Archives June 2016

If Arlington Can, Why Can’t We?

Greater Greater Washington wrote about how Arlington built a temporary bikeway using just tape, paper, and potted plants. You know, if Arlington can do it, why the heck can’t we do it in the Pike District? Let’s see firsthand how bike lanes will transform the Pike District.

On June 11, Arlington closed a block of bustling Wilson Boulevard for what organizers called the Active Streets Festival. There were bike-oriented games and activities, plus a collection of temporary bikeways “built” with tape, paper, and potted plants.

The festival took place during the Air Force Association cycling race, when many Arlington streets were closed anyway. The Active Streets Festival gave Arlingtonians who weren’t racing something bike-related to take part in.

Planners “built” a series of temporary bike lanes, all on the block of Wilson Boulevard between Washington Boulevard and 10th Street North.

On one section, a row of potted plants formed the barrier for a protected bike lane. On another, a row of parked cars did the same. Elsewhere, washable homemade green “paint” and a thick roll of tape formed a green bike lane, a buffered bike lane, and sharrows.

By using easy-to-set-up and easy-to-take-down temporary materials, Arlington planners tangibly showed residents what Wilson Boulevard might look like if its street space were allocated differently. There’s no proposal to change Wilson permanently, but the example can be instructive for future projects on other streets.

Tangible benefits aside, the whole thing was a heck of a lot of fun.


Pop-up protected bikeway. Photo by BikeArlington.
 


Pop-up green lane and buffered bike lane. Photo by BikeArlington.
 

A BikeArlington worker lays down strips of tape to create the buffered bike lane. Photo by BikeArlington.
 


Wilson Boulevard with its pop-up bike lanes in place. Photo by BikeArlington.
 

Let’s break a bottle of champagne over Chapman Avenue!

We’re always blathering on about projects that are starting or will be starting.  Here’s a change — a project that’s done! The Chapman Avenue Extension is completed! The $3.3 million new road extends Chapman Avenue from Randolph Road to Old Georgetown Road. The road includes five-foot sidewalks on both sides of the street and a signed/shared bikeway on Chapman Avenue. As the White Flint area redevelops into a more walkable/bikeable community, Chapman Avenue provides another critical north-south link that is expected to help relieve traffic congestion on MD 355.

Don’t know where Chapman Avenue is? On the Randolph Road end, the street begins at Montrose Crossing by Pablo’s Garden Center. Maple Avenue was reconstructed and extended to Chapman Avenue.

chapman-3

“We have envisioned a Smart Growth future for the White Flint area that creates a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly community – one with a street grid that provides easy access to residential, retail and commercial properties,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett. “The Chapman Avenue extension is an important element in that plan to enhance safety, relieve congestion and provide better access.”

The road was built with future amenities in mind, such as non-standard lighting, shared use walk and bikeways and other accommodations to support a live, work, play community. Utilities were moved underground and conduit installed to accommodate White Flint street lighting that will match later development of the streetscape. Shade trees were installed as part of the landscape treatment. Traffic signals and crosswalk improvements were made at the intersection of Chapman Avenue and Randolph Road. Pocket parking lanes are available for vehicles. The project also includes stormwater management features.

Chapman-Avenue-Streetscape Champman-Avenue-Turn

 

2 Top Points and 1 Surprising Conclusion on Executive Blvd Office Space

Here are the top two points and one surprising conclusion from the just-released Montgomery Planning Department briefing on the technical report: “Adaptive Reuse: Executive Boulevard and Rock Spring Office Markets” prepared by Bolan Smart Associates.  (And here’s a bonus fun little factoid with which to dazzle your friends: Executive Boulevard has 15 buildings totaling over 2.1 million square feet which is  three percent of the County’s total office inventory)
  1. Even if market conditions might merit repurposing, many of these office buildings have large and wide floorplates depths with interior spaces far from windows and configurations that make conversion to residential use very challenging. (Generally, buildings with narrow footprints are more conducive to residential conversion.)
  2. Federal office tenants  have vacated Executive Blvd., but these decisions were driven by the need to accommodate changing space requirements and by price, not because of location or neighborhood deficiencies.
And the surprising conclusion: Taking into consideration the nearby enhanced amenity base (Pike and Rose) and expected better connectivity (Western Workaround and improved walkability), combined with the likelihood of some pricing discount compared with the Pike District, re‐leasing for office use on Executive Blvd is probable. Executive Boulevard remains a viable office market. Despite the current challenges, Executive Blvd (and Rock Spring) are just too valuable for prospective office use to either be converted to other uses or demolished outright. Net of the three vacated former National Cancer Institute buildings, the Executive Blvd vacancy rate is close to five percent, well below the county‐wide average of 15 percent.

Terrific New Art Installations at the Grosvenor Metro

Strathmore, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro), and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) unveiled 39 new art installations designed by MCPS high school students along the new Grosvenor-Strathmore Arts Walk and on Strathmore’s campus last week.  The 32 installations designated for the Arts Walk, all large-scale totems, will enhance the grounds of the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Parking Garage, providing a physical connection to the arts center while adding visual interest to enhance the experience of the thousands of commuters who use the station each day. The remaining 7 totems will be installed on Strathmore’s campus, adding to its popular sculpture garden.

The totems, all approximately 5-feet- 6-inches high, were created in a county-wide, curriculum-based arts project for advanced ceramics students. 14 schools representing all sectors of the county participated in the project. Students worked in teams to develop a concept, renderings, a plan to execute their ideas, and, ultimately, worked to shape and fire the totems.

A panel composed of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, members of the local arts community, Strathmore, Metro, and MCPS reviewed 82 proposals. The totems will stand for five years along the green space and existing walkway at the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Parking Garage.

Curious about Monday’s White Flint 2 Meeting? Here’s What Happened.

The June 20th White Flint 2 Sector Planning Meeting was a public forum.  Three community representatives made presentations.

Randolph Civic Association – Matt Tifford

Randolph Civic Association is made up of 1, 343 homes and wants a more central sense of place within RCA borders. While mostly happy with the preliminary plan presented, RCA has some important issues with the plan.  For example, RCA wants walkable/bikeable paths to White Flint 1 and metro, including a pedestrian crossing over the railroad tracks.  They also want to re-configure the intersection at Randolph and Parklawn. So far, RCA noted, none of its desired pedestrian and connectivity improvements are in the plan.

Matt also reported that RCA does not want Putnam and Macon to go through, preferring an urban plaza, and wants a park and usable indoor space at Rocking Horse Center.  They also would like a town center type of development at Randolph Hills Shopping Center.

RCA

Walter Johnson Cluster – Liz King

Liz discussed the cumulative projected impact of development in the WJ Cluster. Combining all approved development (built or not) and the planned development of WMAL, Rock Spring, and White Flint 2, it s projected the WJ Cluster will have 1,602 additional elementary students, 915 additional middle school students, and 940 additional high school students. Liz reported that using the 30-year projections done by MCPS, the WJ Cluster requires 2 new elementary schools, 1 new middle school, and one of the WJ Cluster Roundtable Solutions.

Liz King

6010 Executive Blvd. – John Carter

This site at 6010 Executive Blvd. has 234,788 square feet of land.  Currently, there is one building with 100,126 square feet of office space built in the 60s/70s. John listed three concerns of the site’s owner: schools, traffic, and market conditions.  He noted that the current market demands multi-tenant  occupancy, mix of tech and office space, amenities, walkability, close to transit, and green. He also referenced the recent ULI report on re-inventing the Rock Spring and Executive Blvd areas.

The initial design for a new 6010 Executive Blvd includes 3 mixed-use buildings, including 252,000 square feet of new office space, street-side retail, and 100 housing units. There would be lots of green places and open space as well as an enhanced sidewalk along Executive Blvd., new bus shelters, pedestrian-oriented lights, walking trail connections, solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, and green roofs. Total square footage of the new and old buildings on the site would be 350,000 square feet of mixed use space.

6010 a

6010 b

Will Woodward by Woodward Again?

As a member of the Woodward Class of 79, I (Amy Ginsburg, FOWF Executive Director) am personally cheered by the news that Woodward may once again be home to a high school.

A  just released and quite lengthy report included the discussions and options that the Walter Johnson Cluster Roundtable came up with to deal with overcrowded schools. (As you may remember, we blogged about the various secondary and primary options earlier.)

The report also included feedback from cluster representatives on the various options. Re-opening Woodward as a high school for grades 9 to 12 was the overwhelming favorite option. The report said, “This approach received the most support from the Walter Johnson PTSA as a solution for the high school. The cluster would have two high schools that meet the state and MCPS guidelines for recommended maximum enrollment. The Woodward site has the space to accommodate a high school. And the high school experience for students could be a more personal experience. The PTSA notes that this approach would require redistricting within the WJHS school cluster, and the new high school would be expected to meet WJHS’s excellent standards and environment.”

Option #9, collocating a new high school and middle school on the Woodward site, was the second of the more favored approaches of the WJ PTSA. The WJ PTSA is also very supportive of the construction of a new high school and middle school within the cluster, Option #8. Both Option #8 and #9 would provide two smaller high schools and three smaller middle schools.

 

The North Bethesda Middle School PTSA  noted that reopening Woodward was “The ONLY VIABLE OPTION, which has support from all 9 PTAs in the cluster and the only HS approach supported by a majority of the families from 9 schools in the cluster.” North Bethesda MS added,  It is the “only long-term solution for over-crowded down-county high schools that keeps the High Schools within MCPS guidelines for size; takes future capacity into consideration; maximizes use of existing property within the cluster; more opportunities for students in terms of participating in their HS community (sports teams, music, drama, etc.), which will lead to additional opportunities for college scholarships; more access to faculty, administration and counselors; maintains sense of community within the WJ Cluster; reasonable school size Is better for students with IEPs (ADHD, anxiety, depression, etc.) to navigate; won’t compromise student safety because hallways and buildings won’t be overcrowded, nor will parking lots and drop-off and pick-up points for teen pedestrians and drivers; the community streets and thoroughfares can support the traffic at the two different locations; opportunity to help relieve overcrowding at some of our neighboring clusters (BCC and Whitman). ”

Luxmanor PTSA said reeopening Woodward as a 9 to 12 high school “approach is ranked highest and is the preferred high school approach for Luxmanor and all 9 schools within the cluster. When limited to the scope of the round table (with all neighborhoods within the cluster being districted within the current boundary area) this approach is ranked 1st for Luxmanor with approximately 80% of the families supporting this approach. While this approach divides the WJ cluster into WJHS and Woodward, it does result in two high schools that meet the county guideline for high school size. This option also gives MCPS more flexibility in programing and frees up space for specialty academies or programs. Finally, while the short term costs are higher, it fixes a long term problem and the cost per student is comparable. This is the most fiscally prudent, long term option.”

 

 

Last Week’s Downtown Advisory Committee Meeting

Here is a quick summary of what the members of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee discussed at their meeting last Tuesday.
Ken Hartman
  • The county is updating the restaurant and development maps on www.pikedistrict.org.
  • 138 bags of refuse was picked up two weeks ago as well as median signs. (On average the county’s crew picks up 120 to 168 bags of trash each week.)
  • The county is replanting in the median by Nicholson to replace plants lost over the winter.
  • Chapman Avenue is now open between Randolph and Old Georgetown.
Brian Downie
  • The Conference enter garage will truly begin the formation of the Pike District grid.  In a relatively short period of time people will see how the sector plan is working and the area is starting to take shape.
Peggy Schwartz
  • The County is holding teleworking webinars to help with SafeTrack.
Nkosi Yearwood
  • LCOR has a proposal for the back end of their property.
  • The next White Flint 2 meetings are June 20 and July 7.
Brian Downie
  • The Planning Department is updating its subdivision ordinance, and a difference of opinion has emerged over public roads on private property.  Saul Centers West is unsure if it is getting approval for its garage under the road on its property even though they have planning approval. There are questions about whether or not it is an issue for a public street to have a public garage under it. (More on this issue later.)
Amy Ginsburg
  • Friends of White Flint, working with the County and Coalition for Smarter Growth, had a big win, getting SHA to agree to make the pedestrian signals at Marinelli and Route 355 automatic. They are continuing their efforts to make the Pike more pedestrian friendly.
Carolyn Chen
  • Working with DOT and communications strategy firm to house development and construction updates on the Pike District website.
  • Planning a paper mailing to residents and businesses in the 20852 zipcode, highlighting developers and property events.
  • Sponsoring broad events, from running, walking and biking clubs and events; local high school sports teams and teachers; artists, farmer’s market, millennial interests
Other
  • Mickey Papillon of Federal Realty is joining the committee and Tom Murphy was elected to be the new chairman.
  • FallFest on October 8 is really coming together and should be a terrific event with The Nighthawks, food trucks, and a ribbon cutting.

A compliment on the design of Pike & Rose

Greater Greater Washington wrote a lovely blog post about the interesting and innovative design of Pike & Rose.

They said, “The Pike + Rose development on Rockville Pike is a surprisingly experimental collection of buildings. It’s contemporary in style, but also filled with architectural ornament. It’s fascinating and instructive for what it tells us about how architecture can interact with urbanism.”

You can read the entire GGW post here.

As a bonus, check out these cool photos of the construction of Pike & Rose Phase 2.

White Flint 2 Master Plan Meeting June 20

The White Flint 2 Public Forum (Part II) will take place on Monday, June 20, 2016, 7 -9 p.m., at Luxmanor Elementary School.

As of June 15, only a couple of civic representatives have indicated that they will participate in the forum. Stay tuned to find out if Monday’s meeting will be held. If your organization or business is interested in participating, please contact Nkosi.Yearwood@montgomeryplanning.org ASAP. 

 

Welcome to Friends of White Flint, The Detwiler Group

Please meet our newest member, Andy Detwieler, Founder of The Detweiler Group at RE/MAX Town Center.

If you’ve ever gone through the process of buying, selling, or renting a condo in North Bethesda, local realtor and entrepreneur Andy Detweiler believes you’ve likely wasted a lot of unnecessary time. Andy has spent the greater part of a year meticulously researching, planning, and building rockvillemdcondos.com, which he describes as the most comprehensive, yet simple, real estate resource of its kind.

He believes online resources provide enormous value to the consumer. The problem, he says, comes when it’s time to connect online research with real-life action. “When I entered the world of real estate, two things became immediately clear: 1) The immense value of a full-time, professional real estate agent, and, 2) The insane amount of inefficiencies in the entire buying/selling process. Right now, the consumer has two options: 1) Wade through poorly organized national listing portals that lack context and completeness; or, 2) Find a true neighborhood expert and hope he or she is willing to talk. To date, there’s been no successful attempt at combining the two.”

Andy added, “Unfortunately, all is takes to be a listed ‘expert’ on many sites is the willingness to pay for an ad while the true neighborhood expert often doesn’t have a clue how to get found online. That’s a major problem. And honestly, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

In addition to his personal proximity to the area, Andy chose to pursue the condo market because of how it lends itself to online marketing. ”People tend to ask and search for answers to many of the same questions. There’s also a definitive number of buildings to choose from. It’s not too big to address.”

While he acknowledges he has an uphill climb ahead of him, Andy believes he can succeed where many others have failed before him. “It’s really a perfect storm right now with the internet changing how people buy and sell real estate. But most of the efforts to capitalize have been made on the national level. Real estate is supremely localized. We’re going to focus all of our efforts on systematizing and removing inefficiencies from a modest-sized niche market. If it leads to a different business model or we create something that can be replicated elsewhere, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

If you have any questions on the North Bethesda condo market, real-estate related or otherwise, Andy Detweiler can be reached at 240-338- 8355 (direct), 301-637- 9762 (office), or andy@thedetweilergroup.com.