Thrive Montgomery 2050: Planning for the Decades to Come

Did you know the last time we updated Montgomery County’s General Plan we were still trying to step foot on the moon? Technology has come a long way since then. How will technology continue to influence the way we work, commute and live? With this plan, Montgomery Planning is planning for the decades to come. 

Montgomery Planning staff are working to analyze data and trends along with your feedback to come up with recommendations on the future of the county. We wanted to share with you some facts we are looking at right now. 


Montgomery County is still growing

Demographics are changing

More residents are also working in Montgomery County

It’s getting hotter

Home ownership is declining

Number of trips made in the county is not decreasing


Take a deeper look at the subject areas that Thrive Montgomery 2050 is aiming to address.

WF2 Design Guidelines Open Houses

Montgomery Planning will hold open houses on March 26 and 28 to present design guidelines for the Rock Spring and White Flint 2 Plans. Planners will present draft recommendations for the design of buildings, streets and public spaces at two meeting locations for community feedback.

Planners will hold the White Flint 2 Sector Plan Design Guidelines open house on Tuesday, March 26 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center (5900 Executive Boulevard, Rockville, MD). They will follow that event with the Rock Spring Master Plan Design Guidelines open house on Thursday, March 28 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Davis Library (6400 Democracy Boulevard, Bethesda, MD).

RSVP for the March 26 and March 28 open houses.

Read the Draft Guidelines by clicking here.

The Rock Spring and White Flint 2 Sector Plan Design Guidelines aim to ensure that new building projects fit into the character of each area and provide stakeholders with a consistent starting point for reviewing proposed developments. They allow for flexibility in interpreting the standards and proposing creative alternatives to the guidelines that still meet their intent.

One set of design guidelines was developed for both Rock Spring and White Flint 2 since these planning areas are about 1.5 miles apart and share similar challenges and opportunities. At the open houses, planners will discuss how the guidelines affect each area with specific examples drawn from the separate communities.

The design guidelines for these areas aim to: 1) Promote the conversion of single-use areas into mixed-use places. 2) Integrate mobility alternatives with a focus on pedestrian and bike connections to amenities and destinations. 3) Design buildings, public spaces and streets for pedestrian interest and comfort. 4) Encourage the use of new school prototypes that employ adaptive reuse, colocation and multi-level designs. 5) Complement urban development with easily accessible, high quality public and private parks and open spaces. 6) Apply sustainable design practices to protect natural resources and improve the health of residents in the plan areas.

The White Flint 2 Sector Plan promotes the transformation of parking lots into places and single-use shopping centers into mixed-use communities along Rockville Pike (MD 355). It recommends integrating new residential and non-residential uses into the Executive Boulevard office park and promoting mixed-use neighborhood centers at the Loehmann’s Plaza and Randolph Hills Shopping Centers. The County Council approved the plan in December 2017.

The Rock Spring Master Plan envisions 535 acres, now mostly used as an office park, as an employment center that could offer new housing and retail. New development is envisioned along a proposed central circulation spine, which could provide a future transitway for buses and safe routes for pedestrians, bicyclists and cars. The Montgomery County Council approved the plan in November 2017.

Questions, comments?   Contact the Lead Planner:

Atul Sharma Atul.Sharma@montgomeryplanning.org 301-495-4658

Interesting, Educational Articles to Start the New Year

Transforming the White Flint area into a walkable, vibrant, smart growth area isn’t a mere whim. It’s based on solid research and thought-out policy. The following top ten blogs on Montgomery Planning’s The Third Place are interesting, educational articles that discuss the backbone principles of the burgeoning transformation of the Pike District.

Converting Office to Residential is Complicated: This blog examines the roles of economics, location, architectural design and zoning regulations in determining new uses for vacant office buildings.

Montgomery County’s Economy: The Good, the Bad and the Future: Written by Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, this entry in a series of posts outlines the assets, including high paying jobs and a well educated workforce, that can continue to support the quality of life in the county.

New Suburbanism: Not Just for Millennials: Anderson reveals the broad appeal of compact, walkable neighborhoods near transit among various age groups. He urges investment in public transportation so more transit-oriented development is available to residents across the income spectrum.

Parking Lots: Before and After: Shopping centers and asphalt wastelands are being transformed into attractive, mixed-use developments, such as Pike & Rose off Rockville Pike. This blog points to the plans that set the stage for turning more parking lots into places where people want to be.

Real Estate Development Is Infrastructure: Using housing and job statistics, this post makes a case for private development as a necessity. Just as schools, roads and rail lines are needed for our communities to support economic activity, so, too, are housing, stores and offices required to serve basic human needs.

Wages, Inequality and the Aging of the Workforce: Challenges to the county’s future economic competitiveness, including flat median incomes and an aging population, are described in this blog.

Focusing Vision Zero in the Suburbs: Through recent planning efforts, Montgomery County is developing strategies to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries by 2030. Vision Zero recommendations include reducing lane widths and speed limits and adding more crossing areas to improve safety for all road users.

Population, Job Growth and Housing Supply: Statistics show Montgomery County’s population will increase only less than 1 percent a year, but this blog reveals that the rate of new housing construction is still insufficient to keep up with even the slow growth of residents and jobs.

Placemaking in Action: This blog explains how Montgomery Planning put theories about public gathering places into practice by partnering with the Dallas-based Better Block Foundation to transform a shopping center parking lot into a pop-up park with the help of residents.

New Suburbanism: Walkability and Transit: Three key ingredients – pedestrian and bicycling access, mixed uses and compact neighborhood form – are essential to creating better suburban communities, this blog argues, even in areas without access to high-quality transit.

“The Third Place blog provides a great forum for community members to learn more about important planning topics and issues that affect Montgomery County,” says Planning Director Gwen Wright. “As planners, we work on these issues daily and the blog is a forum for sharing what we’ve learned and what we see in the future, beyond individual plans and development projects.”



Tell ’em what you think about the Randolph Hills Placemaking Event

The Randolph Hills Shopping Center will be the site of a placemaking event in October. The Randolph Civic Association is collaborating with the owner of the shopping center, Montgomery County Planning, the Better Block Foundation, and local businesses to reimagine the Randolph Hills Shopping Center over a weekend. From October 8-11, there will be community led design and build activities. This will be followed by the grand opening and placemaking festival from October 12-14. The lessons learned from this placemaking event will help inform permanent designs. Before the event, we are requesting your input through a survey.

They are encouraging broad community input so that they can make this event successful and inclusive. You can find the survey here:

For more information about the White Flint placemaking event and the Better Block Foundation, see http://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/placemaking/white-flint-placemaking/ and http://www.betterblock.org.

Parking Lots: Before and After

From The Third Place, a Montgomery Planning Department Blog, Posted by 

Plans for central Montgomery County are now being realized through urban-style, mixed-use developments

In central Montgomery County, vibrant parks, walkable streets, centers of activity and new buildings are arriving in areas that were once a sea of asphalt. The movement began with the 24-acre Pike & Rose district that replaced the 1960s Mid-Pike Plaza at Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike.

Opening in 2014, this ambitious project led by Federal Realty is one of the first developments in the nation to transform a strip center into a vibrant community. It is planned to have more than 1,500 housing units, with 864 already built, and 12.5 percent of the units will be moderately priced dwelling units.

Pike and Rose, Before and After Redevelopment

Pike & Rose is part of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, which calls for new vibrant communities by the Metro’s Red Line stations. The plan encourages a transition from car-oriented suburbs to livable, urban-style walkable communities with clusters of housing, offices, stores, restaurants and civic amenities. Several projects following these recommendations are now being realized.

Directly across the street from Pike & Rose, more surface parking lots have been converted into new housing and a grocery store as part of North Bethesda Center, being developed by LCOR, with remaining lots continuing to transform. And in December 2017, the County Council adopted the White Flint 2 Sector Plan, which extends this mixed-use transformation east and west along Rockville Pike.

North Bethesda, Before and After Redevelopment

Farther south on Rockville Pike, the Grosvenor Strathmore Metro Station is also transforming.   Montgomery Planning developed the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Area Minor Master Plan with the community to make better use of this transit-accessible area. The goal is to enhance visibility and connectivity to the Strathmore Music Center, improve walkability and create a shared identity for this community through public space and artworks.  Fivesquares Development is planning Strathmore Square, a project proposed with four to six new buildings, more than 1,000 housing units, ground-floor retail and a public park. Metro is planning to replace the 412 parking spaces that would be lost when the development is constructed by adding spaces to the existing parking garage at the site.

Grosvenor Strathmore Metro Station, Before and After Redevelopment

Creating vibrant places out of parking lots can be difficult. So it is encouraging to see such transformations becoming more common in Montgomery County and necessary to maintain this momentum as land becomes scarcer for development.

To explore this trend, the Montgomery Planning Department is holding a three-part Winter Speaker Series titled “The Economic Future of the Suburbs: Infill, Commerce, Placemaking.” The series examines the shift away from sprawling, car-centric places to more walkable, mixed-use and urban-style communities and how this trend is a response to market conditions. The public is invited to attend the next presentations on January 24 and February 28, 2018 at the Planning Department.

In case you’re interested in hearing the Planning Board present their White Flint 2 recommendations …

Planners will present their draft recommendations for the White Flint 2 Sector Plan to the City of Rockville Mayor and Council at Rockville City Hall (111 Maryland Ave, Rockville, MD 20850). The Council meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. on January 9 and is open to the public.

For more information regarding the Montgomery County Planning Board please visit www.montgomeryplanningboard.org.

What happened at last night’s Meeting on Schools and the White Flint 2/Rock Spring Master Plans

It was a packed house at WJ last night as Gwen Wright, Glenn Kreger, Nkosi Yearwood, and Pam Dunn from Montgomery  Planning and Bruce Crispell from MCPS carefully explained how they plan for schools and listened to passionate comments from the audience.

Councilmember Roger Berliner and Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson opened the meeting. They both reminded everyone that the Master Planning process for both White Flint 2 and Rock Spring are at the beginning stages and cheered this collaboration occurring at the front end of the process.

Here are some highlights from the very informative presentation.

The planning process is long and complex with a great deal of public engagement. A master plan includes land use and zoning recommendations, transit and bikeways, parks, schools, public safety/emergency services, and an implementation plan.  The White Flint 2 sector plan should go before the council for review and adoption in early 2017.

Enrollment growth in the WJ Cluster has been phenomenal. For example, Garrett Park ES has grown from 446 students in 2007 to 807 students this school year. WJ increased by 339 students. Total growth in the cluster from 2007 to 2015 resulted in an increase 1,242 of students.

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Despite renovations and expansions in many of the cluster schools, projected enrollment numbers will result in schools bursting at the seams.. For example, Tilden MS is projected to have 1,200 students by 2020.  WJ is projected is to have 2,798 students by 2021, 463 more than its capacity.

Options for increasing school capacity include reopening a closed schools (Alta Vista, Montrose, Arylawn, Kensington), constructing a new school at a future school site (White Flint Mall site), purchasing land for a school, considering nontraditional options (urban designed school.)

The enrollment surge is caused by turnover of existing homes rather than new development. For example, a review of 4,934 high rise units in the WJ Cluster showed a student generation rate of .039 for elementary, .012 for middle, and .016 for high school. That means 100 units would generate 4 elementary school students. More specifically, PerSei yielded 4 elementary students, 0 middle school students, 1 high school student.

MCPS’s role in the master planning process includes providing student enrollment projects, requesting a school site be designated when justified, and providing data for use in the Subdivision Staging Policy. (SSP.)

SSP defines school adequacy and set the rules for conducting the Annual School Test for the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. The kick off for the next SSP is October 16.

MCPS has redone how they calculate new student generation, now using real data. Fore example, multi family low to mid rise developments have a new student generation rate of .077.

A development impact tax is assessed on new residential and commercial buildings as well as additions to commercial buildings. This tax goes to MCPS and represents 90% of the cost of a student seat generated by a new unit. For example, a single-family detached home has a school impact tax of $26,827 and a multifamily high-rise unit has a school impact tax of $5,412. Last year the school impact tax raised $45 million and to date this year, has raised $32 million.

The School Facility Payment stays in the cluster and is triggered when schools are over 105% of capacity. In 2014, in the WJ Cluster, the School Facility Payment generated $237,600 and to date in 2015, $577,684.

Many of the questions and comments from the audience received applause and cheers. The room full of people clapped enthusiastically when a parent in the audience said he believed schools are getting too big to properly teach students and when another parent suggested that schools are going downhill. The question “Why aren’t we getting a new school each year from the impact taxes?” received great applause.

For another take on the meeting, here’s a Bethesda Beat article.