What bars and restaurants can do for your neighborhood

We’re looking forward to the new options and amenities, including more restaurants and bars, that will be coming to White Flint. Having a variety of options close to each other may in fact interest Millennials and empty nester/retiring Baby Boomers alike, as many people from both generations seek more walkable, amenity-rich, transit-oriented communities.

Matthew Yglesias from Slate points out that while some worry more bars will cause problems for their neighborhood (using his own neighborhood in D.C. as an example), these establishments promote many positive elements for a city that are often overlooked, including:

* promoting local/small-business creation and growth throughout a city

* taking advantage of co-location – “The late-night pizza joint’s proximity to the dive bar increases the value of both… theaters and live-music venues benefit from proximity to other after-hours activities and also drive customers to bars and restaurants. Forcing the cluster to disperse destroys its value [and] preventing new firms from entering the cluster fosters high prices and mediocrity.”

* providing “meaningful opportunities for people with limited formal education to work their way up the ladder and go into business for themselves.”

Yglesias adds that jurisdictions should look at liquor licensing with an eye toward citywide effects, including tax revenue and job creation – while “attempting to directly address perceived problems with crime and trash.”

We agree that a vibrant bar/restaurant scene should absolutely include adequate trash pickup, safe and reliable ways for people to get home, and an overall safe environment at each venue and in the general area. And if those things are in place, these establishments can add immense value to the local area and perhaps even an entire jurisdiction.

Learn more about Montgomery County’s Nighttime Economy Task Force

The county’s Nighttime Economy Task Force has been in the news since February, and has met several times already to “examine policies, resources and amenities that address Montgomery County’s nightlife offerings.”

To learn more, check out the Task Force’s website, which includes information about the group’s workplan and sub-committees and members.

The Nighttime Economy Task Force meets from 5-7pm the 3rd Monday of every month, with sub-committees meeting the 4th Tuesday of every month. The Task Force holds meetings in different locations throughout the county; the July meetings will be held in Wheaton. The July 15th Task Force meeting will be held at Hollywood East located at Westfield Wheaton Mall (11160 Veirs Mill Road), and the July 23rd sub-committee meetings will be at the Mid-County Regional Services Center (2424 Reedie Drive). All meetings are open to the public.

Young adults in Montgomery seek proximity to transit, jobs, hangouts

Young people in MoCo choose to be near jobs, hangouts and transit. Photo by katmere on Flickr.

Montgomery County community leaders want to draw more Millennials, members of the generation born between 1982 and 2000, hoping that they’ll stick around when they’re older. As they explore ways to attract twenty- and thirtysomethings, from new transit projects to more nightlife, it’s worth looking at where they live in Montgomery County today.

According to the 2010 Census, Montgomery County has about 186,000 residents between the ages of 20 and 34, making up about 19% of the county’s population. In a recent Washington Post article about the county’s Night Time Economy Initiative, reporter Bill Turque notes that young adults make up a lower share of Montgomery County’s population than other places in Greater Washington.

Why is that? Trends show that Millennials want an urban lifestyle, but are often stymied by limited funds and a dearth of affordable housing. As a predominantly suburban, affluent county, Montgomery doesn’t seem like the kind of place where young adults would want to live.

However, if you look at individual neighborhoods, you’ll find substantial concentrations of Millennials, suggesting a way forward for Montgomery County as it seeks to draw more of them.

Millennials flock to areas near transit, jobs, affordable housing

Where Millennials live in Montgomery County. Click on the image for a bigger version, or click here to see it without the rankings.

Here’s a map of Census tracts where the percentage of 20-to-34 year old residents is higher than the county’s 19% average in the 2010 Census. The county’s largest concentrations of Millennials are along the Red Line in places like White Flint, downtown Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring, where young adults are a slim majority. Notably, these are also the places where walking, biking and taking transit to work are most common.

Young adults also seem to gravitate towards shopping and entertainment districts like the Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg. Even though it’s not near a Metro station or major bus route, Washingtonian Center is a pretty walkable area where one can shop or grab dinner without a car.

We can also conclude that many Millennials are trying to live as close as possible to their jobs. Here’s a map of where people under 29 work in Montgomery County:

Where Millennials work in Montgomery County.

Compare it to the first map and you can see that clusters of young people coincide with the county’s biggest job centers, White Flint, Bethesda and Silver Spring. Yet there are also large concentrations of Millennials in places with fewer jobs, like Briggs Chaney in East County and Germantown in the Upcounty.

Not surprisingly, these communities are also more affordable. According to the 2006-2011 American Community Survey, the median monthly rent is $1565 in Census tract 7048.06 in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle, compared to $1344 in Census tract 7008.18 in the Middlebrook section of Germantown.

Both of these neighborhoods have some of the county’s largest concentrations of Millennials, suggesting that there may be more to it than affordability. If we take a closer look at different segments of the county’s young adults, we can get a better understanding of why they live where they do.

Educated and single Millennials move closer in

Here’s a map of 18-to-34-year olds with at least an associate’s degree:

Where college-educated Millennials live in Montgomery County. Click on the image for a bigger version, or click here to see it without the rankings.

The general distribution of young people is the same, but there’s a slight shift towards the Downcounty. College-educated people tend to have higher incomes, which might explain why there are more of them in expensive areas like Bethesda and Friendship Heights.

Where single Millennials live in Montgomery County. Click on the image for a bigger version, or click here to see it without the rankings.

However, the county’s single Millennials have decidedly chosen to live closer in, settling in and around downtown Silver Spring, downtown Bethesda, Friendship Heights and White Flint. These neighborhoods have almost everything that a young single person would want: they’re close to Metro, major employers and the District, they contain a fair number of bars and restaurants, and they have a variety of housing options. Silver Spring in particular has a number of group houses.

Millennials with families move further out

Where young families live in Montgomery County. Click on the image for a bigger version, or click here to see it without the rankings.

While singles are flocking to closer-in neighborhoods, Montgomery’s young families, defined here as households led by individuals under 34 and related by marriage, blood or adoption, are moving further out. All ten of the county’s largest concentrations of young families are well outside the Beltway, particularly in Gaithersburg and Germantown. Just one is near a Metro station, Twinbrook.

This fits the long-held stereotype that once you get married and have kids, you move to the suburbs in search of larger, more affordable housing. Not only is it cheaper to rent in the Upcounty, it’s cheaper to buy: the median home value in Middlebrook is just $294,000, compared to $516,800 in the Woodmont Triangle.

Yet families who choose to move further out will pay considerably more for transportation than they would elsewhere. That might explain why young families appear to have settled in neighborhoods like Fallsgrove in Rockville, which were designed to encourage walking and biking, near shopping areas like Washingtonian Center or employment areas like the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center.

Meanwhile, young families still make up one-tenth of all households in downtown Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring, suggesting that some are interested in an urban lifestyle. This isn’t a new trend: I grew up in an high-rise apartment building in downtown Silver Spring in the 1990’s, and there were plenty of kids around. Of course, my mother chose to live there because it was “affordable and quiet,” which I’m not sure characterizes the area today.

What does this mean?

These maps have implications not just for Montgomery County, but the whole region. They show that the District and Arlington aren’t the only places that can attract Millennials, so long as they can be near neighborhoods near transit, shopping and jobs. While many young families are choosing to live further out, they’re still seeking a semi-urban experience.

They also show that one of Montgomery’s greatest strengths remains its diversity of neighborhoods, allowing it to attract both singles and families. However, two distinct challenges lie ahead. One is to preserve a supply of affordably-priced housing in the county’s urban areas, both established places like Bethesda or emerging ones like White Flint. The other is to create more walkable neighborhoods and improve access to jobs, shopping and transit in the Upcounty and East County, where young families continue to settle.

Of course, Millennials aren’t the only ones who want an urban or semi-urban lifestyle. But if Montgomery County wants to attract a new generation of residents, it needs to start listening to young adults. Without us, the county doesn’t have much of a future.

Crossposted on Greater Greater Washington.

Signs of nightlife on Rockville Pike

This is in Bethesda, but White Flint will be there soon. Photo by ehpien on Flickr.

If you’re planning a night out, you might naturally gravitate towards Bethesda, Silver Spring or the District. But what about here in White Flint? As it turns out, you could do worse than spending your evening on Rockville Pike.

By now, you’ve probably read the Washington Post article about Montgomery County’s nascent Night Time Economy initiative, intended to make the county a more attractive place to live for young professionals whom officials hope will stick around when they’re older. This dovetails nicely with the White Flint Sector Plan, which will turn White Flint into an urban hub with places to live, work and play, including after dark.

That’s great for the future, but how are we doing right now? In other words, can you have a successful night out in White Flint, say, this weekend?

Using Yelp and Google, I found 26 “bars” on Rockville Pike between White Flint and Rockville Town Square (and a few just off the Pike) that are open until at least 10pm on weekdays and 11pm on weekends and serve alcohol. (I put “bars” in quotation marks because, save for a few exceptions, Montgomery County requires establishments that serve alcohol to sell an equal amount of food.)

Map of venues on Rockville Pike open until at least 11pm on weekends and 10pm on weekdays. Click for an interactive map.

Map of venues on Rockville Pike open until at least 11pm on weekends and 10pm on weekdays. Click here or on the image itself for an interactive map.

I was impressed by the quantity and variety of options. If we were to measure the “pub shed” of each establishment, mapping everyone within a quarter-mile walk of each bar or restaurant, I imagine that it would cover most of White Flint and Rockville Pike.

Yes, there are a lot of national chains like T.G.I. Friday’s (whose original claim to fame is inventing the singles bar), but there are also a number of local places as well, notably Cafe 20/20, a Korean karaoke lounge. (If you’ve never done Korean karaoke before, I highly recommend it – unlike American karaoke bars, each party gets its own room, protecting you from humiliation.)

Of course, one upside to hanging out in Bethesda or the District is that if you go to one bar or restaurant, there are likely others within walking distance, releasing you from the need for a cab ride or designated driver. That’s one of the benefits of New Urbanism: higher density means more people, which means you can support more businesses in a smaller area, be they supermarkets or hardware stores or Korean karaoke bars.

You can already see New Urbanist principles at work in Rockville Town Square, where there’s already a cluster of restaurants and bars open late. In addition, there are apartments and condominiums above, meaning that you can even live above the bar. (With adequate soundproofing, of course, because you have to go to sleep eventually.) As White Flint grows, we’ll see more developments like it, allowing you even more chances to have a night out in Montgomery County.

By the way: if you have any suggestions or corrections to this map, please let us know!