Tag executive boulevard

This time it’s real …

The permanent closure of Executive Blvd. has been scheduled for July 8 at 10 am. And this time MCDOT is going to stick to this date. Heck, message boards are in place to alert the public of the change in traffic patterns, and they are also in the process of installing the detour signage.

Executive Blvd. is closing to continue the construction of the Western Workaround.

Notes & Slides from the Executive Boulevard White Flint 2 Worksession

During a nearly two-hour worksession yesterday at the Planning Board, Executive Boulevard was the center of attention. The staff presentation was actually a fairly good explanation of what is proposed for Executive Boulevard in the White Flint 2 sector plan. Below you’ll find a few slides that I found particularly illuminating.


 

There was considerable discussion about the trade-offs between density/height and providing land for a school.

After the Planning Staff presented their data and plans, a number of property owners spoke. Some of the issues they brought up included:

Requesting 200′ height on the Guardian Property so they can create a signature building at the gateway to Excecutive Boulevard.

Many property owners wanted increased density and wanted the Commercial FAR and Residential FAR to be increased so builders have the flexibility to create space that meets the needs of the market

Some property owners mentioned that the proposed 200′ buffer around Neilwood Creek was much larger than anywhere else in the County

6120 and 6130 Executive Boulevard owned by Monument would like a CR or CRT 1.0 zone rather than an EOF zone so it can develop its property and include bike/pedestrian paths to the Luxmanor neighborhood and Montrose Parkway as well as a vehicle entrance to Green Acres school.

2 Top Points and 1 Surprising Conclusion on Executive Blvd Office Space

Here are the top two points and one surprising conclusion from the just-released Montgomery Planning Department briefing on the technical report: “Adaptive Reuse: Executive Boulevard and Rock Spring Office Markets” prepared by Bolan Smart Associates.  (And here’s a bonus fun little factoid with which to dazzle your friends: Executive Boulevard has 15 buildings totaling over 2.1 million square feet which is  three percent of the County’s total office inventory)
  1. Even if market conditions might merit repurposing, many of these office buildings have large and wide floorplates depths with interior spaces far from windows and configurations that make conversion to residential use very challenging. (Generally, buildings with narrow footprints are more conducive to residential conversion.)
  2. Federal office tenants  have vacated Executive Blvd., but these decisions were driven by the need to accommodate changing space requirements and by price, not because of location or neighborhood deficiencies.
And the surprising conclusion: Taking into consideration the nearby enhanced amenity base (Pike and Rose) and expected better connectivity (Western Workaround and improved walkability), combined with the likelihood of some pricing discount compared with the Pike District, re‐leasing for office use on Executive Blvd is probable. Executive Boulevard remains a viable office market. Despite the current challenges, Executive Blvd (and Rock Spring) are just too valuable for prospective office use to either be converted to other uses or demolished outright. Net of the three vacated former National Cancer Institute buildings, the Executive Blvd vacancy rate is close to five percent, well below the county‐wide average of 15 percent.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Abt Associates

Abt Associates recently signed a full-building lease for 6130 Executive Blvd., a 155,000-square-foot building the National Cancer Institute vacated in fall 2013. Abt Associates is a consulting practice focusing on climate change, education, agriculture, health, income, food secrity, and the environment. Abt Associates has had an office at 4550 Montgomery Ave. in Bethesda since 2004.

According to the Washington Business Journal, Monument Realty and Angelo, Gordon launched a roughly $10 million renovation of 6130 Executive Blvd. and its companion at 6120 Executive Blvd. to appeal to tenants looking to upgrade without paying the premium that comes with new buildings.. The rental rate per square foot at Executive Plaza ranges from the high $20s to low $30s, a discount of up to $10 per square foot or more for new construction.

Friends of White Flint executive director Amy Ginsburg co-led a panel at the February Bisnow conference with Monument Realty Executive Vice President Doug Olson.  During the discussion, Doug mentioned that his company has two buildings on Executive Boulevard with “probably the largest block of vacant space in Montgomery County.” Doug had added that Pike and Rose, renovations, and other amenities had caused an unnamed tenant to sign a letter-of-intent. We now know that the unnamed tenant is Abt Associates.

According to Bethesda Beat, Monument Realty Principal Michael Darby said in a statement, “The extensive revitalization of the White Flint area makes Executive Plaza an increasingly attractive option for Maryland businesses and it’s now evident that demand will only increase with these positive changes to the neighborhood.”

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What should we do with Executive Boulevard?

The many empty office spaces along Executive Boulevard in White Flint 2 are far from unusual in the DC Metro area. According to this recent article in The Washington Post, re purposing older office buildings is a vexing issue for many areas. In fact,  there are about 71 million square feet of empty office space in the DMV.

The article states, “Some of the vacancies are the result of federal sequestration cuts, which forced government agencies and contractors that occupied older buildings to downsize or shut down. Others are signs of a broad shift by businesses to more modern office space, often near mass transit or other millennial-friendly amenities.

“It’s a nationwide problem,” said Barbara Byron, director of the Office of Revitalization in Fairfax County, which recently formed a committee to figure out how to fill 20 million square feet of vacant office space — an amount three times the size of the Pentagon.”

The White Flint 2 plan will attempt to determine how to revamp Executive Boulevard. What are your ideas for revitalizing the office buildings on Executive Boulevard?

Executive Boulevard Can Be Saved, according to Urban Land Institute

Executive Boulevard, part of the White Flint 2 Sector, has an office vacancy rate of about 30%. It contains Class B and C office space that few companies find attractive.  None of that is news.

But this is news, and good news, too.  The Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel, or TAP, after a two-day review, determined that Executive Boulevard can be saved, using  a combination of land use, connectivity, amenity and identity improvements. Read their full report/presentation here.

The TAP described the Executive Boulevard area as an “amenity desert,” as “placeless,” as “disconnected from amenities,” and as “confusing.”

The ULI recommended:

  • Accelerate implementation of the north/west Pike & Rose Metrorail station entrance.
  • Implement the planned Old Georgetown Road and Executive Boulevard realignment (called the Western Workaround).
  • Improve pedestrian connections to amenities, such as those at Pike & Rose, and the existing White Flint Metrorail station.
  • Leverage and link to the White Flint recreation loop for walking and biking.
  • Introduce Bikeshare as a multimodal connector.
  • Introduce convenience retail for office workers and future residents, including coffee shops, cafes, drug stores, dry cleaners.
  • Decrease perceived distances between office building entrances and the street by encouraging small retail spaces, pop-up amenities (food trucks, parklets) and outdoor seating.
  • Embrace and enhance the ample green spaces, including mature trees and landscaping, already present.
  • Leverage and link the Executive Boulevard office park to Pike & Rose’s identity.
  • Create a consistent signage and streetscape package to reinforce new identify for office parks.

You can read more about the ULI TAP recommendations at Washington Business Journal and Bethesda Beat

Realigning and Constructing Main/Market Street and Executive Blvd

Map of Western Workaround

On Thursday, March 12, the Montgomery County Planning Board will discuss the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT’s) project to reconfigure a portion of the existing roadway network in the Pike District. The project includes roadway realignment and construction of new road segments for Main/Market Street and Executive Boulevard extended. This is also known as the Western Workaround.

Park and Planning is recommending that the Board approve this project with the following comments to MCDOT: 1. Consider providing separated bike lanes on the realigned segment of Executive Boulevard, 2. Provide curb extensions on Market Street to meet the requirements of the recent Urban Road Code changes and provide handicap ramps to cross all four legs of the Executive Boulevard/Market Street intersection, and 3. All handicap ramps that accommodate bicyclists on shared use paths should be widened to ten feet wide (min.).

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Notes from the last Friends of White Flint Meeting

** The following are draft minutes of the meeting held on September 3, 2014 of the Board of Directors of Friends of White Flint.  These minutes will remain in draft form until approved at the next Board meeting.  In the meantime, please email suggested edits to Info@WhiteFlint.org **

 

Draft of Minutes of the September 3, 2014 Friends of White Flint Board of Director’s Meeting
2014 Board of Directors Meeting
September 3, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Georgetown Village Condominium Community Room

 

Board members include Howard Feldman, James Schaeffer, Chad Salganik, Amber Tedesco, Suzanne Hudson, Francine Waters, Bill Carey, Barnaby Zall, Todd Lewers, Brian Downie, and Kristi Smith.  Staff members include Lindsay Hoffman and Rebecca Hertz. Board Members not in attendance: David Freishtat, Eric Grosse, Evan Goldman, and Rob Eisinger.

The Friends of White Flint (FoWF) Board Meeting was called to order at 6:36 pm at the Georgetown Village Condominium Community Room by Lindsay Hoffman.

Ed Reich began the meeting by saying he and Georgetown Village Condominium are happy to host Friends of White Flint. It gives them the opportunity to show off their wonderful community.

Approval of Minutes from May 29, 2014 Board of Directors Meeting.
Lindsay called for the approval of minutes from the May 29th, Annual meeting. Suzanne Hudson motioned for the approval of the minutes and Barnaby Zall seconded the motion, all approved.

Updates from Friends of White Flint:
Friends of White Flint set new Board of Directors at the end of the annual meeting and over online correspondence. The new directors include two Property Owner/Developer representatives- Brian Downie from Saul Center and Rob Eisinger from ProMark; one Business representative- Bill Carey from Strathmore; and two Resident representatives- Amber Tedesco and Erin Grosse.

After the annual meeting, the Board of Directors voted for new officers and co-chairs. Resident representative co-chair is Chad Salganik. The Business representative co-chair is David Frieshtat. And the Property Owner/Developer representative co-chair is Evan Goldman. The officers are Barnaby Zall is the Treasurer and Amber Tedesco is the Secretary.

Treasurer’s Report
Barnaby Zall mentioned that FoWF receives no government funding. FoWF funding comes from membership dues and fundraising. As of August 30th, the bank balance was $26,700, which means it has been a good year for FoWF. Currently, the burn rate is $4,000 a month, which means FoWF will carry the same reserves as last year.

Membership update:
Over 30 individuals joined FoWF since the last Board of Director’s meeting. Willco Residential joined as a Property Owner/Developer. Willco has many properties among Executive Boulevard and Rockville Pike. In addition, two new Business members joined, Strathmore and Dr. Jay Samuels, DDS.

Becca attended Bike to Work Day in March for FoWF. We attended many community meetings with the Randolph Civic Association, Action Committee for Transit, and Bethesda Urban Partnership. Also, Grovesnor Park Condominium meeting with Goddard School soon.

Lindsay will host a walking tour in White Flint in November along with National Building Museum. If anyone has ideas, Lindsay is putting route together now, please let her know. The walking tour will take place on November 8th at 10:00 am-12:30 pm. Lindsay has done 4 tours around the White Flint sector so far.

In July, along with Communities for Transit, FoWF hosted a happy hour at Paladar Latin Kitchen about the rapid transit program coming to the county. We had a strong turn out.

FoWF added a new element to the website: a list of business members, property owner members, and developer members. There are links to the websites of each of the businesses/property owners/ developments/ condominium associations. The hope is to be as transparent as possible. There have been 11,850 unique visitors to the website since the last Board of Director’s meeting, as well as 33000 page views. The email list is now at 1053 people. Our emails’ have a high open rate as well, which is great news.

Also, the board recommended that a resident advisory board should be launched. The resident advisory group will be a sub group of friends that will help FoWF figure out more of the resident perspective. Laura Jaffe a new member of FoWF will lead this group. The group will begin by complying an email list. She will put the lists together and see what is the most efficient way to move forward. The feedback will come to the board through Laura and will act on it as a larger group as it is warranted.

The White Flint post office is not open yet. The site is nearly complete but it was found that the post office boxes don’t fit properly, so new ones were ordered. When we get the date for the opening, we will update everyone on the website.

Property Owners and Developers update:
**Ed Meder, Gables Residential.
Gables submitted their preliminary site plan in August. They will go forward with Development Review Committee on September 28th, 2014. Gables Residential has been in numerous conversations with the county to get Executive Boulevard re-routed or abandoned. The surface parking lot surrounding the Aquatic Center will be transformed into a large public park, Wall Park, in the long term. Before the lot can be transformed, however, the shared parking garage for both the Gables property and the Aquatic Center will be developed. Ed Meder mentioned that the community, especially residents should provide their support for the Wall Park approval, which is planned to be the largest green space in the county.

**Jay Corbalis, Federal Realty Investment Trust
Pike & Rose development is progressing nicely. Per Sei apartments are open with people living there now. This fall, Phase 1 of retail will open. There will be about 4 restaurants, IPic movie theatre, Amp by Strathmore venue, and Sport and Health Fitness. Starbucks and Bank of America are open now. Del Frisco Grille plans to open around September 22nd. IPic movie theatre plans to open in the beginning of November, a few weeks before the next installment of the Hunger Games movie.

**Francine Waters, Lerner Enterprises
Lerner Enterprises is working on the preliminary plan and site plan.

**Kristi Smith, The JBG Companies
North Bethesda Market II site plan will be bought to the Development Review Committee on September 29.

**Brian Downie, Saul Center
Saul Center received sketch plan approval for all three properties in the White Flint sector. They hope to file their site plan late this year. They will have a pre-application community meeting before they file their site plan, to incorporate community input.

County Executive’s White Flint Implementation Coordinator Report
Dee provided a presentation on pedestrian and biking safety. She focused much of her presentation on the Western Workaround area. She mentioned it is important to start with the network grid of streets, which includes the changes coming to the Western Workaround. Currently, the County doesn’t have control of some roads owned by private properties, as the roads were to be dedicated by property owners, which was discussed during the planning process of the Sector Pan.

As part of the changes, the road near the North Bethesda Conference Center property/parking lot will be shifted, which will take away parking spaces. There must be a solution to replace parking so that is the idea behind the structured parking garage, which will be constructed in coordination with the streets. The design of roads and garage are taking place now.

The county is working with Gables Residential to get project to go further. There are a lot of issues the county has to work out to make sure traffic can still flow through the area.

County council passed the Hoya Street/ Town Avenue plan will be included in first phase.

As part of the new street grid, Executive Boulevard will crossover Rockville Pike and will continue to the north side of the White Flint Mall property and connect with Nebel Street. The county is working on design of this currently. In addition, Chapman Avenue/Maple Avenue construction will hopefully start in 9 months and it will connect with Old Georgetown Avenue. This will be another alternative to Rockville Pike, defusing traffic. A new fire station and senior affordable housing is already programmed in the county budget. These will be on the west side of Chapman Avenue.

Andrew Bossi- County DOT
Andrew focused on the relationship between county bus stops and crosswalks. Crosswalks cannot be put at every location. Elements such as speed limits and sight distance can effect the placement of bus stops.

Andrew and Ken Hartman mentioned that the flashing light at Bethesda Trolley Trail have been permanently placed and will continue to improve site distance.

Woodglen Drive bikeway was presented at last White Flint implementation meeting. There will be a cycle track on the west-side of the road way, similar to those along 15th Street Northwest and 1st Street Northwest in D.C. Cycle tracks allow cyclists to go two directions side by side on the side. They hope to start construction on the cycle track in October and should be a pretty quick project. The cycle track will start at the intersection of Edson Lane and Woodglen Drive to Nicholson Lane on Woodglen Drive. The idea is to extend the cycle track up to the White Flint Metro. Sidewalks will not be involved- will remain as it is.

Nebel Street will also have some type of biking infrastructure, either buffer bike plans or cycle track. Marinelli Road will have bike lanes.

Suzanne Hudson asked about DOT’s efforts to educate the public biking lanes. Andrew mentioned that education is really important to DOT. They have the 3 e’s: education, enforcement and engineering.

The county uses similar markers to distinguish bike lanes and bike areas to those listed in the manual on uniform biking measures. Each state adopts own system of demarcation but most adopt the federal’s uniform markers.

Andrew also mentioned that he hopes many developers will incorporate space and funding for the Capital Bike Share program.  Pike & Rose development has two bike share dock areas planned but now they need to fund the docking stations themselves.

Public Concerns and Suggestions
A concerned citizen is focused on the safety of crossing over Executive Boulevard and Rockville Pike. The cars are moving too fast and they believe the Pike needs to be turned into a boulevard. Perhaps, restriping and narrowing the road is just one suggestion. Maybe reducing the speed limit can help slow people down.

Another concerned citizen mentioned that our roads need to change because there have been changes in people’s priorities, with a societal shift towards alternate methods of transportation.

Ken Hartman, Director of the B-CC Regional Services Center, mentioned that a plan to extend the Circulator between the Twinbrook and White Flint Metro stations is in the works.

Many residents expressed concerns with snow removal as the season is coming again.

Suzanne Hudson mentioned there are lighting issues. There needs to be more lighting focused towards the sidewalks and the roads. DOT does have new streetlight, which will be placed throughout the county soon.

In addition, another concerned citizen mentioned that the manhole covers need to be leveled with the street on Rockville Pike, especially between the White Flint Metro station and the White Flint Mall.

Jay from Federal Realty mentioned that FoWF members should advocate for Old Georgetown Road to change from a six lane road to a four lane road.

Report from Councilmember Hans Riemer
In addition, the county is working creating bicycle and pedestrian priority areas. The White Flint sector is one of these priority areas.

White Flint is the epicenter of change, the place to achieve so many community goals.

There is a lot of support on the County Council for walkability. Currently, the council is working on the snow removal legislation. Snow removal is a challenge to biking and walkability. County can do a better job to keep mobility options open to all after it snows. In addition, we need to change the standard for building roads. He wants the council to focus again on the Road Code initiative.  The plan was sent to a work group but Hans is working with Councilmember Roger Berliner to bring the code back to the County Council this session. He hopes to have it approved by end of term in November.

In addition, the county is working on a new bicycling master plan and a pedestrian master plan, which has never been created before. The bicycling plan has not been updated in seven years.

Councilmember Riemer also mentioned that a walkability audit would be really beneficial. It will provide a space for residents to point out all their concerns. We need to have a good process to present their problems to the DOT and SHA and FOWF is good way to do this.

Coming Attractions
On Thursday, September 11th, the Branding of the Pike charette will take place at StreetSense in Bethesda.

Starting Monday, September 8th, “Give support,” If an individual donates $25 to Friends of White Flint, they will receive a $25 gift certificate to Paladar Latin Kitchen in the mail.  The fundraising event will run for month. All one has to do is go to the Friends of White Flint website, click on the Paypal icon and donate $25.

In addition, Strathmore donated two vouchers that will be distributed during our membership drive starting in the fall.

No motion to adjourn meeting. Meeting adjourned at 8:25 pm. 

Finding the Right Balance

Something we’ve been demanding for White Flint is that we strike a balance when creating spaces for people to get around.  This means that car shouldn’t be king – nor should any other group.  We must find ways to encourage people to walk and bike, but also acknowledge that many will still drive (and need to park).  For too long, road design has skewed toward vehicles and created unsafe conditions for other modes of transportation – it’s time to shift that paradigm.

Yesterday on Greater Greater Washington, our friend Ben Ross looked at the ways public funds are still being spent to prioritize the car.  One project on which he focuses is the parking garage proposed for the Bethesda North Conference Center property.  Now, this is a project that we really like.  It allows expanded capacity of conference center parking, while also allowing us to build the western workaround, which requires the realigned Executive Boulevard to cut through the existing surface lot.  But, Ben suggests that the funding of the project could be executed in a smarter way that would result in more money for increasing pedestrian-friendliness around our area.

It’s just some food for thought… we’re curious what you think.  Read Ben’s whole piece by clicking here.

Update from White Flint Sector Plan Implementation Advisory Committee February Meeting

The February 10th meeting began with the mention of no new development taking place throughout the White Flint sector currently. The Pike and Rose development is continuing nicely with their first Phase.

Then the meeting turned to the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee update. The committee is in support of the county’s proposed Bill 33-13: Urban Road Code Standards and Pedestrian Safety Improvements.  On January 24th, Planning Board Chair Carrier sent a letter to the President of the County Council supporting the Bill.   In the letter, the planning board agreed with the goals of the bill and acknowledged the need to change the 2007 urban road codes in order to have complete streets. They recommended that the bill include language that provides more details on issues such as accessibility, curb extensions, and shared use path.

Cindy Gibson, Chief of Staff to Councilmember Roger Berliner (who introduced the bill), attended the meeting as well. She provided the committee with an opportunity to learn more about the Urban Road Code bill. The bill will allow for urban areas throughout Montgomery County to have complete streets and will allow for more places like Bethesda and the future White Flint to exist. Since the urban road code was last updated in 2007, many new master plans and sector plans have popped up in hopes to create new and exciting areas across the county. Now that we have these plans, our roads, standards, and policies need to encourage what these plans were designed for: complete streets. This updated urban road code will be one step closer to creating streets and roads we really want and need. The bill will strengthen ADA, pedestrian, and bike language surrounding the county streets as well. Cindy also highlighted the public hearing, where Friends of White Flint testified, and that the County Executive’s support of the bill has been great.  (** We have since learned that Bill 33-13 is being tabled pending the results of a multi-disciplinary workgroup).

The meeting then moved toward the Implementation Coordinator report from Dee Metz. The county executive sent the CIP budget for approval on January 15th. As we have discussed in past posts, there are many proposed projects for White Flint in the CIP budget. These include the Western Workaround, District East (planning and construction), District West, Chapman Extended, and the North Bethesda Recreation Center. Questions from the public focused on the Western Workaround, one of the most important projects for White Flint. One question focused on the construction of the relocation of Executive Blvd in front of the North Bethesda Conference Center. The construction is funded in the CIP but the purchase of the land is not funded under the CIP budget. One of the funding sources is the White Flint Special Taxing District tax revenues but it may not be enough funding. The revenue will increase as the redevelopment moves forward, but it cannot move forward without the existence of roads. The county is working with the private landowner to secure the land that will be part of this project. In addition, we learned that the County Executive has discussed borrowing either $45 million or $77 million in revenue bonds.  If the county decides to borrow this money, they will not be able to pay it back until 2037. With the revenue bonds, the county needs to show a stream of income in order to secure the bond, which possess another problem.

There were two main sentiments that came out of the committee meeting that are important to remember throughout this redevelopment process that I will highlight. The first is that the county needs to make Rockville Pike, part of the District West project, their priority for redevelopment in order to bring in other funding sources, such as the state government or even the federal government. If the county does not place the Rockville Pike redevelopment as a priority, then how will the state or the federal government? One of challenges we are faced with the prioritizing the Rockville Pike project is the BRT. The Rockville Pike design cannot be complete without the BRT design. We cannot accelerate one of these projects over the other since the projects go hand in hand. In order to show that the Pike is important, the county can use methods such as a issuing a priority letter focused on the Pike or using the CIP budget to reflect the importance of the Pike.  On a related note, the committee is looking into completing an update Streetscape plan/study for Rockville Pike.

The second highlight or sentiment is that once the Western Workaround project is completed, then other projects may be pushed forward. The Western Workaround was referred to as the “spine” of the Sector plan, so we need to push this project along. Other WF projects have been pushed back for funding to be used for the Western Workaround, so it is evident that this project should continue on. Construction is slotted to begin in 2016 so we look forward to this project and all the White Flint projects to begin.