Could it almost be time to say goodbye to the Mall?

White Flint Mall Sketch

According to a story in Bethesda Beat, Robert Brewer, a land use attorney representing White Flint Mall’s owners, said Thursday the owners expect to receive demolition permits to take down the mall’s exterior in the next week or two. The owners plan to begin the demolition as soon as they receive the permits, according to Brewer.  Click to the article to read the backstory on this promising development.

Ride to Work Day

We were thrilled to be part of Bike to Work Day! We joined lots of bicyclists and community members at the NRC pit stop. What a great way to start the day.

We attend so you don’t have to …

Here are the highlights from this week’s White Flint Implementation and Downtown Advisory Committee meetings.

White Flint Implementation Committee Meeting, Monday, May 11

1) Gables Pike District received approval for their preliminary and site plans.

2) Goddard School received approval for a pre-school on Edson Lane that will educate 165 children.

3) On Monday, May 18, DOT is holding a meeting at 7pm at the Kennedy Shriver Swim Center to discuss Nebel Street Bikeway Alternatives.

4) Construction on the Chapman Road extension has started.

5) The intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Hoya Street (which will now be called Town Road) is 70% designed and will be presented at an upcoming Implementation Committee meeting.

6) In June, the Maryland State Highway Administration and Maryland Transit Administration in cooperation with MCDOT will host two workshops to gain community input on options for rapid transit on Route 355.  They hope that the best concepts will be studied in detail by Summer 2015 with a final recommendation and report in the summer of 2016.

The Corridor Advisory Committees (CACs) are providing public input to this Corridor Planning Study and are meeting regularly.  Meetings are open to the public.  The next MD 355 South CAC meeting will be held June 4 at 6:30 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee Meeting, Tuesday, May 12

1) Gary Erenrich, Acting Deputy Director of MCDOT, gave a presentation about their application for a TIGER 7 Federal Grant.  They are asking for funds to cover 80% of the $21 million cost to create an innovative, high-frequency, high-speed, limited-stop bus service from Grosvenor metro to LakeForest Mall along Route 355. The all-electric buses will run every 10 minutes during peak times and every 15 minutes during non-peak periods seven days a week, 17 to 19 hours each day.  One interesting feature of this bus line will be the ability to control traffic signals to ensure reliability. There will be ten stations along this route, each with improved bus shelters and real-time information about transit options.  MCDOT estimates this ‘Ride On Plus’ system will generate 2,000 additional riders daily.

The county has also proposed ten bike share stations in the White Flint area to feed into this bus line, but five of them require private sector funding commitments.  Each station has a capital cost of about $60,000.  The county will cover operational costs for all ten bike share stations.

2) The committee is in the beginning stages of planning an iconic Pike District event for Fall 2016.

3) The Downtown Advisory Committee received state approval to begin landscaping on Route 355. Everyone should be able to see this  beautiful landscaping blooming in the next few weeks.

4) The benefits of placing wayfinding signs around the Pike District was favorably discussed.  They also showed this informative two-minute  video. (Not to brag, but Friends of White Flint brought this idea to the Committee’s attention.)

5) The website www.pikedistrict.org is starting to get lots of traffic. (If you haven’t checked it out, you should!)

Washington Business Journal Details White Flint Mall/Lord & Taylor Battle

Curious why White Flint Mall hasn’t been demolished? This detailed article, White Flint Mall and Lord & Taylor both accuse each other of good old-fa…, in the Washington Business Journal discusses the protracted legal battle between Lord & Taylor and Lerner Enterprises.
If you don’t have time to read this lengthy article, I’ve listed some highlights below:
  • Lord & Taylor’s lawsuit against White Flint will mark its two-­year anniversary this July, delaying the mall’s redevelopment and likely costing both sides millions of dollars in legal fees and related costs.
  • “I think all of us in Montgomery County want this matter resolved so the redevelopment can move forward,” said Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner
  • Representatives for Lord & Taylor allege White Flint didn’t just let the mall fade away but rather precipitated its demise as an enclosed mall to tear it down and redevelop it into a town center.
  • Federal Court Judge Roger Titus, in a December 2013 ruling, denied Lord & Taylor’s request for an injunction, finding the loss of tenants and state of the mall, which at that point included the demolition of the former Bloomingdale’s, was too far along for the mall to be restored and that Lord & Taylor’s lawsuit could be addressed through financial damages instead. This past March, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Titus’s finding.
  • The retailer has engaged in “guerilla warfare,” the mall asserts, by attempting to block its requests for demolition permits to tear down its exterior. “It has genuinely hurt the business relationship dramatically and significantly between White Flint and Lord & Taylor,” White Flint attorney Scott Morrison said. “What Lord & Taylor’s doing now, frankly, is outrageous. This redevelopment is going to occur. They’ve cost White Flint by their conduct, already, millions and millions of dollars due to the delay and the legal fees and the carry on the property. It’s a travesty, really.”
  • Morrison also said, “We want the redevelopment to be a success. We always assumed that they wanted it to be successful, and the way to make it successful is for them to cooperate with us. We don’t want to hurt Lord & Taylor. Remember, we want a redevelopment that works. We spent a year and a half with the highest executives of Lord & Taylor and their consultants to try to do just that.”
  • The mall site has been approved for more than 2,400 residential units, 1 million square feet of office, another million square feet of retail, a 300­-key hotel and a little less than 17 acres of open space.

 

Yay! Gables has received preliminary and site plan approval!

The Gables

Gables Residential has received Preliminary Plan and Site Plan approval from the Montgomery County Planning Board for Gables Pike District. The approval is for 521,000 square feet of new development comprised of up to 476 apartment homes and 31,000 square feet of retail. Plans include three interconnected buildings, two new streets, and a new parking garage that will serve the adjacent Wall Park and Montgomery County Aquatic Center along with the new development. Gables Pike District will also include a bike-share facility, more than 200 bicycle parking spaces, and eye-catching public art.

“We’re very pleased to have our preliminary and site plan approvals, and will start preparing for the first phase of construction,” said Gables Residential’s Jorgen Punda, regional vice president for investments. “Gables Pike District will be another important step towards the transformation of the Pike District as a truly vibrant live, work, play community. We appreciate the collaboration from park and planning staff and the County Executive’s office that has helped us to reach this point.”

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On another note, the White Flint Implementation Committee meets tonight, May 11, at 7:00 at the Shriver Aquatic Center.

Want to decrease pedestrian injuries?

Road Diet

Duh, who doesn’t want to decrease pedestrian injuries? On average, 100 pedestrians are killed and 3,000 injured every year in Montgomery County. If only there was a way to decrease those tragic numbers …

Well, what do you know? There is.  We just need to put some of our main streets on a road diet.

A road diet, which is sometimes called a lane reduction, is a technique whereby the number of travel lanes and/or effective width of the road is reduced.  There are many options for putting a road on a diet. Lane widths can be reduced, sidewalks can be added or expanded, cycle lanes can be added or expanded, and/or medians built.

According to the US Federal Highway Administration, ‘road diets may reduce vehicle speeds and vehicle interactions during lane changes, which potentially could reduce the number and severity of vehicle-to-vehicle crashes. Pedestrians may benefit because they have fewer lanes of traffic to cross, and because motor vehicles are likely to be moving more slowly.’

In Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, the Fourth Avenue road diet has yielded impressive street safety dividends, including a 61 percent drop in pedestrian injuries. Total crashes dropped 20 percent, and crashes with injuries were reduced by 16 percent.  In Los Angeles, a York Boulevard road diet experienced a 23% reduction in collisions and a 27% decrease in injuries per mile per year.

Imagine the increase in safety for drivers, walkers, and bicyclists when we put Rockville Pike on a road diet. Something to look forward to, don’t you think?

 

Congratulations, Federal Realty and Evan Goldman

Evan Goldman at Pike & Rose

In a recent article about “Best Real Estate Deals” in the Washington Business JournalPike & Rose was lauded as a project  that “already offers a lively mix of places to eat, shop, live and work within its initial phase of development.” (We couldn’t agree more.)

The article quoted Friends of White Flint board member and Federal Realty Vice President of Development Evan Goldman who said, “We wanted the first phase to stand alone as a new center for nightlife and entertainment in the county while construction of phase two was underway.

A revised Independent Transit Authority?

BRT

County Executive Ike Leggett has revived the group that first laid out how a countywide bus rapid transit system might work to examine his controversial proposal for an Independent Transit Authority.

In a letter to Transit Task Force Chair Mark Winston, the County Executive wrote:

As you know, last December I proposed enactment by the General Assembly of legislation (MC-24-15) that would have enabled Montgomery County to establish a transit authority, and accomplish other purposes.  That proposal became controversial and, since it was obvious that it would not be enacted in the 2015 Session of the General Assembly, I asked that it be withdrawn.  However, while I have been open to other proposals that might be made that would allow the County to pursue its goal of having a comprehensive transit system at the earliest practicable time, I continue to believe that my proposal for a transit authority is the best approach.

I ask that the Task Force study the legislation that I proposed, develop procedures for soliciting community and commercial input to its deliberations, offer its comments, and provide advice and recommendations on how it may be improved.

Winston said the Task Force, composed of county government leaders, regional transportation officials, transit advocates, chamber officials and several community representatives, hopes to finalize its recommendations by Sept. 30.

The Task Force meets at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6 at the Executive Office Building in Rockville, The meeting is open to the public.

 

How cool would this be in the Pike District?

Magical sidewalk art

Look what happens to these sidewalks when it rains!  Wouldn’t it be fun to stumble upon sidewalks that transform into magical art in the Pike District on a rainy summer day as you walk home from the gym, return to work after lunch, or even back to your car after dinner at your favorite sidewalk cafe?

Shiny new developments and walkable streets are just the start of creating a community. The little touches, like sidewalk art that magically appears in the rain, are also important to create place and community.

rainworks-1