All posts by Rebecca Hertz

“The Power of Uniqueness”

Creating a sense a place is extremely important for a community like Pike District. We want to make this place a distinctive destination, a place people want to come explore, live, work, and play.

Ed McMahon, an Urban Land Institute fellow, gave this inspiration TEDx Talk about creating a community with a unique sense of place in this new economy.

At one point,  McMahon says “The more any community … looks just like every other community, the less reason there is to go there. On the other hand, the more a community enhances its distinctiveness that’s natural, architectural, cultural, artistic…the more people want to go there.” This speaks directly to the elements we are bringing to our community. It is true that place matters!

Check out the video below!

Leggett Withdraws Proposal for Independent Transit Authority

Unfortunately, we learned that County Executive Isiah Leggett withdrew the proposal for an independent transit authority for Montgomery County on Saturday. The independent transit agency would finance and operate the Bus Rapid Transit network planned for the county. The authority would be funded by a new transit tax that would not be counted against the charter cap limiting the amount of revenue the county can collect.

The County Council was expected to vote on the proposal today but Leggett asked that the proposal be removed. He has not determined if the the bill will be amended or not be put forth at all. The bill did not have a good reception by many council members and the public. Many were concerned with ceding control and were upset that they received little notice of the proposal before it was put forth to the state on January 23rd.


Summer House Santa Monica Opens This Thursday!

Summer House Santa Monica is planned to open this Thursday. This California-inspired restaurant will be in the Pike & Rose development, adding to the already wonderful places that exist. Summer House Santa Monica is attached to the Stella Barra Pizzeria, which is planned to open in February.

Summer House Santa Monica will serve food that includes fresh, locally-grown vegetables and some California inspired seafood dishes. There will also be a bakery at the front of the store serving some delicious sounding bakery options.

Check out the Bethesda Beat article for some beautiful photos of what the restaurant looks like inside and the delicious menu options. We are excited to check out this new restaurant! Let us know what you think of the restaurant when it opens this Thursday! Hope to see you there soon.

Montgomery County Executive Leggett Announced Amendments to FY16 Budget and CIP

Yesterday Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett announced his recommendations for the FY16 Capital budget and proposed amendments to the FY15-20 Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Check out the news release with more details about the amendments here.

Note one of the proposed amendments to the FY16 budget in the announcements:

“*Acceleration of White Flint redevelopment expenditures for Main Street/Market Street and Executive Boulevard to coordinate with construction of the Conference Center parking garage, minimizing disruption to local businesses, saving money, and bringing pedestrian and bike improvements on line earlier.”

This is great to hear!

It is also important to understand that since a County Charter amendment was passed in 1996, “A new CIP budget is developed in even-numbered calendar years. In alternate years, such as 2015, the Executive may recommend limited amendments to the existing six-year CIP. “

Positive Examples of Smart Growth in Our Neighboring Communities

The White Flint Sector can look to neighboring towns for some strong smart growth examples. According to an article from Grist, Bethesda and Silver Spring have become walkable new urbanist areas in Montgomery County because of their ability to implement smarter development strategies. Many suburbs in Montgomery County “have already been built up in the standard sprawl fashion, and the challenge now is to retrofit them into sustainable communities.” This is why various mass transit options, walkable sidewalks and bike lanes are so important to communities such as ours.

Surface parking lots are one the biggest challenges we have in the White Flint Sector to creating a “sustainable community.” To create our walkable and connected street grid, we must implement smarter growth opportunities to use these spaces more wisely. In addition, it is important to protect open space that already exists from becoming surface parking lots in the future. This is why keeping Wall Park and making it accessible for many types of community events is necessary.

The Decline and Nostalgia of White Flint Mall

White Flint Mall has been in the news recently and we wanted to highlight some of these articles.

As of January 4th, Lord & Taylor is the only store open in White Flint Mall. The mall property will be redeveloped into a mixed-use space, adding to the walkable street grid of the Pike District.

An article from the Huffington Post last week discussed the mall and one reporter’s nostalgia of growing up going to White Flint Mall. The reporter mentioned that she spent her childhood visiting the mall and is having trouble getting over the fact that mall will be closing some day soon. Both Amy and I have the similar feelings of nostalgia around this mall. Personally, I grew up visiting the mall to buy books, to eat, and to even go to my dentist.

An article in the New York Times also focused on dying malls across the U.S. There is a popular website that provides pictures of dying malls. One of the malls this article highlighted was White Flint Mall. This article focused on the types of malls that are closing. One individual mentioned in the article said that “There are B and C malls in tertiary markets that are dinosaurs and will likely die,” but “A malls are doing well.”

White Flint Mall, however, was always known as an upscale A mall, bringing the one of the first Bloomingdale’s to the area in 1977. So to say A malls are “living,” is not the whole truth. As Amy Ginsburg mentioned in the Huffington Post article “the gradual decline of malls speaks to a desire to reclaim an older way of life,” where a walkable community is focused around a street grid that provides space to live, work, and play. As more planners and developers across the U.S. learn to use smart land-use strategies, we will continue to see malls close.

MCDOT Acting Director Says There Is No More Room For New Roads In the County

The acting director of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Al Roshdieh, announced that, “the local road network is essentially built out” and MCDOT’s focus will turn towards walkability strategies and creating other forms of transit in the county.

Roshdieh spoke about MCDOT’s approach in an interview published by the county last week. Roshdieh mentioned that MCDOT will focus their strategies on smart growth. This approach involves “taking a holistic view of all of MCDOT’s efforts and asking the question: How do we create the type of community that truly enhances our quality of life and how can our transportation system contribute?” 

Roshdieh also discussed Bus Rapid Transit as one of the strategies to decrease traffic congestion and will get more vehicles off the road. Creating multi-modal transit in the county is an important approach in creating a more transit-oriented, walkable community and we are happy to hear that MCDOT is focused on this.

As the White Flint Sector Plan continues to be implemented, we want to make sure that our county transportation systems, policies, and procdures are aligned with what we want our future community to look like.

Isiah Leggett Announces Agreement to Reduce Number of Lanes on Old Georgetown Road

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett announced Wednesday an agreement between the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) and the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) was reached to reduce the number of lanes on Old Georgetown Road to two-through lanes in each direction, with one shared left-turn lane at the new intersection of Hoya Street. This fall, FOWF and many of our friends focused our attention and efforts on making sure our community knew how important it was for the Old Georgetown Road plan to stay in-line with the vision put forth by the White Flint Sector Plan. The safety and well-being of pedestrians and cyclists in the sector are necessary for the success of the Sector Plan.

In the most recent Capital Improvements Program, the County decided to include funding for the connection of Hoya Street to Montrose Road to help reduce the amount of traffic on Old Georgetown Road. As Old Georgetown Road is a state-owned road, only SHA can make decisions on the amount of lanes on this road. With the additional funding provided for the Hoya Street extension by the County, it provided another reason to decrease the amount of lanes on Old Georgetown Road.

In addition, MCDOT provided SHA with a supplemental traffic analysis of the Old Georgetown Road intersection to justify their request for the reduction of number of lanes. After much deliberation, SHA agreed that Hoya Street would provide sufficient relief off of Old Georgetown Road and improved MCDOT’s request to lower the amount of lanes on Old Georgetown Road.

This is great news! This is one step closer to ensuring the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in the sector! We are very happy to hear this.

Parklet Pop-Up in Tysons, A Great Example for Pike District

Tysons Corner, one of our neighboring urban areas, is on a similar path to redevelopment from an auto-centric “concrete jungle” to a walkable, green community. For now, many people are looking for short term uses of spaces throughout the region that could incorporate elements of “complete streets” and give current residents and office workers spaces to relax. Currently, places like urban parks, playing fields, and walking paths are missing in Tysons.  The Meridian Group, a major developer in the area, came up with a creative solution to this problem, at least in the short term.

A pop-up “parklet”, called the Greensboro Green, now sits in a 10,000-acre parking lot. This parklet is brightly colored, attractive space with many places to sit, relax, and gather in the middle of office parks.

To make Tysons a walkable, sustainable community, more parks and playing fields are necessary. Currently, “parkland accounts for less than 5 percent of Tysons 2,100 acres,” which is a problem. So it would seem that the parklet is the first step towards “bridg[ing] the gap between the Tysons of now and the Tysons of the future,” as Lori Aratani from the Washington Post mentions. The Pike District faces a similar reality, where 161 acres of the total 430 acres of the sector are surface parking lots. Thirty-seven percent of our land is sitting empty as surface parking lots, which could be used for so many other things.

Tysons provides some great amenities that unique to the area. There are four metro stations that recently open, creating a larger variety of transit opportunities for residents and visitors to frequent the area. In addition, Tysons has the largest mall in the area, bringing all types of people to Tysons. The plan is for Tysons to have many mixed-use spaces, bringing in many restaurants, services, and other types of stores to the area.

The parklet is a great example for the Pike District. Since many of the developments in the area are slated to happen in the next 20-30 years, we could have pop-up parks that give the community fun and safe places to play and gather in the short-term.