Archives June 2013

Postal Service community meeting July 10

At the last Downtown Advisory Committee meeting we were told that the United States Postal Service would be holding a meeting in July to get input from the community on where the Kensington post office (currently at White Flint Mall) should be relocated. Now it is confirmed that USPS will host a community meeting on July 10 at 4: 30 p.m. at Wall Local Park/Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center.

Check out this article from the Gazette for more info: http://www.gazette.net/article/20130626/NEWS/130629476/1022/white-flint-post-office-seeks-new-home&template=gazette. We hope to see you there!

“Always on the defensive”: A cyclist on biking in White Flint

Will people bike or walk in White Flint if they have to use streets like this? All photos by the author unless noted.

For White Flint to become a great urban place, it needs a great pedestrian and bicycle network. But today, it’s not always an easy place to get around by foot or bike. Recently, I had an e-mail interview with Mary Ward, a White Flint resident and cyclist who has become an advocate for better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Some answers have been edited for clarity and conciseness.

How do you get around in White Flint currently?

I live just south of the White Flint Sector Plan boundary on Rockville Pike. Until just recently, I worked just west of White Flint, about a mile from my home. I would often bike to work using part of the Bethesda Trolley Trail and Executive Boulevard to get there.

When weather wasn’t conducive to biking or I needed to do shopping, I would drive and do my grocery shopping and other errands, hooking together several stops and avoiding Rockville Pike whenever possible. I sometimes walk to White Flint Mall, Whole Foods, and Strathmore since those are less than a half-mile away, but all of these destinations involve walking at least part of the way along Rockville Pike, which is not pleasant.

In bad weather and heavy traffic times of day, I drive.

What impediments do you face getting around on foot or bike today?

I would say the biggest impediment is the issue of “you can’t get there from here,” without spending some of the journey a foot or two away from a busy road, breathing traffic exhaust. Drivers are not looking out for bikers or pedestrians, so as a pedestrian or cyclist, I am always on the defensive.

For biking, the biggest impediment is the lack of off-road bike paths and separate bike lanes that connect to shopping and other destinations in the area, like Strathmore. For walking, too many of the sidewalks in and around White Flint are close to busy roads, like on Rockville Pike, Old Georgetown and Nicholson Lane.

My husband is less risk-averse than I am and he bikes almost everywhere. He challenged Councilmember Berliner, and any other councilmembers who would like to participate, to bike with him on three of his typical rides:  To his dentist in the heart of White Flint, to the grocery store, and on a recreational ride down the Trolley Trail to Bethesda. We are still waiting for a reply.

Do you feel like the Sector Plan will address those concerns?

Certainly, wider sidewalks and some additional bike lanes and off-road shared use paths will be a welcome improvement over current conditions. However, I have three concerns.

New sidewalks like this one on Rockville Pike will help, but will they be enough?

Will the sidewalks and bike paths be adequate for the expected increase in population? 9,500 new housing units will surely translate to more than 15,000 new residents. Montgomery County has a “complete streets” policy on the books, but I don’t see that all of the streets in the White Flint Sector Plan will be required to meet the “complete streets” goal of accessibility to all cyclists and pedestrians, regardless of age or skill level.

One example is Nicholson Lane, which is slated to have an on-road bike lane, but the same narrow sidewalk. Unless there’s a true physical separation from traffic, I would not feel comfortable biking on such a busy road. I am also concerned that the recreational loop will not adequately accommodate cyclists, especially with the future bikeshare program, and walkers.

How will people in adjacent neighborhoods get here? The promise of the White Flint development is that it will be a walkable and bikeable destination for members of surrounding communities who already do most of their shopping in White Flint. But the Sector Plan doesn’t address completing bike paths and improving sidewalks to that those areas have a pleasant and safe way to get here. The “complete streets” policy must also be extended to neighboring communities.

Montrose Parkway East

The current plan for Montrose Parkway. Image from the Maryland State Highway Administration.

How will people get to recreational destinations? The new population of White Flint is not going to just shop and go to movies here. There need to be easy ways to get to nearby parks, especially Rock Creek Park, which is a great resource and national treasure, but there are few ways to get there except by car.

White Flint will eventually have a civic green and Wall Park will offer some amenities, but we have thousands of acres of green space within a short distance of the area, yet it’s not connected.

Instead, the Planning Board approved an extension of the Montrose Parkway that will require cutting down hundreds of trees and destroy part of Rock Creek Park. The right-of-way, which is owned by the county, could instead help connect White Flint to the park with a hiker-biker path extension.

What do you think the county should focus on to make White Flint a better place to walk or bike?

I believe it takes political will and leadership to make a “complete streets” policy happen. And money, of course. Currently the bike infrastructure budget for our large, wealthy county is a paltry amount.

Communities that have really become pedestrian and bike friendly have had a leader like Michael Bloomberg in New York City or Adrian Fenty in DC. We need that kind of leadership in Montgomery County.

Will Bicyclists Feel Safe in White Flint?

Throughout our discussions of the proposed road design for White Flint, we have noted that concerns remain about whether the roads will appropriately accommodate all users.  This includes bicyclists.

Jack Cochrane of MoBike, the Montgomery Bicycle Advocates, weighed in on the new road design.  He believes we can do better and notes that, “at most a third of the business streets in the White Flint Sector Plan will have any sort of bike accommodations.” He also points out the potential conflicts this may cause : “Without bike accommodations, cyclists will either have to ride single file with cars or use the right lane of a busy multi-lane street (or use the sidewalk).  Lack of bike accommodations will deter the type of cyclist we need to attract if we want to increase bicycle mode share.  Without special accommodations, less aggressive riders will ride on the sidewalk or not at all.”

Read his full post here: http://cyclemoco.com/2013/06/white-flint-plan-falls-short-for-bikes/ and let us know what you think!

Bike Lanes Make Everyone Feel Safer

We often view bike lanes as a “bicycles vs. cars” issue, but a recent study from California suggests that all road users are grateful for the safety offered by protected bike lanes.  Researchers interviewed drivers, bikers, and pedestrians, and asked their perceptions of different road treatments.  As it turned out, bicycle lanes were the most requested safety feature requested by all groups.

Read more about the study on DC.Streetsblog here: http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/06/13/in-california-cities-drivers-want-more-bike-lanes-heres-why/.

What Change Looks Like

I recently stumbled across a TEDx talk from last year on civic engagement entitled, “What Change Looks Like.”   Jake Barton, principal and founder of the organization Local Projects, discussed the resilience and strength he finds in cities and wonders why it takes “a crisis for us to collaborate together on common goals.”  He looks at the ubiquitous Community Meeting and asks how we can make them more productive — how we can be people talking with each other, rather than at each other.

Set against the backdrop of the civic engagement tool his organization has launched for New York City, the video is seven minutes well-spent.  It offered me a reminder of why we, your neighbors, created and sustain Friends of White Flint.   We know that, by working together with all stakeholders, White Flint will reach its exciting potential.

Find the video here: http://youtu.be/hnwLwRDgTpY

Foulger-Pratt Presents its Latest Sketch Plan

At the last White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee Meeting, Foulger-Pratt’s Vice President Dick Knapp presented their latest plan for White Flint redevelopment.  Working again in partnership with ProMark Real Estate, the project is situated on a 2.7 acre site at Nebel Street and Marinelli Road.  The property includes the former home of a Sport and Health Club and a fully-leased office building which houses tenants like The ARC of Montgomery County.  Foulger-Pratt purchased the property back in December 2012 for $5.1 million.

The plan to is to provide “relatively affordable mid-rise housing,” says Knapp, and it will come in the form of two six-story buildings with underground parking.  A central courtyard between the buildings will link the ground-floor amenity spaces of the LEED certified structures.  Expected to break ground next year, the first building would deliver in 2016 with 206 units (and 190 parking spaces).  The second building would deliver the following year with 156 apartments and 136 parking spaces.  Located a short walk from White Flint metro, Knapp suggests that the project will target “young, entry-level Millenials” who want to be near transit but are still sensitive to price.

Although the buildings are slated as apartments, Knapp noted that the design is flexible.   Seventy percent of the units will be studios and one bedrooms, the other 30% will be two bedroom units.

There are still many details to finalize for this project, called Tilden Place, so stay tuned as we learn more!

Countdown to Guac and Mojitos

paladar

The fuschia banners appeared at the corner of Woodglen and Executive, just across from Whole Foods, while the weather was still cold.  “The guac & mojitos arrive this summer,” they announced – and the excitement they’ve generated has continued to build.

Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar is the brainchild of Co-Presidents Andy Himmel and Elie Weiss.  After trying their hand at a blues/jazz restaurant concept in their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, they decided to shift gears.  They sought something unique that would offer a downtown experience in the suburbs and found themselves drawn to the flavors of Latin America.  The first Paladar opened in August 2007 and, since then, locations have sprouted in South Florida and Annapolis and more are expected in this region over the next year.

Lots of {delicious} eggs in this basket

But, this is still a small company and Himmel acknowledges that he is putting a lot of eggs in White Flint’s basket.  His team was drawn to this area because Montgomery County is an economic “powerhouse” with “sophistication and education.”  With a goal to earn regulars, Paladar will offer a fantastic experience with great energy at an exceptional value.  White Flint, particularly as it undergoes redevelopment, is a natural fit for such an exciting concept.

2013.04.16 Exterior rendering

Paladar is investing nearly $2.5 million in the location’s build-out, which is ongoing.  For the first time, the company has hired a design firm for guidance and Himmel sounded pleased with how it’s coming together.  He described features including cedar planks, distressed mirrors and interesting tile.  The two outdoor patios will take advantage of the increasing walkability of our area.  The patio along Executive Boulevard will feature large planter boxes separating pedestrians from the first-come, first-served diners lounging at high tops and other soft seating.  A dining patio on Woodglen will include unique hanging planters.  All told, the restaurant will seat about 180, plus another 60 in the bar.

Visitors need not always walk to Paladar.  Free parking will be available everyday after 5pm, and all day on the weekends, in the surface parking lot on the other side of Woodglen!  Valet will also be available, at least to start.

The focus is the food

Guac Trio 1

Guacamole Trio

Himmel’s mantra is that the “focus is the food.”  With a user-friendly menu available in full throughout the restaurant and bar, Paladar will be open for lunch, happy hour, dinner, late night and Sunday brunch.  Favorites include Latin staples like ropa vieja, braised beef and duck confit tacos and their signature guacamole served with yucca, plantain, malanga and tortilla chips.  But the menu is broad enough that even frequent visitors will not get bored — salads, sandwiches, wraps, fresh seafood, steaks and chops.  Even the kids’ menu offers a Mini-Cuban Sandwich.  Brunch might be best enjoyed with an unlimited mimosa!

Fish Tacos 1Fish Tacos

Grilled Skirt Steak 1Grilled Skirt Steak

Although the focus is the food, Paladar does put a lot of attention into its bar offerings.  The Rum Bar will offer a selection of over 50 rums.  Rum flights and tasting pours will be offered alongside hand-muddled Mojitos and Caipirinhas, as well as freshly prepared Margaritas.

Hospitality is tops

Paladar takes pride in its hospitality and the offering of surprising experiences.  To that end, they’re bringing their “A-team” to the White Flint location.  Executive Chef Joe Tis has been honing his skills at the Annapolis Paladar and is geared up to open this new location.  General Manager Angel Briscoe has been in our area for a long time and is excited about the vibrancy and ambiance of Paladar.  She loves that the brand is family-friendly and that diners can feel the “warmth from the sidewalk in.”  Keep an eye out for Joe and Angel when you visit!  Or, consider joining their team.  Paladar is hiring now for our location; learn more online or by walking into their temporary office next to the construction on Woodglen.

Feed More than Yourself at the Grand Opening

Paladar is set to open on Thursday, August 15th, with a ribbon-cutting at 6pm.  The real fun begins after that when Paladar will host a special dinner featuring selections from their menu for a flat $40 per person.  The most amazing part?  Every dime of that will benefit Montgomery County’s own Manna Food Center.  For more information or for reservations, contact Paladar at 301-816-1100 between 9am and 6pm on weekdays.  For more information, please contact Mark Foraker, Manna’s Director of Development, at 301-424-1130 or mark@mannafood.org.

What a phenomenal way to join our community – we look forward to many years of success!  And, mojitos!

** Updated on July 10th to reflect new contact information for information and reservations for the Paladar Grand Opening.

See Pike + Rose under construction

The future site of Pike + Rose.

When finished, Pike + Rose will be a new neighborhood 5 times the size of Bethesda Row. But for now, the 24-acre site at Rockville Pike and Montrose Parkway is doing double duty. On one side, it’s still Mid-Pike Plaza, a 1960’s-era strip mall that continues to do business. But at the end of the shopping center, where Toys ‘R’ Us used to be, it abruptly becomes a construction site.

Where Mid-Pike’s parking lot ends today, there will one day be a bustling urban street (or so we hope). The first phase of Pike + Rose, which will contain an office building, an apartment building, ground floor retail, and a movie theatre, should open next year. Eventually, the entire site will be demolished and rebuilt.

There’s nowhere in White Flint where the contrast between present and future is more pronounced. But for now, it’s just another afternoon of shopping and hanging out and Mid-Pike Plaza. Check out these photos of construction at Pike + Rose and click here to see a slideshow with more photos.

Looking into the Pike + Rose construction site. This will eventually be a new street called Grand Park Avenue.

Business as usual at Mid-Pike Plaza while its replacement rises in the background.

A Letter from Councilmember Berliner on the western workaround

Councilmember Roger Berliner wrote the following letter to Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Arthur Holmes regarding the 35% design for White Flint’s streets. You can read the text below, or view the PDF here: Councilmember Berliner WF Letter to Director Holmes 6-18-13.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY COUNCIL
ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND
OFFICE OF COUNCILMEMBER ROGER BERLINER

CHAIR, TRANSPORTATION, INFRASTRUCTURE, ENERGY, & ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE

June 18, 2013

Dear Director Holmes,

Thank you and other members of the Administration for agreeing to host a meeting with developers,
your staff, and state transportation officials to discuss the western workaround road network for the
White Flint Sector Plan. A number of conversations over the past several months had led me to
conclude that in too many instances, our county and other stakeholders invested in the success of
the Sector Plan were talking past each other. Our meeting last week provided everyone with an
opportunity to communicate directly – always a plus.

I want to share with you some of my take-aways from that meeting, including issues that I hope will
be addressed in future meetings. First, let me say that I appreciate the movement that your
department has made to recognize that creating urban nodes that are characterized by enlivened,
green streetscapes, walkability, and bikability requires a different approach to our road network than
we have used in the past. The 35% design drawings represent a positive step in this direction.

However, I am very concerned that the current design for Old Georgetown Road between the
current Executive Boulevard alignment and Rockville Pike – the first and one of the most important
areas being developed — is inconsistent with the approved White Flint Sector Plan. As you know,
the Sector Plan calls for both a shared use path and bike lanes along this stretch of road (p. 56).
Regrettably, MCDOT’s 35% design drawings include no bike lanes and only a 13 foot shared use
path/sidewalk as opposed to a sidewalk and a shared use path. The combined facility would not be
wide enough to allow for the desired café seating in front of the adjacent properties, customers
exiting and entering retail establishments, and safe access for pedestrians and bicyclists. These
functions simply cannot coexist in a 13 foot span directly adjacent to retail structures. The shared
use path should be ten feet wide according to ASHTA standards.

Adding to these concerns is the fact that this segment of Old Georgetown Road is also supposed to
accommodate the Recreation Loop called for in the approved Sector Plan (p. 59). In the current
design you shared at the meeting on Monday, there is no Recreation Loop. If it will not be possible
to accommodate this element, important to many – if not all – residents involved in the WF Sector
Plan process, then I am interested in hearing what options are being considered as an alternative
route.

MCDOT has stated that the current realignment for Old Georgetown Road is a temporary measure
and that when the Plan meets its mode share goals and traffic has lessened, a second realignment of
the road will be considered/constructed and that this realignment would include bike lanes. The
problem with this approach is threefold:

(1) MCDOT’s statement is predicated on an assumption that bike lanes are only warranted
where vehicular traffic meets a certain, but yet unspecified, level. This creates great
uncertainty regarding the future of bike facilities, the shared use path, and recreation
loop as called for in the Plan;
(2) In order to meet the Plan’s mode share goals, we should implement multimodal,
complete streets on the front end, not at the end stages of the Plan; and
(3) It is costly and a potential waste of scarce tax dollars to reconstruct Old
Georgetown twice as opposed to taking a long term approach and
reconstructing it once, integrating multimodal elements into the design.

As you know, the White Flint Sector Plan calls for an extensive new street grid comprised of both
public and private streets. When built out, this grid will provide greater transportation capacity and
improve traffic flow and congestion in the White Flint area. Instead of waiting for the entire buildout
of the grid to reconstruct Old Georgetown Road in keeping with the Master Plan, we can avoid a
duplicative, costly construction project by doing one of two things: (1) Eliminate one of the left
turn lanes currently being considered; or (2) forward fund Hoya Street which would provide an
essential through-connection between Old Georgetown and Montrose Parkway. Opening up
roadway capacity on Hoya would draw significant through traffic away from the heart of the retail
district, thus allowing for more flexible design of Old Georgetown between Executive Blvd and
Rockville Pike. Although I personally find the first option a viable option worth consideration,
accelerating the build out of Hoya would provide the best long term solution, and save valuable tax
dollars that would not need to be spent redesigning Old Georgetown Road at a later date. Let’s do it
right the first time, in keeping with the vision for White Flint our residents expect.

Thank you for all your work in implementing the White Flint Sector Plan. I am certain that by
continuing to work with all stakeholder groups and maintaining our focus on the goals of the
approved Plan, we will be able to make White Flint a wonderful place to live, work, and play for
our residents. I look forward to hearing from you regarding the continued design work on Old
Georgetown Road and Hoya.

Sincerely,
Roger Berliner
Councilmember, District 1
Chair, Transportation, Infrastructure,
Energy and Environment Committee

cc: Isaiah Leggett
Tim Firestine
Francoise Carrier
Rose Krasnow
Nkosi Yearwood
Joy Nurmi
Dee Metz
Tom Street
Steve Farber
Glenn Orlin

Summer Concert Series at North Bethesda Market

Paseo Nights Summer Concert Series returns for a second year to the plaza at North Bethesda Market.  Every Thursday night until July 18th, enjoy live music from 6:30 – 8:30pm.  Different bands will perform a variety of music, including:

June 20th:    I & I Riddim, Reggae

June 27th:    Lloyd Dobler Effect, Classic Rock

July 4th:        Holly Montgomery Band, Country

July 11th:      Rew Smith, Adult Contemporary

July 18th:      Andrea Pais, Motown

The series finale will feature a Latin theme on July 25th and stretch from 5:30pm-9pm with five acts, including a DJ and dancing.  All performances are free, just bring a lawn chair and enjoy!