Live-blogging from the March 30 meeting of the Montgomery Planning Board. Live streaming available at www.montgomeryplanningboard.org.
Federal Realty Investment Trust. Mid-Pike Plaza. Don Briggs, Evan Goldman (also a co-Chair of Friends of White Flint). Between Montrose Rd and Old Georgetown Rd, Rockville Pike and Old Old Georgetown Rd. Current Toy R Us, Silver Diner.
Ellipse. Glatting-Jackson walkability, 10 minute walk shows an elliptical shape. With the new road network, it extends the walkability through the Sector, because new streets are more accessible. Comparison Bethesda. Bethesda Row and Woodmont Triangle Park are all 10 minute walk from Metro. People will walk from those places to the Metro. Fits with our recommendations for density. Region developed over time into a car-oriented district; north south, but very shallow. So built out residential neighborhoods on either side of Rockville Pike. Real estate values are more valuable on the Pike than 3-4 blocks away, just as Bethesda developed in a linear fashion, White Flint will do the same. Stepping down more rapidly east-west than north-south; natural barriers to Luxmanor, for example, in Wall Park, and tracks to Randolph Hills.
Alfandre: because of your good works in Bethesda, all the people are in your areas in Bethesda, not on the Pike/Wisconsin Ave/Route 355. You’ve drawn them away. If you had some similar developments on 355, you’d have the people up there as well. So taking some exception to analysis, because what you’ve demonstrated is that if you’ve created a good sense of place, people will walk a long way to get there. Because of the destination you’ve created there. We need to encourage and reward the sense of place and destination you’ve created.
Briggs: got to take into account people walking from homes and offices. Majority of Metro ridership. People will walk to Metro because the fabric of community begins to knit a sense of safety and access. Alfandre: a lot of that fabric existed there before; it doesn’t exist in White Flint right now. Need to see a more seamless connection in White Flint to the neighborhoods that you have in Bethesda. Briggs: we agree and we need a more positive approach. Alfandre: we’re looking for help from people like you who have actually done it and it works. I’m more concerned with the finer grain which hasn’t popped out yet.
Briggs: turning to Mid-Pike. Want to develop it into another Bethesda. Network of retail streets, two “main streets” one north south, the other east west. Need taller building near Montrose Parkway. Parks in the middle; staff proposed one, but we want to break that into two smaller urban spaces. We have experience putting in useful urban spaces. Great space in Bethesda at fountain, but less than 1/10th acre. Certainty needs to be an over-arching goal.
Hanson: everybody wants certainty until it’s inconvenient, and then they want flexibility. Want about incentives; would that matter?
Briggs: a good idea. I think they’d use them. Value of FAR bonus needs to have some relationship to the cost of providing the amenity. Not sure that the bonuses spelled out in the zone today have that. Give a range for each “goodie” to both the proposer and the Board; what is that “worth” in those circumstances and at that time. Otherwise not a lot will happen because the dollars are out of sync. Robinson: need bounds that are fairly fixed. So people know what the potential impacts are. Right now have neither certainty nor flexibility. Hanson: something traditional: base and bonuses. Need to calibrate to scale bonus to what is done. Briggs: get a range of discretionary negotiated range of bonus. Gives you flexibility to grant more FAR to a developer who can make an argument for more. As long as the economic cost is equivalent to the value received, everyone’s fine. If it’s far too high, it won’t happen. If it is too low, the Board should push density down.
Briggs: We can do outdoor space, but not individual units. 20% pervious is not urban standard. Try to program our urban spaces. Not just lawns. We can’t satisfy that. Robinson: I don’t think it works in this area. Not going to get water table recharge because it’s already scraped down to bedrock, but don’t look at standard that way. Look at the issue. We mean the reason is to prevent run-off as storm water. Are there other ways to address that concern? Design features? Storm water standards increasingly restrictive in coming years. Briggs: nobody objects to water control, but the pervious requirement? No way anybody can achieve that and achieve the kind of development you’re talking about. Deal with it through BLTs. Creating, in essence, and saving pervious area. Any improvement over what is there is an improvement. Robinson: not one example from State presentation of handling pervious requirement in a high density environment.
Briggs: same with tree canopy. Not an urban standard. Hanson: street trees that can achieve a partial canopy. Increase quality for pedestrians. Green roofs and green areas. Major effect on reducing run-off and have a cooling effect. Robinson: reduce heat island effect. Do something like street trees. Hanson: trade-offs with use of roofs for solar generation and green roofs. One to create energy andone to dissipate it. Piera Weiss: looking for a “green factor” of all types. Meet some of these goals a different way.
Briggs: how are we creating districts. Districts are created by roads and corridors. Our site connected to parcels to the site. Interior connections even across the Pike into North Bethesda Center. Green spaces throughout connected by streets. We want Old Georgetown reduced in volume to a neighborhood street.
Alfandre: only one in all worksessions expressed interest in what’s happening near your site to people who live nearby. Still concerned. Edgemoor access. Not access within plan. Outside boundaries. As a stock company, your chairman left his position because of the way FRIT was going in their development; do you see that coming back, that inspiration that started FRIT, or are shareholders just going to require return on investment for each parcel. Briggs: I could build strip centers, but I’m a frustrate urbanist. I’ve put myself through a two year agony to produce a good property and community. Can’t count on a single developer to bring this kind of vision to reality. Need a strong urban idea that makes economic sense in the long haul in order to bring everyone together around urbanism around transit. Built on a plan that provides some degree of certainty and some degree of flexibility. Not built around a single person’s vision. Can’t rely on an individual to see it through the long haul. We all have to be behind it for the long haul.