Updates on Washington Gas Fire and Communications Tower

The latest meeting of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee was a busy one.  In addition to discussion of road projects, Fire Chief Steven Lohr was present to recap the emergency response to last month’s event at the Washington Gas property on Nebel Street.

As Chief Lohr described, three employees were at the multiple-bay vehicle repair facility in the pre-dawn hours of February 12th.  When they heard a “popping” sound, they suspected a natural gas leak and rushed to open bay doors and turn off heaters but the gas ignited before they could do so.  Luckily, all three employees self-evacuated from the scene and were not harmed.

Fire and rescue resources were dispatched at 6:11am and arrived at the scene less than four minutes later to find heavy black smoke and a dangerous scene.  Multiple combustibles, like natural gas and tires, were mixed with a steel-bar joist structure, known for failing very early in a fire.  Also, icy conditions that morning caused initial challenges in safely deploying water lines.  But, the fire department maximized the resources available along Nebel Street by utilizing three different hydrants and a heavy water hookup, as well as a compressed air foam pumper – a relatively recent investment by the county that proved particularly useful here.

 

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Both Images from Chief Lohr’s Presentation to the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee

Chief Lohr continued by noting that the goal of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is to respond to any emergency within 8 minutes.  While they’re still working toward this goal in some pockets of the county, it’s comforting for us here in White Flint.  The Chief went on to say that MCFRS is working hard to reduce their need to respond at all by actively engaging the community in emergency prevention techniques.  Thanks to Chief Lohr and Assistant Chief John Dimitriadis for taking the time with us this week – and for the work they and their colleagues do everyday.

We have another update regarding the Washington Gas land.  As we’ve discussed, Washington Gas has proposed a 145′ communications tower to be constructed in the center of the Nebel Street property.  Earlier this year, we shared that Washington Gas was exploring other sites away from White Flint for their tower.  We learned this week that such a search was unsuccessful and that Washington Gas will resume the process for approvals for construction on Nebel.  Washington Gas tells us that they expect to submit their final request to the county over the next few weeks.  We’ll share more as we get it!

Shopping Malls Through Out the U.S. are Dying Out

Across the United States, enclosed shopping malls are closing their doors. This is all too apparent for us here in White Flint, with the closing of the White Flint Mall.

There are many reasons behind the closings of shopping malls across the U.S. but one main reason stands out: anchor stores closing. Hayley Peterson, in her recent article for the Business Insider, quotes a managing director from a real estate firm saying “The risk of failure for a mall increases dramatically once you see anchor closures.” Malls with strong anchors stores are more likely to succeed than malls that are losing or already lost their anchor stores. Anchor stores, named for the role they have in holding down the mall, are essential to the health of malls. Without them, people are less likely to frequent the mall.  The good news for White Flint, though, is that our departed anchor (Bloomingdales) has expressed an interest in returning.

As these malls begin to close, however, mall owners and developers hope to bring in a mix of stores and services with mixed-use redevelopment projects, something we are capitalizing on here in White Flint. The issue is really that many of these malls across cities that are left to decay and fall down for years before any redevelopment begins to happen. We still do not have date for when the mall will be razed but we know that with the White Flint Sector Plan, redevelopment is on the horizon.

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This is a photo of Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio. Source: Nicholas Eckhart

La Madeleine Closed, but not for long

La Madeleine in Mid-Pike Plaza is now closed.  But, don’t fret, this community staple will return soon as part of Pike & Rose’s first phase.  Starting this fall, you’ll find La Madeleine in Block 12 (PerSei) of Pike & Rose.  Chipotle is also moving to Block 13, around the corner from Starbucks and Bank of America. You’ll recall that this structure will remain standing for foreseeable future with a new facade to align with the new buildings.

These were the last remaining businesses at Mid-Pike Plaza, so expect that strip mall to come down by this summer as Federal Realty prepares for Phase 2 of the project.   More on this to come soon!

 Site plan showing the new streets and blocks at Pike + Rose.

 

Designated Bike Lanes May Help Local Businesses Thrive

Creating a safe and secure biking infrastructure in White Flint is essential to our mission in promoting a sustainable and walkable community. One of the best ways to ensure residents will feel safe enough to bike is to design and implement protected bike lanes, which are an important part of the White Flint Sector Plan. Indeed, we know these bike lanes will help cyclists but how will these bike lanes help those who do not travel by bicycle? Or will it even benefit them at all? These are often the questions community developers and practitioners ask when redeveloping cities and urban areas.  Amelia Taylor-Hochberg in her recent Archinect article discussed a report was completed by PeopleForBikes and Alliance for Biking & Walking, that researched cities with protected bike lanes. The report found that cites have started to see positive benefits for local economies and businesses because of these designated bike lanes.

As cities and urban areas become more dense with buildings, including residential and retail space, as well as people, they need to figure out a way to transport people that will use less space. Many of the cities found that “cycling infrastructure is the most efficient way to get more people around in less space.” Bicycling can also help to reduce traffic. If a city has designated bike lanes, we know more people are willing to use bikes as their means for travel, causing less cars to be on the roads. So how can bicycling help local businesses? Well those who bike to complete errands or daily activities, are more likely to stop at businesses or retailers more often (a reason for creating mixed-used properties that provide various goods and services in one area). This trend ultimately creates more spending, boosting the local economy. And an added bonus, local businesses will need less available parking spaces.

If bike lanes can help local businesses thrive, then those who do not necessarily bike will see positive change for their community or even themselves (if they are business owners). In White Flint, we hope that the designated bike lanes soon to be implemented will help our local businesses thrive too.

 

Celebrate Valentine’s Early at Paladar Latin Kitchen

 

From our friends at Paladar Latin Kitchen:

Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar

WPFW 89.3 AM’s own Robyn Holden and Carol Tyson will be broadcasting live from Paladar on Friday, February 7th from 7-10pm. Joining them will be special guest, Jim Byers, from the Latin Flavor.

But, wait – that’s not all!
The talented Laura Sosa & Pa’ Gozar Latin jazz band are providing musical entertainment from 7:30 – 8:30 while Ron Abuelo shares complimentary rum samples. (Click here for a sample track.)
There is no admission cost to this event, and our happy hour drink and food menu is available throughout the evening in the bar area.

Early reservations are available between 7 and 7:30pm and again beginning at 9pm. We are expecting a full crowd, so reservations are highly encouraged.
Please give us a call at (301) 816-1100 or you can make a reservation online.