Much of tonight’s “sketch plan” presentation was dominated by the usual talk of “massing,” parking and density. The sketch plan process is brand new, part of the C-R (Commercial-Residential) Zone process; this is the third sketch plan presentation, after the Eisinger-Fitzgerald-Nicholson Lane and Mid-Pike Plaza presentations last month. The process requires the project to be publicly discussed before the plans move to the Planning Board for review.
JBG already has one-third of its “North Bethesda Market” project underway on Rockville Pike; this second phase was memorably named . . . North Bethesda Market 2. The JBG proposal will add another residential tower on Rockville Pike, as well as more commercial and retail space closer to Nicholson Lane. Most people know the space as the Chili’s building.
But I liked something else and asked about it. JBG has planned a new road to break up the big “superblock” and increase pedestrian mobility. But it isn’t just another road with a couple of lanes and maybe some parking. The key to this road is that it bisects an “urban plaza.”
This is the Ian Lockwood model of traffic calming. JBG said so, and they’ve hired Lockwood in the past. “We know how to do this right,” they declared. At his recent Speakers’ Series event, Montgomery County Planning Director Rollin Stanley talked about just this kind of space in Paris and elsewhere.
The idea is very European, and it’s been done successfully in Florida and elsewhere. Don’t just have a road, have a public space with interactions. Something to protect pedestrians. But communicate with drivers so they understand this is not a racetrack, but a special place. This is the most modern kind of traffic calming, the type that improves the neighborhood at the same time it provides mobility and pedestrian safety.
And now we’ll get one in White Flint.