Archives October 2015

What makes a community vibrant?

Vibrant — it’s such an appealing word. We all want to live in neighborhoods that are vibrant — lively, stimulating, and friendly.

Vibrant centers attract educated millennials and empty nesters—as well as the economic activity they support. Office tenants prefer vibrant suburban centers to typical suburban office parks, and vibrant suburban centers command higher rents, lower vacancy rates, and greater absorption.

The Urban Land Institute recommended eight ways for a community “to find its own path to greater vibrancy”. The White Flint sector plan has embraced these eight suggestions, and it appears that the White Flint 2 sector plan may also embrace them.

Courtesy of Urban Land Institute

1. Encourage higher-density housing of all types. Successful, urban and suburban vibrant centers become expensive because they are desirable places in which to work, live, and play. Higher rents, rising property values, and deeper tax bases should be celebrated instead of vilified as the path to gentrification. However, vibrancy cannot be sustained without social and economic diversity.

Vibrant centers need housing for middle- to lower-income people who work in the retail, personal services, and entertainment sectors, as well as empty nesters, students, and young people with entrepreneurial ambitions. The market will provide all the higher-income housing needed. Lower-income households should be retained through use of inclusionary zoning, density bonuses, and the array of state and federal affordable housing programs.

2. Remember the rule of pi. A hypothetical circular urban area that is 20 miles (32 km) across has an area of 314.16 square miles (814 sq km). If its downtown has a radius of one mile (1.6 km), its area is 3.14 square miles (8.1 sq km)—pi, or 1 percent of the urban area—and many downtown areas in the United States are smaller than pi. Downtowns are truly special places because they have so much development in such a small area. Keep it tight.

3. Take full advantage of policies and regulations that treat downtowns as special places. CBDs are usually zoned with high floor/area ratios. Often, mixed use is allowed or even encouraged; parking requirements are minimal. CBDs may contain unique historic properties or historic districts. These special conditions enable real estate developers to create financially feasible projects in spite of longer entitlement periods, more difficult construction staging, higher land prices, and other constraints.

4. Reject suburban development proto­types at all costs. Suburban prototypes imposed on urban centers reduce density, compactness, connectivity, and walkability and often destroy urban fabric. Features such as adjacent surface parking, drive-through lanes, lack of sidewalks, front entrances from parking areas, and the like have no place in centers that want to become more walkable.

5. Provide public space and multimodal infrastructure to support downtown redevelopment. Vibrant urban centers need transit of all kinds to reduce auto use and encourage walking. Transit includes car sharing, taxis, bike lanes, bike sharing, trolleys, buses, and, when feasible, rail. The public realm is enhanced by small public parks and hardscape areas where people can gather to celebrate, engage with one another, or rest.

6. Consider housing for downtown workers as necessary infrastructure. Most jurisdictions recognize that structured parking is infrastructure necessary to achieve vibrancy. Workforce housing should be put in the same category. Public/private partnerships may be needed to serve this market segment. One approach to provide small apartments and micro units is to attach liner buildings to parking decks above the ground floor and on all sides that have street frontage.

7. Seek ideas about redevelopment selectively. In many automobile-oriented, highway-dominated areas, the vast majority of households live, work, and play in three separate suburban locations and devote considerable time each day to driving from one activity to another. Central city workers rarely live or play there. Suburbia is the only environment many Americans know. Therefore, it is better to gather ideas on downtown redevelopment by convening small focus groups of people with high “urban IQs” than by holding large meetings open to the general public.

8. Prequalify real estate developers who are interested in urban redevelopment. Many capable suburban developers have never built urban product and do not know how to create urban character. In order to provide good precedents for future development, developers that have this know-how should be recruited to initiate downtown redevelopment. Requests for qualifications (RFQs) can be used to identify developers who can deliver urban projects that will increase vibrancy.

Whether lattes or lane size, skinny is better

Ten feet lanes, rather than 12 feet lanes are safer and have no effect on traffic flow. Ten foot lanes are an important part of the Pike District’s transformation, especially as we work to add separated bike lanes without changing the overall widths of roads.

According to a recent study, roads with the widest lanes—12 feet or wider—were associated with greater crash rates and higher impact speeds. Crash rates rise as lanes become narrower than about 10 feet, though this does not take impact speeds and crash severity into account. There appears to be a sweet spot for lane widths on city streets, between about 10 and 10.5 feet.

The study also showed that the average crash impact speed is also 34 percent higher with wider lanes, suggesting that wider lanes not only result in more crashes but in more severe crashes.

And according to another study, ten feet lanes have no effect on traffic flow rates. “The measured saturation flow rates are similar for lane widths between 10 feet and 12 feet. So long as all other geometric and traffic signalization conditions remain constant, there is no measurable decrease in urban street capacity when through lane widths are narrowed from 12 feet to 10 feet”.Untitled

So, no adverse impact to either capacity or safety when one reduces lanes widths to as little as 10 feet, and we can add bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and perhaps even rapid transit. Now that’s a win-win situation.


Share why you #PickthePike

Why did you choose the Pike District/White Flint area? The many restaurants? The gyms to burn off the calories from all those delicious meals? The diverse stores full of unique and useful goods? The ability to walk to metro? The gorgeous apartments, townhouses, and houses? The fun parks and excellent schools? The different entertainment options — movies, live music, bars?

Share why you #PickthePike. Take a pic — of you, of your martini glass, your friends, your kids, or whatever — enjoying life in the Pike District. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and include the tag #PickthePike.


The Garage is Gone

In case you haven’t been around the back of White Flint Mall lately, here’s two photos of the back of White Flint Mall. Notice how the garage has morphed into giant piles of stones.

Apply to Serve on the Bicycle Master Plan Advisory Group


The Bicycle Master Plan team is seeking people interested in serving on the Bicycle Master Plan Advisory Group.

This group will consist of approximately 20 members and will meet approximately once a month over the next year and a half to provide advice to Planning Department staff as they develop a working draft of the master plan. Between 10 and 15 members will be chosen to represent a variety of interest groups.

In addition, eight members will be selected through an application process that is intended to represent a diverse perspective in the bicycling community, with members representing different areas of Montgomery County and all levels of cycling ability. All meetings will take place on weekday evenings at the Planning Department’s headquarters at 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.


Interested members of the community should complete this application by Friday, October 30, 2015.

For more information contact David Anspacher at or (301) 495-2191.unnamed

What you missed at the White Flint 2 October 14th Meeting

White Flint 2
Dozens of people gave their priorities to the Montgomery Planning Department at the October 14 White Flint 2 Meeting at Luxmanor Elementary.
After an introduction and welcome by Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, Planning Board staff gave an overview of White Flint 2. (You can view their informative PowerPoint here.)  Here are a couple of interesting tidbits:
  • The largest age group in White Flint 2 are people aged 25 to 34 with the second largest group are folks over age 55.
  • By and large, people in White Flint 2 earn a bit more than most in Montgomery County.
  • There’s a great deal of vacant office space in White Flint 2. Most of the office space in the White Flint 2 area is located around Executive Blvd and is older and suburban in style. The White Flint 2 office space commands 12% lower rates than the rest of Montgomery County.
  • Retail makes up 25% of the commercial space, and most  of it is located along Route 355. The retail stores of White Flint 2 are four percent of the total Montgomery County retail sales.
  • Industrial space (production, distribution, and repair properties) are mostly located along Randolph, Parklawn, and Boiling Brook.
  • 56% of White Flint 2 space has an impervious surface, and there is an existing tree canopy over 28% of White Flint 2.
The participants broke up into groups to discuss what people want to see in White Flint 2 and to ask questions of Planning staff. After talking for an hour, the groups reported their findings to the larger crowd.  Here is what folks said they want in the White Flint 2 sector.
Increase the capacity of schools, especially middle and high schools. (This was one of the top concerns of the people at this meeting.)
  • There must be better connectivity along roads, sidewalks, and bike paths. (This was one of the top priorities for many in the room)
  • Make sure that the underground infrastructure has the capacity to handle new development and address current capacity issues (water, electric, sewer, etc.)
  • Handicap access is critical, and it should be attractive and flow naturally.
  • The employment sector (the area around Executive Blvd) could be re-created as a wellness sector with gyms, doctors, parks, etc.
  • White Flint 2 must be extremely pedestrian-friendly.
  • Parking should be under and behind buildings.
  • Re-work the Boiling Brook and Randolph Road intersection.
  • Have more amenities, like restaurants, in the employment sector.
  • Build a Marc station at Nicholson Court.
  • Turn Rocking Horse Center into parkland.
  • Have better connections over the railroad tracks
  • Include an 55+ active adult community in White Flint 2.


Sunday, October 25 • FREE to attend

  • Celebrate with Pike & Rose’s first official Beer Garden Pop-Up, hosted by Birch & Barley and ChurchKey*
  • Live music sponsored by AMP by Strathmore: Mike Surratt and the Continentals & Erin and the Wildfire 
  • Enjoy tastings and other giveaways from your favorite Pike & Rose restaurants including &pizza, City Perch, Del Frisco’s, La Madeleine, ShopHouse, Stella Barra, Summer House and Tutti Frutti
  • Sidewalk Sales and special offers from AMP, Francesca’s, Gap, Lucky Brand, PR at Partners, Seasons Olive Oil and Vinegar Taproom, Sport & Health, Visionworks, Yogaso and more!
  • Other event festivities include live music from AMP by Strathmore, photo booth fun sponsored by Pallas and PerSei, a pumpkin patch and maze, and other free Halloween activities for kids and adults

Potential relief for overcrowded White Flint area schools

Welcome news for Walter Johnston cluster schools, which are universally overcrowded, from MCPS interim superintendent Larry Bowers.

The Walter Johnson Cluster has experienced large enrollment increases during the past eight years, primarily driven by the sale of homes to younger families. Also, new development in the cluster has played a role, although by a significantly smaller amount than demographic changes in existing communities. In the future, the cluster will see substantial amounts of new housing associated with the adopted White Flint Sector Plan and the two new sector plans now getting underway, “Rock Springs” and “White Flint II.” In addition, the large WMAL property has been sold and will be redeveloped with new housing.

Superintendent Bowers has recommended that MCPS hold a roundtable discussion group with representatives of all Walter Johnson Cluster schools to gather input on a range of options to accommodate near-term and long-term enrollment increases. The roundtable would consider facility planning issues at all three school levels and include discussion of how closed elementary schools and the former Woodward High School facility may be utilized in the future. The scope of the roundtable would be the Walter Johnson Cluster and discussion of options would be confined to the current cluster area.

Here is a table that displays a list of school projects that have been completed or that are planned in the future.

Inline image 1

In addition to the projects listed above, a feasibility study for a classroom addition is under way for Walter Johnson High School. Although options that could increase the capacity of the school up to 3,200 seats are being explored, no plan has been approved. The addition will be included as one of the options in the roundtable process. As part of the Tilden Middle School revitalization/expansion project, the Board of Education approved a plan to collocate Rock Terrace School, a special education school, with Tilden Middle School as part of the project.

Because most of the elementary schools will have a capacity of approximately 740 seats by the 2021- 2022 school year and Ashburton Elementary School will have a capacity of 881 seats, the strategy of adding onto existing elementary schools will have run its course. Updated school enrollment projections illustrate that even with the added capacity described above, most cluster elementary schools will be at or exceed capacity by the 2021- 2022 school year. Middle school enrollment also is projected to fill most of the expanded capacities of the two middle schools by the 2021-2022 school year. And of most concern, Walter Johnson High School is projected to exceed capacity by more than 500 students by the 2021- 2022 school year.

Among the options that will be considered will be the reopening of closed schools and construction of a new school(s) on a site(s) in the cluster:

Elementary Schools

o There are four closed elementary schools in the cluster, including the former Alta Vista, Arylawn, Kensington, and Montrose elementary schools.

o The former Grosvenor Elementary School is in the cluster and is used as a holding school for elementary schools undergoing revitalization/expansion projects.

o There is one future elementary school site in the Walter Johnson Cluster, located at the southern portion of the current White Flint Mall.

Middle School

o There are no closed middle schools or future middle school sites.

High School

o The former Woodward High School facility currently houses Tilden Middle School, but it is slated to become a holding center for secondary schools undergoing revitalization/expansion projects when Tilden Middle School is relocated to the Tilden Lane site at the completion of its revitalization/expansion in August 2020.