t do tree cover requirement. Wants school at Rockinghorse or Tilden Middle School. Collaborative a great idea; only time in Breuer’s career that so many arch competitors have come together to make a great place.