Updates from the Downtown Advisory Committee, 10/8/2013

Updates from the Downtown Advisory Committee, 10/8/2013

The Downtown Advisory Committee convened for their monthly meeting last Tuesday, October 8. Given the many White Flint-related events and meetings this past month, the meeting consisted mainly of updates from the various stakeholders. Here are the highlights:

**Members of the DAC are in the process of requesting a zip code for the White Flint area. Additionally, a letter was sent from the DAC requesting items related to the redevelopment of White Flint be put in the capital budget. Cliff Cohen testified in favor of the abandonment of Executive Boulevard when Montgomery County DOT held their public hearing in September. Francine Waters is looking into ways for White Flint to be officially recognized as a “sustainable community” by the state of Maryland, given the transit-oriented nature of the development.

**White Flint Planner Nkosi Yearwood updated the committee on the many projects going before the Planning Board in the coming months. He added that the sketch plan for White Flint View will go before the Board again late this year or early next year. The developers of that project want to add 10 more units. Another Foulger-Pratt property (at Marinelli and Nebel) will have their sketch plan heard late this year/early next year. There has been no movement on North Bethesda Market II. He mentioned that there are no streetscape standards specific to White Flint, which is something the DAC may want to look at in the future (there are some basic recommendations in the Urban Design Guidelines, but nothing as specific as Bethesda’s Streetscape Standards). Finally, the Planning Department will soon be delivering their semi-annual report to the Council, which may contain some news about the timing of White Flint 2 (we’ll post when the semi-annual report will be released as soon as we know!).

**Dee Metz from the County Executive’s office explained that the County Executive received many letters pushing for White Flint projects in the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budget. She added that many projects are going forward or are set to begin soon including work on utilities in terms of road design, fitting a shared use path on Executive Boulevard, restriping/resurfacing Marinelli, and the Woodglen Drive bikeway improvements. The biggest challenge is still getting the right-of-way required to make many of these projects happen, and of course, funding – revenues for the special taxing district are lower than expected, and expenses are higher.

**Peggy Schwartz, Executive Director of the North Bethesda Transportation Management District, noted that there has been a 25% increase in participation in the Walk & Ride program. There has also been a lot of outreach with businesses on their transportation plans, and increasing queries on bike share in this area.

**Ken Hartman of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center explained that the Weekender Crew is working very hard to clean up the area; they collected over 100 bags of waste during the previous weekend and are willing to do more. He also gave on update on the Post Office, further explaining that the USPS only wants to pay to move once. He added that their determination to stay in the same Kensington zip code may limit options for locations within the White Flint sector. Ken then moved to talking about the streetscape of the area; ideas were shared regarding how the DAC could approach beautification (informal spot improvements, “adopting” medians, etc.). He concluded with the thought that Taste of Bethesda had more than 40,000 people show up, and asked the group to think about promotions and marketing for the new White flint – what is the area known for? What are the area’s strengths?

Finally, Francine updated the group on the many meetings and events regarding Rapid Transit. You can read about these events right on our blog, and you can also check out the County Council’s new page on the Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan here.

While there wasn’t much discussion about the DAC subcommittees, here’s a general idea of what’s been going on:

**The Municipal Impact subcommittee will look at traffic (pedestrian and vehicular), utilities, public transportation, parking, and the overall timing/sequence of the redevelopment process.

**Safety and Security has had its kick-off meeting, and is going to meet once a quarter at the NRC with fire and rescue services and the police. They would like to get WMATA and Councilmember Roger Berliner’s office involved.

**Marketing has reached out to Montgomery College to get an intern who will act as both historian and photographer to document the area as it redevelops.

**Beautification said that they were looking at bikepaths, improving the area around the Metro, and an “adopt a median” program for projects along the Pike.

**Strategic Planning is looking into alternative finance and management programs for the White Flint area, including a Business Improvement District (BID) and urban district. They have conducted some interviews with those familiar with these types of programs. They are seeking for full committee input on what services would be valuable for White Flint initially, and how to pay for these programs. One suggestion was creating a public-private partnership and hiring someone to run the necessary programs. Additionally, the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight has offered to undertake a study about urban districts/walkable communities nationwide to see what’s working and what isn’t, as well as other possible funding sources.

Amy Donin


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