Archives November 2021

Montgomery County and Metro are moving on a massive project at White Flint. But there’s still a long way to go.

From Washington Business Journal

The county and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority agreed to a memorandum of understanding on the 20.2 acres of WMATA-owned land surrounding the Red Line station about a year ago, and officials with both WMATA and the county say they’re almost ready to solicit proposals from developers for the site. The ultimate goal is to strike a joint development agreement with companies to manage the complex process and finally bring a surge in new construction to the neighborhood that officials have long sought

But before things can move forward, Metro is working with real estate firm JLL to get a more granular view of the property’s potential, according to Liz Price, WMATA’s new vice president of real estate and parking. Specifically, Price said Metro wants to understand the “highest and best use” of such a large site, and whether County Executive Marc Elrich’s vision of a life sciences-focused campus there is actually achievable.

Elrich, a Democrat seeking his second term in office next year, has spent months arguing that the location is perfect for a four-year university hub focusing on biotech, given its proximity to federal agencies and health care resources. Price said that is certainly a possibility, but not a guarantee — and with an estimated 5 million square feet of development possible at White Flint, she wants to be sure before going farther down that road.

“There is no doubt it’s a prime location,” Price said. “And now that JLL has taken a look at it, we’ll be reviewing those results with the county shortly.”

Read the rest of the article at Washington Business Journal

Montgomery Hires State House Vet to Coordinate Ambitious White Flint Proposal

A depiction of what the White Flint area could become. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) has hired an Annapolis veteran to lead efforts to redevelop the region into a “life sciences hub.” Montgomery County Capital Budget photo. 

From Maryland Matters

Montgomery County failed in its bid lure Amazon, the e-commerce giant that opted to build its second headquarters in Arlington, Va.

But top county officials have an alternate vision for the area surrounding the White Flint Metro station — a “life sciences hub” that exploits the presence of the close-by National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration.

“My goal is to produce a signature project that restates Montgomery County’s case as the leading life sciences center in the country,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D) in an interview. “(White Flint) is sitting on the Metro. It’s right down from the Beltway, and there’s a ton of under-developed property there.”

Elrich has hired Tom Lewis, who served as chief of staff to former Maryland House Speakers Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany), to the newly created position of development ombudsman.

In June, Lewis retired from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, where he spent 16 years as vice president for government and community affairs, a post in which he served as a conduit between the school, state and local government, the private sector, and communities surrounding the campus.

If confirmed by the county council, Lewis would have a similar job nurturing the White Flint project.

“Tom brings this unparalleled level of experience within the state working on these issues, working for one of the premiere global research organizations [and] NIH and FDA on joint projects,” said Chief Administrative Officer Richard S. Madaleno Jr. “Tom was part of the Hopkins team that worked on the Maryland bid for Amazon.”

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), the agency that provides rail and bus service in the D.C. region, owns a large, undeveloped parcel adjacent to the White Flint station — and in the coming weeks the agency is expected to solicit requests from potential developers.

WMATA has engaged Jones Lang LaSalle, an internationally-known real estate consultant based in Chicago, to guide its pursuit of partners and a development vision.

Had Amazon chosen Montgomery County, the company was expected to build an 11 million-square-foot complex on several parcels in the North Bethesda area — including potentially where White Flint Mall long stood.

Elrich said he envisions a vibrant, walkable life sciences complex of comparable size, a development that would resemble Kendall Square, a mix of tech companies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology buildings in Boston.

“It’s an enormous opportunity for place-making,” he said.

Although the bid for Amazon’s “HQ2” fell short, Lewis said he was drawn to the post because of the potential to use White Flint to “magnify” the existing biotech industry in Maryland.

“It’s exciting for lots of reasons,” he said. “And it fits in with some of the work I’ve done in the past.”

Long before the pandemic, Montgomery County has nurtured biotech companies that take advantage of research happening at nearby federal labs. Several county firms, including Novavax, played a role in the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

Elrich said he has been in communication with four universities about establishing an academic presence in White Flint. In June, the county, the University System of Maryland and Montgomery College signed a memorandum of understanding to expand on the region’s “leadership role in life and regulatory sciences education and innovation.”

“There’s no reason Montgomery County can’t — and shouldn’t — be the nation’s undisputed center for life and regulatory sciences,” said University of Maryland System Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “It has a thriving community of industry leaders; a strategic location near federal labs and agencies; and the full partnership of Montgomery College and the University System whose expertise in biotechnology and advanced computing is second-to-none.”

Elrich said he has spoken with top Maryland officials — including Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz and Transportation Secretary Greg Slater — about the need for state support.

“In my mind, it’s really important that the state play a role in some of the transportation needs in the (MD 355) corridor,” he said. “They had an amazing transportation investment for Amazon because they understood that — in order to make this work — you were going to have to deal with some of the transportation bottlenecks.”

If confirmed by the county council, Lewis’s new post will bring him into regular contact with Yaakov “Jake” Weissmann, another former chief of staff in Annapolis.

Weissmann, who served under Senate Presidents Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), is an assistant chief administrative officer, overseeing “economic development and business advancement activities.”

Melanie Wenger, Montgomery County’s longtime director of Intergovernmental Affairs, also served as Miller’s chief of staff in Annapolis.

PGA on the way — plus tennis & pickleball

From Store Reporter

Good news for local golfers, tennis players and pickleballers: A PGA Tour Superstore, first of its kind in Maryland, is heading to White Flint Plaza. Owned by one of the founders of Home Depot, PGA stores offer clothing, accessories and equipment for all three sports plus lessons, practice bays, repair services and trade-ins. Doors will open in 2022 right next to the upcoming Aldi grocery store, filling out the rest of the space that previously belonged to Shoppers Food Warehouse.

No-frills supermarket chain Aldi is planning a winter opening for its new store at White Flint Plaza on Nicholson Lane. The German grocer, known for its low prices, treasure-hunt products and lean-and-mean store design, is taking only one-third of the space that previously belonged to Shoppers Food Warehouse

Don’t Forget — Central Farmers Thanksgiving Market is Tomorrow at Pike & Rose

Pike Central Farmers Thanksgiving Market will hold their tenth annual SPECIAL THANKSGIVING MARKET at Pike & Rose

Tuesday, November 23 from 10:00 AM till 2:00 PM next to Bark Social. Get your fixings, turkeys, pies, produce and cider, charcuterie, and much more! See the whole menu here.

Please order ahead at centralfarmmarkets.com and visit the vendors sites to check out the offerings.

See you there!

Founders of Cava, Cava Mezze, and Julii Will Open Melina in Pike & Rose on Monday, November 22

From The MoCo Show

Federal Realty has announced that Melina, a new full-service, fine casual Greek restaurant by the founders of Cava, Cava Mezze, and Julii, will open on Monday, November 22, 2021 at 905 Rose Avenue in North Bethesda’s Pike & Rose neighborhood.

Founded by Cava partners Ted Xenohristos, Dimitri Moshovitis, and Ike Grigoropoulos, the 3,593-square-foot establishment is the team’s second restaurant at Pike & Rose. Named after Dimitri’s daughter, Melina is located on the street level of 909 Rose near the group’s French concept, Julii, which opened in 2018.

For more information, menus and photos, visit Melina’s website here and Instagram here.

Pike Central Farmers Thanksgiving Market at Pike Rose

Pike Central Farmers Thanksgiving Market will hold their tenth annual SPECIAL THANKSGIVING MARKET at Pike & Rose

Tuesday, November 23 from 10:00 AM till 2:00 PM next to Bark Social. Get your fixings, turkeys, pies, produce and cider, charcuterie, and much more! See the whole menu here.

Please order ahead at centralfarmmarkets.com and visit the vendors sites to check out the offerings.

See you there! 

Redistricting Article in Bethesda Beat that quotes our executive director, Amy Ginsburg

From Bethesda Beat

Some community organizations concerned about proposed County Council district map

Some community leaders from various areas of Montgomery County said they are concerned about a proposed map of new County Council districts.

A redistricting commission recently presented its proposal to the County Council. The first of at least two public hearings is scheduled for Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

County voters approved a ballot measure in November 2020 to increase the number of council districts from five to seven. Because four at-large seats — ones that represent the entire county — will remain, there will be 11 council members instead of nine after next year’s elections. 

Under the current proposal, six of the seven districts would be majority-minority districts, although African Americans, Latinos or Asians by themselves are not in the majority in any of the proposed districts.

The only district where non-Hispanic white residents are the majority is in the proposed First District, which includes Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Chevy Chase, and Potomac.

Some community leaders and civic organizations aren’t satisfied with the proposed map.

Marilyn Balcombe, president and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, who is running for the council in District 2, said she appreciated the work of the commission, and that new technology, census data and software means the map is better than in previous redistricting cycles.

But she is concerned about upcounty representation, especially in the northeastern part of the county. That proposed district stretches too far south, through Olney and Sandy Spring, to be considered a true representation of the upcounty, Balcombe said.

That means it will be difficult for voters to elect someone from Damascus, Goshen or Montgomery Village, she said

“It will be difficult for someone from that area to be elected from that area to the district, because there’s not enough voters up there,” Balcombe said.

Some have expressed concern that the current map divides communities of interest. That includes the Greater Shady Grove Civic Alliance, which represents Derwood, a community near Gaithersburg. 

Alliance President Carol Kosary said she is upset that the current map splits up Derwood.

The Derwood community is interested in several issues, ranging from better lighting along local walking and biking trails to how rainfall drains into local watersheds, she said.

It doesn’t make sense that parts of Derwood are included with a district that includes Wheaton, which is much more densely populated, Kosary said. 

“We’re currently split between two County Council districts, and it really has never worked well for the community, because you’re never a big enough voice in a district to get the attention of council members,” Kosary said.

She added that having four at-large council members, representing the entire county, is a nice concept, but Derwood has not felt that those at-large officials have been responsive.

Daniel Koroma, however, believes the current map proposal is a good one.

Koroma, a White Oak resident running for the County Council District 5 seat, said the district in the proposed map including White Oak does a better job of representing East County. It’s an area that has been historically underrepresented, he said.

It’s not a perfect map, Koroma said, but it’s about as fair a map for the East County as possible. He said other communities might feel their voice is being split up, but his region has had its challenges.

“If they’re using a racial equity lens, the question is, which area of the county in Montgomery County has been disenfranchised for decades?” Koroma said. “And no one would say the East County hasn’t been part of that.”

Other organizations, however, don’t agree that the map is fair for their communities. That includes multiple groups in North Bethesda. 

Amy Ginsburg, executive director of Friends of White Flint, said including North Bethesda in a district with Kensington, Silver Spring and Takoma Park does not make sense. She said residents in her area associate themselves with the economic and political communities along the Md. 355 corridor.

Ginsburg said the redistricting commission made a mistake when it voted that Rockville and Gaithersburg must be included in the same district, because other communities, including those in North Bethesda, did not receive such consideration.

The commission had a tough job, but the proposed “bowtie” district including North Bethesda southeast to Silver Spring and Takoma Park is not the answer, she said.

“If everybody was happy, you would have put together a modern miracle, but we are going to live with this for 10 years. … Getting it right is far better than getting it done [too quickly],” she said. 

John Seelke, a member of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, said he is “not a huge fan” of the same district. 

Seelke said areas such as North Bethesda and Silver Spring have different local economic needs and overall resources, and one council member in the district would have trouble representing both constituent groups. 

Regarding the decision to include Gaithersburg and Rockville in the same district, Seelke said both those of cities have elected mayors and city councils that can advocate for their residents on issues — something unincorporated areas do not have.

“I know that this process is not one that’s going to satisfy everyone, but I do hope that the County Council will look back and consider what are the challenges or problems that could come out of the districts that came together,” Seelke said of the map.

Those interested in testifying at Tuesday’s public hearing can find instructions on how to do so here

               The proposed new County Council district map

Strathmore Museum Holiday Market is Here

The 31st Annual STRATHMORE MUSEUM SHOP HOLIDAY MARKET is here.

It’s your one-stop shop for fabulous finds that make marvelous gifts! 

Thu–Sat. November 11–13, 2021 | 10am–6pm daily

RSVP

Free, suggested donation of $10

This holiday season, give amazing gifts that give back! Strathmore’s Museum Shop Holiday Market brings together the area’s best museum and cultural shops for 3 festive days. Every present is part of a larger purpose as your purchase supports nonprofit museums and arts organizations in our community.

Featuring unique gifts from the shops at:

  • Strathmore
  • Brookside Gardens
  • Supreme Court Historical Society
  • Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
  • The Phillips Collection
  • The George Washington University Museum & The Textile Museum
  • Jewish Museum of Maryland
  • International Spy Museum