Archives October 2013

What Bike Infrastructure Looks Like

Arlington, Virginia, has been a regional leader in smart growth.  With high-density, mixed-use development along transit lines, they are an example worth monitoring as we implement the White Flint Sector Plan.  Because they are out of space to build new roads, and their transit capacity is slowing in growth, Arlington needed to find other ways to move people.  And, that’s really their focus — moving people, not just moving cars.

Bike infrastructure is coming to White Flint and this documentary, produced by BikeArlington, offers some great visuals of what it might look like:

Introducing the White Flint timeline

The White Flint Sector Plan set out a vision for turning the strip malls and parking lots along Rockville Pike into a new downtown, but it could take decades to execute. What we have today are pieces of a city floating in a suburban sea: a few towers, a handful of blocks that are actually nice to walk on, an occasional bike lane.

Pike Central Farm Market.

If you look hard enough, you can see glimpses of what White Flint will become: the quarter of White Flint residents who take transit to work; people filling the parking lot at Pike + Rose for the weekly Pike Central Farm Market; bikes filling the racks outside the Whole Foods at North Bethesda Market.

But what happens next? How will White Flint make the transition from suburban strip to urban boulevard? This is the first post in a series attempting to put together a timeline for the transformation of White Flint. We’ll look at both public and private projects, talk to the people who are making them happen, and tell you what to expect first.

First: A new street grid in White Flint will give people more ways to walk, bike and even drive around while relieve congestion on Rockville Pike. While some streets could open as early as 2015, others are mired in controversy.

White Flint Elementary School Site Up for Discussion

As the plans for a redeveloped White Flint Mall make their way through the planning process, the issue of reserving space for a future elementary school has returned.  The White Flint Sector Plan calls for 3.6 acres just south of White Flint Mall to be held for this purpose.  Presently, the site is a surface parking lot.

The Montgomery County School Board is asking the Planning Board to reconsider a slightly smaller plot of land on the north side of the Mall.  There, 2.5 acres abut the 8.5 acre White Flint Neighborhood Park.  MCPS planning officials think this site is preferable as it will give students access to the park’s open space.  County planners express concern about the uneven terrain and large number of trees at the northern site.  In any event, it’s not expected that the need for school construction will arise for several years – the plan is to reserve the property for 20 years.  But, as the Mall’s plans march forward, it’s important to have this piece resolved.

At this stage, the School Board is revising a letter that it will transmit to the Planning Board requesting the issue be reopened.  Read more from the Gazette here.

Updates from the Implementation Advisory Committee, Oct. 21 2013

The Implementation Advisory Committee met again this Monday to discuss updates on what’s happening in the area. About half of the meeting was focused on an amendment to the Pike and Rose phase I plan – we’ll have more on that soon. For now, here are general updates from the meeting:

Nkosi Yearwood from the Planning Department updated the group on the Marinelli bike lanes.  Some of these improvements come from the recommendations from MoBike.

Chad Salganik, a resident member of the IAC, sent a letter in favor of the abandonment of Executive Boulevard, which is a crucial part of the western workaround. Dee Metz, White Flint Coordinator from the County Executive’s Office, explained that the next step in the process is to get technical comments from the Planning department as it relates to Gables Residential’s project. She added that the new Executive Boulevard is already in the county’s Capital Improvements Program (CIP) process, but assured that abandonment won’t take place until the new road is open to traffic.

Rachel Newhouse from the Parks department updated the group about the community meeting regarding Wall Park held last month.  One member of the IAC raised a concern that programming for the civic green, a different park in the sector plan, was being left behind with all of the current focus on Wall Park. Another topic of concern was having an easy way for people to get back and forth between the two parks, especially when different events are happening in both spaces. Rachel explained that Parks has not forgotten about the civic green, but the site of the future civic green is currently on privately owned land, and negotiations with that property owner have been ongoing. She indicated that the Parks department  will need to think about ways the two parks will be different; another meeting to discuss this topic may be scheduled in the future.

Dee Metz also updated the group, and explained that she has been spending much of her time on budget issues. While the county has agreed to forward fund some of the infrastructure improvements in the area, the improvements needed are going to cost more than what was expected. Needing to buy more property throughout the area that was originally programmed for land swaps and other deals will be an another additional expense. She said that we won’t know the County Executive’s budget until the end of the year.

Stay tuned for updates on Pike and Rose, coming next week!

Want to Understand White Flint? Look at New York

Here at Friends of White Flint, we talk about a lot of concepts in what seems like a bubble:  Complete Streets!  Bus and Bike Lanes!  Urbanizing our Space!  Pedestrian Friendly!  But it might be hard to envision what those things would look like here and how they would benefit residents and businesses.

Our world is shifting – today is the first time in history that more people live in cities than don’t.  New York City is meeting that demand head-on and they’re implementing the concepts we’re talking about for White Flint.  Over the last few years, NYC has repurposed 26 acres of active car lanes into things like pedestrian plazas.  They have installed 30 miles of protected bikes lanes – and they have seen biking rates soar without increase in injury – and 40,000 people are using bikeshare each day.

But, don’t take my word for it.  Spend a few minutes today listening to Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation commissioner for New York City.  See how these transformations have impacted the most congested city in the world – there are many lessons here for White Flint.

The description of her TED talk:  “In this funny and thought-provoking talk, Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation commissioner of New York City, shares projects that have reshaped street life in the 5 boroughs, including pedestrian zones in Times Square, high-performance buses and a 6,000-cycle-strong bike share. Her mantra: Do bold experiments that are cheap to try out.

As commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan is responsible for the smooth running of a New York that hides in plain sight… the streets, highways, bridges, signs and lights that make up the bustling metropolis.”<\span>

 

 

Bike Share in the Suburbs? Yes!

Last month, Montgomery County was proud to welcome Capital Bikeshare across the District border and into our communities.  Encouraging bicycling is new for our area, which is not known for having streets friendly to multiple modes of transportation.  With this important first step, County residents are offered a different choice for getting around.

Although no Bikeshare station is presently located in White Flint, there is a plan to expand here as redevelopment progresses.  Several new development plans, including Pike and Rose, are poised to incorporate them into their properties.  Ensuring that, as our new roads are built out, we emphasize the needs of all travelers (and not just drivers) is going to be of key importance as we work with the state and county transportation engineers.  Our work is going to be cut out for us.

But, it’s for a good reason.  Last week, the League of American Bicyclists released their rankings of “Bicycle Friendly Communities.”  The full list includes 291 towns and cities in 48 states and ranks them in a four-tier system, from Platinum to Bronze.  Interestingly, our area is already represented.  Washington, DC, was awarded Silver and Bethesda and Rockville were each awarded Bronze.  There’s room for improvement – read more about the rankings here.

The stakes are high.  As Bill Nesper, Vice-President for Programs at the League of American Bicyclists told the Atlantic Cities, “what’s happening is that bicycling is an indicator of a high quality of life.  It helps the community compete.”  The article continues to say that “suburban leaders are seeking out a “bicycle friendly” designation because they think it makes their communities more attractive to new businesses and residents. He cites Greenville, South Carolina, as another unexpected place that earned a bronze designation this year. Amenities like good bike infrastructure can help set a suburb or small city apart from its sprawling counterparts.”  Read the full Atlantic Cities piece here.

 

Walkable neighborhoods: building community and social capital

A study from the University of New Hampshire demonstrates that walkable neighborhoods enhance one’s quality of life, specifically one’s social capital. Social capital is defined in the study as “a measure of an individual’s or group’s networks, personal connections, and community involvement, brings benefits such as reduced isolation, career connections, and neighborhood safety.”

Researchers compared different neighborhoods in New Hampshire and surveyed 700 residents, asking them the number of locations they could walk to in order to determine that neighborhood’s level of walkability. In general, more walkable communities scored higher than less walkable communities on every measure of social capital. More specifically,

“The authors found that individuals in more walkable neighborhoods tended to have higher levels of trust and community involvement, whether that was working on a community project, attending a club meeting, volunteering, or simply entertaining friends at home. Residents in the more walkable neighborhoods also reported being in good health and happy more often than those in the less walkable neighborhoods.”

You can read more about this study here.

Children living in smart growth neighborhoods get more exercise

A study from the University of California, Berkeley found that children who live in smart growth neighborhoods, which include parks/green space and encourage active travel, get 46% more moderate or vigorous physical activity than children who live in conventionally designed neighborhoods. This number translates to about 10 more minutes of physical activity each day. Lead author and professor in the School of Public Health Michael Jerrett explained in a press release that:

“Ten minutes of extra activity a day may not sound like much, but it adds up,” said Jerrett. Taking in as little as 15 calories more than you expend on a daily basis can lead to weight gain over time, he noted. A child who weighs 100 pounds might burn an extra 30 calories in those 10 extra minutes of physical activity each day. “The basic idea is that even small things count,” he said.

Check out these articles to learn more:

http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/09/11/study-kids-who-live-in-walkable-neighborhoods-get-more-exercise/

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910093406.htm

http://www.hngn.com/articles/12105/20130911/smart-growth-neighborhood-kids-more-exercise-study-finds.htm

Draft Minutes of FoWF’s Sept. 19th Board Meeting

** The following are draft minutes of the meeting held on September 19, 2013, of the Board of Directors of Friends of White Flint.  These minutes will remain in draft form until approved at the next Board meeting.  In the meantime, please email suggested edits to Info@WhiteFlint.org **

**Updated 10/16/13 to reflect italicized edits**

 

Draft Minutes of the May 23, 2013 FoWF Board of Directors Meeting

 Minutes

2013 Board of Directors Meeting

September 19, 2013, 6:30pm

Offices of Shulman Rogers, Potomac MD

The Friends of White Flint (FoWF) Board Meeting was called to order at 6:36pm at the offices of Shulman Rogers in Potomac. The agenda was prepared by Lindsay Hoffman. Present were Directors David Frieshtate, Mike Springer, Evan Goldman, Mike Smith and Greg Trimmer.  Also present were approximately forty members and guests.  Not present were Directors Suzanne Hudson, Todd Lewers, Ken Hurdle and Barnaby Zall.  A quorum was present.

 

Approval of Minutes from May 23, 2013 Board Meeting

Draft minutes of the May 23, 2013, meetings were circulated via email, posted on the blog and available in hard copy.  The motion to approve the minutes as written was made by Mike Smith, seconded by Mike Springer and unanimously approved.

Treasurer’s Report

No Treasurer’s report was available.  We can incorporate a written report into the minutes

 

Friends of White Flint Update from Lindsay

**Membership: There are over 100 declared resident members and two new civic association members. New business members include Barwood Taxi, Chesapeake Public Strategies, the Bozzuto Group, Ize’s Deli & Bagelry, and Paladar Latin Kitchen. There are about nine total property owners.

**Events: Events since the May board meeting have included a monthly presence at the Pike Central Farmers Market, attending the Implementation Advisory Committee and Downtown Advisory Committee meetings, and participating in a video about Bus Rapid Transit. A fundraiser with Paladar Latin Kitchen is underway, taking place from September 18 to October 8. So far $300 has been raised. A future fundraiser is currently being planned for the winter, and may be a Monopoly tournament or casino night. Evan Goldman offered to help start the process of getting new members with the new businesses coming in; there may be possible fundraising opportunities with them. Amy Donin noted that during her outreach with old businesses, many of them seemed more hesitant to join.

 

Property Owner Updates

**Mike Smith, LCOR: Closing in The Aurora on schedule and under budget. Initial units will be delivered in May of 2014. The Aurora has 341 units; all Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) are spoken for. LCOR is thinking about the next project. Their parcel contains 32 acres and 2.7 million square feet of density; they built a million with the Aurora. They have a couple million more square feet of old grandfathered density, which they plan to use first.

**Greg Trimmer, JBG: Did not have many updates; they are happy with the opening of Paladar.

**Eddie Meder, Gables Residential: Their sketch plan is scheduled to go before the Planning Board on October 24. Their plan includes 450 to 475 units directly north of Wall Park, including the area that is currently the surface parking lot for the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center.

**Francine Waters, Lerner: The USPS told Francine that they received 40 letters from community members to keep the post office at White Flint Mall. However, it is impossible for the post office to stay in its exact location, so it would have to move to a temporary site. Francine said more letters need to be sent to USPS real estate specialist Richard Hancock. Francine relayed the message that Lerner wants to keep the post office on site in a temporary location; after redevelopment of the mall property it would move into a permanent space. Paul Meyer pointed out that USPS doesn’t like temporary spaces (as was explained at a community meeting on July 10), however, Brian Downie pointed out that the post office in Garrett Park moved to a trailer for a year. Mike Smith has a contact at USPS and will get Francine in touch with him.

**Brian Downie, B.F. Saul: There was a full review of the sketch plan for Metro Pike Shopping Center, including the McDonald’s nearby two days ago. The entire sketch plan included 5 buildings with retail lining the street. There will be one office building and four residential buildings (all rental apartments). There are a lot of streetscape activities and B.F. Saul is doing a lot of community outreach and is willing to meet with groups. So far, there is no schedule for this redevelopment (the sketch plan will be heard before the Planning Board on December 12).

**Evan Goldman, Federal Realty: FRIT has topped out two buildings of their Pike + Rose development. The first building will deliver next spring; the second will deliver in early 2015. Retail will be opening in September or October of 2014. They are leased/have letters of intent for 74% of the retail spaces.  FRIT expects to be 100% leased when retail opens. FRIT recently released a list of six restaurants that will be part of phase one of the project. They are hoping to announce a lease with a local restaurant entrepreneur within the next two months, and recently signed a lease with a high end fitness club (Sport & Health Clubs). The site plan for phase 2 will be heard on October 10th. This plan includes another seven buildings, five of which will likely be built soon with an expected delivery in 2016. On October 26, FRIT will be at Pike Central Farmers Market to launch a “RePIKEalization” strategy. This event will be for all ages, and include wine/beer tasting.  Invitations will be sent to local communities. FRIT is focused on creating place with neighborhood-oriented events. When asked about La Madeline, Evan responded that FRIT is working with them and they understand that there is a lot of community support to keep them. FRIT is moving Chipotle to where Sereneberry was, and they are spending money to renovate that corner of their land, which will include new landscaping and a façade. That corner piece will be one of the last parcels to redevelopment because of its proximity to metro; it has the most density.

 

Issues for Discussion

**Bus Rapid Transit: David Moon from Communities for Transit (CFT) was present to introduce the organization to the group. He circulated informational materials. FoWF is a member of CFT and has signed its Rapid Transit sign-on letter.

**Capital Improvement Projects Budget Requests: Requests from FoWF include the Western Workaround and Wall Park. Lindsay, Amy and Dan Reed from FoWF were present at the CIP Budget Forum in Bethesda on July 30.

 **Western Workaround Status: There was a public hearing on September 18 on the abandonment of Executive Boulevard. Lindsay and others present were at the meeting. There was pushback from one community member who said her neighborhood didn’t receive notice and wanted a cost/benefit analysis as well as information about traffic calming. The record will remain open for two more weeks and anyone can weigh in. Dee Metz from the County Executive’s office explained that the road won’t be abandoned until a new road is open for traffic. This hearing was the County Executive’s public hearing; the issue will go before the County Council next. Greg Trimmer pointed out that the cost/benefit analysis was completed during the sector plan process. Dee said because there were people present from many different organizations that supported the abandonment as a necessary part of the sector plan, writing letters was probably not necessary, though a letter from Luxmanor would be helpful since most of the people against abandonment were from that community. Jordan Cooper from the Luxmanor Citizen’s Association explained that there will be an event on October 10 for developers in the White Flint area.

**Wall Park: There were about 40-50 people at a community meeting held by the Department of Parks on September 18. Dan and Amy from FoWF were present at the meeting (read our blog post about the meeting here). There were many concerns about parking, safety, and disruption to current pool activities.

**Department of Health and Human Services Shelter: At the previous Downtown Advisory Committee meeting, director of DHHS Uma Ahluwalia explained that the county will be consolidating two shelters, currently located in Bethesda and Rockville, into one in at 5320 Marinelli Road. Lindsay is concerned that there was no community engagement on this decision, and both she and Evan Goldman support keeping the existing shelters open in addition to adding a shelter to better meet the needs of the homeless population in the county. While the current facilities are in poor condition, they noted that the new facility is currently in an office building and would have to be renovated anyway. Amy spoke to Uma Ahluwalia earlier in the day; she said DHHS could be present at the next board meeting.

**Washington Gas: is reassessing and, possibly, scrapping plan for their tower.

**Bethesda Trolley Trail lighting: the Timberlawn HOA is still very concerned about the lack of lighting on the Trolley Trail. Parts of it are lit by different HOAs. The Timberlawn HOA is currently door knocking to gain support for this issue. Sergei Chernov, of Timberlawn Homeowners Association, explained that Montgomery County DOT (MCDOT) has requested a grant from Maryland DOT to light part of the path; ultimately a certain portion would be funded by the state, another portion by the county and another portion ($5,000 to $10,000) by the community. The grant MCDOT asked for was $120,000. There is some concern about light shining into homes, but the light can be shielded to directly light the path. Originally the community was looking at shorter lights but county code requires taller lights. The community is also concerned about the trail itself; some parts are in bad shape which presents a serious safety issue. Some noted that the Capital Crescent Trail has more ambient urban light, which may happen with the Trolley Trail as White Flint develops. Evan Goldman suggested that the NIH bikers club should send a letter. Cindy Gibson from Councilmember Roger Berliner’s suggested they reach out to him as well.

**FoWF Website: Paul Meyer mentioned that the FoWF website should have a “Key Links” page, with information on major developments. Chad Salganik, technology manager for FoWF, is working on this page with Lindsay. It should be online in early November. Amy added a calendar to the website earlier in the week.

 

Items from the floor

** Ed Reich from Georgetown Village Condominium mentioned a concern about being able to get out of his development. There is a continuous stream of traffic from Old Georgetown Road to Nicholson Lane, including a free right turn lane so there is constant traffic in front of his development. However, it is difficult to make a left turn. He is worried that additional development will aggravate this traffic, and requested that the free right be governed by a light. This concern led to a broader discussion of how the light at Nicholson and Executive has been raised in the past; it doesn’t stay green long enough for people to cross the street, particularly for seniors, parents with children, etc. Ed requested an evaluation; Dee said she will take this issue to MCDOT and loop back with Ed, Cindy Gibson, and FoWF. Paul Meyer who is on the safety subcommittee of the Downtown Advisory Committee will bring this issue to that forum. Lindsay and Dan pointed out that bike and pedestrian areas are part of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. Dee said the state created this concept, though it hasn’t been implemented yet. Evan Goldman added that it is good to be specific about concerns as more bicyclists and pedestrians come to the area. David Walters wants to do a survey about sidewalks; not all sidewalks are part of the plan. Lindsay said she would look into it; the original planning group walked around the area to see what streets needed. Dee said the sidewalks along Wisconsin are state roads, which need repairs; they are looking at repairing and not replacing these sidewalks. The Downtown Advisory Committee will look into these issues further.

**Montrose East: Cindy Gibson explained that this is in the capital budget and will be looked at in the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) committee at the County Council. Dee added that a lot more will be clear at the end of the year.

 

At 8:15pm the quorum was lost. Voting on the following items will take place online.

 

Discussion of proposal by CityBlock Solutions to continue providing professional services

CityBlock Solutions currently provides services for all FoWF activities. FoWF’s contract with CityBlock is due to be renewed.  Lindsay offered a presentation incorporating the proposal.  Because no quorum was present the final discussion and vote will occur over email.

Election of new members to Board of Directors

At the May board meeting, the Board of Directors voted to add 1 board member to each of the three categories of membership (resident, business, and property owner/developer), bringing the total number of the Board of Directors to 12. FoWF received one application for each category: Chad Salganik for residents, Howard Feldman for businesses, and Francine Waters for property owners/developers. There were no other nominations from the floor. Additionally, there was a proposal from Mike Springer of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to have Jim Schaeffer, director of space planning and consolidation for the NRC, to take over his board position. Mike Springer is leaving the NRC before his term is over.   Because no quorum existed, the final discussion and vote will occur over email.

Greg Trimmer motioned and Mike Smith seconded to adjourn the meeting; adjournment was unanimously approved at 8:29pm.