Archives January 2013

A Very Happy Hour!

Nearly one-hundred people came out to talk about the future of White Flint at a happy hour Tuesday evening co-hosted by the Friends of White Flint and the Coalition for Smarter Growth at Seasons 52 on Rockville Pike.

Lindsay Hoffman, from Friends of White Flint, and Kelly Blynn, from Coalition for Smarter Growth, greet the crowd.

Lindsay Hoffman, from Friends of White Flint, and Kelly Blynn, from Coalition for Smarter Growth, greet the crowd.

The turnout exceeded our expectations.

The turnout exceeded our expectations!

County Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Roger Berliner offered a few words about the potential of White Flint as envisioned in the White Flint Sector Plan, which the council passed in 2010. “We are on the verge of a golden age in Montgomery County and it’s projects like this that are bringing that life,” Riemer was quoted as saying by Bethesda Now.

Councilmember Roger Berliner (D - District 1)

Councilmember Roger Berliner (D – District 1)

Councilmember Hans Riemer (D - At Large)

Councilmember Hans Riemer (D – At Large)

Studies show that changing demographics combined with a renewed interest in urban living have resulted in a greater demand for compact, walkable neighborhoods like what’s envisioned in the sector plan. North Bethesda Market, where Seasons 52 is located, shows where White Flint will go in the future, with high-rise apartments set over shops and restaurants around a central plaza.

Councilmember Berliner said that projects like it are integral to attracting young, educated residents to the county. “Montgomery County’s future in my judgement does in large part depend on being able to attract this kind of crowd, a young, energetic crowd,” he said.

White Flint Implementation Coordinator Dee Metz answers questions

White Flint Implementation Coordinator Dee Metz answers questions

The Friends of White Flint and the Coalition for Smarter Growth both plan to hold more happy hours and other events in the area. Stay tuned for announcements of future events!

Do You Know Our WalkScore?

On WalkScore.com, visitors are encouraged to live where they can get around in a healthy way – by walking!  There are broad benefits to getting out of your car, including lower weight and healthier bodies, cleaner air from reduced emissions and less money spent on gas and maintenance.

In an effort to guide home-seekers toward more compact and walkable neighborhoods, WalkScore developed an algorithm to calculate walkability based on the distances to various amenities. Cities, towns and neighborhoods are assigned a “score” ranging from 0 (car-dependent/nearly all errands require a car) to 100 (walker’s paradise/daily errands do not require a car).  In a ranking of large cities, Washington ranks seventh in the nation on walkability, with a score of 73.2.  Boston and San Francisco top the list.  By comparison, Rockville has a WalkScore of 59 and Bethesda has a WalkScore of 50, both rated as Somewhat Walkable.   White Flint doesn’t have its own listing (yet), but I was surprised to see North Bethesda with a hearty score of 58 – also Somewhat Walkable.

How do you think White Flint could get you out of your car?  What would make you more likely to walk?  Come tell us tomorrow, Tuesday January 29th, at our first Happy Hour!  We’ll be at Seasons 52 at 5:30pm.

The County is Listening… (And So Are We)

Montgomery County Government wants to hear your ideas!  To collect them, the County has launched engageMontgomery, where you (yes, you) can submit suggestions and ideas for improving our community.  Read the input of others, add comments of your own, upload photos to make your point and vote on ideas you like best.  Everyone ages 14 and up can create an account and offer their input on topics like School Safety.  There’s even a rewards store to encourage activity on the site.

Of particular interest to the New Urbanists in the crowd – Pedestrian Safety.  Log on to share your thoughts on this important topic.

And, it’s not only County Government who is soliciting your input.  Friends of White Flint is listening, too!  Join us at Happy Hour on Tuesday, January 29th at Seasons 52 in White Flint.  Starting at 5:30pm, we want to hear your ideas for a reimagined Montgomery County!

 

If America is a Walking Disaster, Let’s Make White Flint a Walking Success

Walking is the most primitive form of transportation.  Perhaps that’s why those who choose to do it are often assigned the lowest priority by community planners. But, when a car is required to get around, where does that leave folks who can’t afford or choose not to use one?

The Atlantic Cities has recently published an excellent piece, “America is a Walking Disaster,” which delves into the problems with car-centric thinking.  Please give it a read by following the link below and then come to our first Friends of White Flint Happy Hour to share your thoughts on how we can do better here.

The Atlantic Cities: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2013/01/america-walking-disaster/4409/

White Flint’s future is more than “hip”

White Flint today. Photo by the author.

Next week, the Coalition for Smarter Growth and the Friends of White Flint are hosting a happy hour on how to “make the suburbs hip.” While that might conjure images of trying to jury-rig H Street on Rockville Pike, the transformation of White Flint goes much further than that. The redevelopment of strip malls and parking lots into real urban places has real social, economic and environmental benefits.

In a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine, Patrick Doherty argues that the United States must reorient itself and its built environment to meet the challenges of the 21st century and remain prosperous. This starts in places like White Flint.

Today’s White Flint was built around the social, economic and environmental conditions of the 20th century, among them a homogeneous society, cheap land and cheap energy. Tomorrow’s White Flint will need to accommodate very different circumstances: an increasingly diverse population, land constraints, climate change, and an eventual shift away from fossil fuels.

If done well, the future White Flint will encourage a greater sense of community through a strong public realm where people can gather, hang out and even protest. It will help meet the demand for housing, particularly the desire for smaller living spaces and urban amenities, while providing a base of customers and employees for local businesses. And it will allow us to accommodate a growing population while using less energy, fewer materials, and conserving precious agricultural and undisturbed land.

The challenges are great, but the potential is enormous. I look forward to seeing White Flint become not only a “hip” place to live, but an example for how the rest of the nation can improve their communities and prepare for the future.

I hope you’ll come out to our happy hour next Tuesday, January 29 at 5:30pm at Seasons 52, located at 11414 Rockville Pike, a short walk from the White Flint Metro station. Montgomery County Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Roger Berliner will be on hand to talk about the transformation of White Flint and it means for our community. You can click here to RSVP.

Join FoWF at Happy Hour on January 29th!

White Flint HH logo

 What comes to mind when you think about making the suburbs “hip?”   Whether it’s shifting land use patterns, investing in transit or other ideas you’ve conjured yourself for a reimagined Montgomery County in the 21st Century – we want to hear them!  Over a drink!

 Here are the details:

Tuesday, January 29th at 5:30pm

Seasons 52 in White Flint, 11414 Rockville Pike.  Cash Bar.

Featuring Special Guests:  Montgomery County Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Roger Berliner.

RSVPs are not required, but are welcome, at info@whiteflint.org.

 

We are co-organizing this event with our allies at the Coalition for Smarter Growth.  Learn more about them at www.smartergrowth.net!

Transportation Funding is a Hot Button Issue

Transportation funding is the hot button issue engaging lawmakers of late.  They’ve had a summit in Annapolis and are considering various ways to raise revenue but no solutions have yet been agreed upon.  It looks like lots of options are on the table – read more at Bethesda Now: http://www.bethesdanow.com/2013/01/17/county-council-searches-for-transportation-funding-options/.

Bike Maryland’s 16th Annual Bicycle Symposium – February 27, 2013

Bike lanes and bike-share are at the heart of White Flint.  In fact, one of the enumerated aims of the Sector Plan is to “improve the pedestrian and bicycling environment.”  But, there’s a lot of room to grow on both of those points.  The State and County are responsible for road improvements around White Flint that will incorporate bike and shared-use lanes but most are yet to be funded.  The County is also in the process of choosing which bike-share vendor will serve the area.  Two proposed developments, Archstone and Pike & Rose, have already dedicated bike-share sites in their plans.

Bike Maryland’s mission is to “promote bicycling, increase safety, improve conditions, and provide a voice for bicyclists in Maryland.”  Their 16th Annual Bicycle Symposium will be held on February 27, 2013 from 8:30am to 4:30pm at the Miller Senate Building in the President’s Conference Center, 11 Bladen Street in Annapolis.

The symposium will offer attendees: “the opportunity to hear from and talk to 15+ experts presenting on topics ranging from Bike Maryland’s Legislative Agenda, Bike-share’s, Bike-Minded Programs, the new Maryland Bikeways Program, and much more! This is also a chance for non-profit, government, and community leaders to learn about key bicycle issues and ways to encourage bike friendly practices and accessibility at schools, in neighborhoods, and in the workplace.  The agenda to be announced in late January.  The symposium draws over 300 experts, decision-makers, and enthusiasts, from the Mid-Atlantic region, who share an interest in alternative transportation options, innovative infrastructure, and safe practices on roadways and trails.  This event is free and open to the public.”

Learn more and RSVP on their website: http://onelesscar.org/page.php?id=533

East Village promises “heterogeneity, surprise” for White Flint

Bird's-eye view of East Village at North Bethesda Gateway. Rockville Pike is at the bottom.

Bird’s-eye view of East Village at North Bethesda Gateway. Rockville Pike is at the bottom. Images from Foulger-Pratt.

UPDATE: We’ve added images courtesy of Foulger-Pratt of the current proposal for East Village and the former design for comparison.

The White Flint Sector Plan envisions Rockville Pike as a grand boulevard with tall buildings. But what about the side streets? Is there an opportunity to create a more intimate experience there?

Dick Knapp, senior vice president at Foulger-Pratt, has proposed doing just that at East Village at North Bethesda Gateway, a project he’s working on with fellow developer ProMark at the corner of Nicholson Lane and Huff Court, next to White Flint Mall.

“In a vital city, there’s heterogeneity and surprise,” said Knapp during a public presentation last Thursday night in the 1960’s-era office building that would give way to East Village, which would contain 640 apartments in two six-story buildings and 36,000 square feet of ground-floor shops along a narrow, private street.

He called Rockville Pike a future “Gold Coast,” where grand buildings would ask accordingly high rents and draw high-end stores. At East Village, Foulger-Pratt and Promark hope to draw young professionals seeking an urban experience with “smaller, cheaper” living spaces and local, “authentic” retailers. Knapp described the project as “our village concept, human scale closer to the street.”

Huff Court, which today is lined by parking lots, would become a “vibrant retail street,” says architect George Dove of WDG Architecture, which is also one of three design firms working on Pike + Rose. One-fourth of the site will be set aside as open space, including a small plaza.

Knapp suggested future retail tenants could include casual dining places like Busboys and Poets, coffee shops and yoga studios. “We’re trying to create a ‘third space,'” he said, using sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s term for venues that were neither home nor work, but a place where people could gather and build community.

East Village would include a private street parallel to Nicholson Lane that would eventually run between Rockville Pike and a future MARC station at the end of Nicholson Court. Along the new street, ground-floor apartments would have “real doors” with stairs and stoops, providing visual interest.

County planners have designated the street for pedestrians only, but the developers say it would be bad for retail. They would prefer to build a street that accommodates cars as well, although at very low speeds. On-street parking would allow some visitors to even pull over and stop.

“There will be more feet in the street than tires in the street,” says Knapp. “Without the cars, the space just becomes dead.”

Original site plan for North Bethesda Gateway. The East Village site is on the right.

Original site plan for North Bethesda Gateway. The East Village site is on the right.

New site plan for East Village, showing shorter apartment buildings.

New site plan for East Village, showing shorter apartment buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

East Village is half of a larger scheme for North Bethesda Gateway, which Promark created in partnership with the owners of the Fitzgerald auto dealership and a retail building across Huff Court. A sketch plan for it approved two years ago proposed several 12-to-20 story buildings containing a mix of apartments, offices and retail space.

Since then, the three landowners have decided to work independently. Foulger-Pratt and Promark revised the concept for their half, taking out the offices and slightly reducing the amount of apartments and retail. This allowed them to swap out taller buildings, which would have to be built out of more expensive concrete, for shorter, more affordable wood-framed buildings.

Not having offices also means the project will generate 45% fewer car trips during rush hour, allowing them to provide less parking, though there will still be an underground garage.

“We’ve reduced the congestion, reduced the density, and provided more affordable housing,” notes Dove. “There’s been a change in the younger generation. We want to encourage people to walk to the Metro.”

While East Village will include about 80 moderately priced dwelling units, even market-rate apartments could rent for less than others in the White Flint area. Rents are estimated to range from $1500 for a 475-square foot studio to $1600 for a 650-square-foot one-bedroom, and $2175 for a 900-square-foot two-bedroom. By comparison, a comparably-sized studio rents for $1635 a month at North Bethesda Market, which opened in 2011.

The apartments will be “compact but very well-finished,” Knapp says, showing images of units with hardwood floors and granite countertops.

Foulger-Pratt and ProMark will file an amended sketch plan at the Planning Department later this month; if it’s approved, it’ll go through the site plan process. Knapp anticipates that they’ll break ground by the end of 2014 and the first building will open by the end of 2015.