Category Montgomery County Government

Our testimony to County Council on Thrive Montgomery 2050

Good evening. I’m Amy Ginsburg, Executive Director of Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit devoted to transforming the Pike District/North Bethesda area into a walkable, transit-oriented, thriving community.

If you think that sounds like the goal of the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Plan, you’re right. Much of the Thrive Montgomery plan matches the goals of the two White Flint Sector plans, and we applaud its focus on sustainable growth, development, and urbanism.

We agree wholeheartedly that the major objective of this plan is to ensure a vibrant, strong and competitive economy by attracting and maintaining major employers, enhancing our federal campuses, supporting small businesses and innovation, and attracting and retaining a high-quality, diverse workforce.  It is essential to recognize that attracting high-quality jobs to areas like the Pike District is the key to transforming North Bethesda and other areas of the county.

We also support its emphasis on achieving vision zero, developing a robust network for walking and biking, and utilizing parks as gathering spaces for social connection. As Thrive Montgomery proposes, planning for people, not cars, is the key to redeveloping the Pike District. Being able to easily walk or bike to meet most daily needs creates dynamic centers that contain many different types of housing and high-quality jobs as well as the shops, restaurants, parks, and other amenities that are vital to a community like the Pike District.

We support the Thrive Montgomery 2050 plan because it matches the goals of the White Flint sector plans – creating diverse living spaces, enhancing social interaction, and attracting the high-quality jobs which are the foundation of a thriving community.

’20 is Plenty’ comes to the streets around NoBe Market

County Executive Marc Elrich, County, Council President Tom Hucker, and Councilmembers Andrew Friedson and Evan Glass participated in kick-off ceremonies near Woodglen Drive for the pilot ’20 is Plenty’ program.

“As we continue to reopen, traffic will increase, which will lead to more cars on the road and pedestrians crossing streets,” said County Executive Elrich. “This is why we must focus on increasing safety measures throughout Montgomery County communities so that we reduce the number of fatalities. In 2019, Montgomery County saw 1,200 speed-induced crashes resulting in 32 lives lost, which is far too many. The 20 is Plenty effort is designed to engage residents and save more lives.”

Over the last few years, the 20 is Plenty campaign has set new normal speed behaviors internationally in nations including Canada, Sweden, Scotland and the United Kingdom. Nationally, Montgomery County will be joining approximately six other locations, primarily on the West Coast, which have lowered speed limits to 20 mph on select streets.

“I’m hopeful that this program will be the beginning of a much larger push to slow speeds and save lives,” said Council President Hucker. “We are committed to improving safety on our roadways and taking sensible, repeated steps to meet our Vision Zero goals.”

MCDOT Director Chris Conklin said: “Speed is a major factor in serious injuries and fatalities on our roadways. The 20 is Plenty approach is intended to encourage lower speeds in areas where motor vehicles mix with pedestrians and cyclists. Lower speed limits and additional signage is intended to make drivers aware of the need to drive slowly and cautiously in these areas and on streets surrounding the designated 20 is Plenty locations.”

During its 2021 session, the Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 562, sponsored by the Montgomery County House Delegation. The bill authorizes Montgomery County and its municipalities to decrease the maximum speed limit to not less than 15 miles per hour on highways, but only after performing an engineering and traffic investigation.

“20 is Plenty is an important way to build awareness about the dangers of driving at dangerous speeds,” said Councilmember Friedson. “Together with physical changes to the roadway that slow down drivers, this initiative can help make our roadways safe for all users—pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.”

Streets included in the pilot program are designated in the Montgomery County Road Code as Urban Roads. The five pilot roadways include:

Century Boulevard – Germantown
Executive Boulevard – North Bethesda
Greenwood Avenue – Long Branch
Pinnacle Drive – Germantown
Woodglen Drive – North Bethesda

The program results will be used to determine how, where and if the program should be expanded. ​

The pilot program falls under the County adopted Vision Zero action plan to eliminate serious and fatal collisions on County roadways for vehicle occupants, pedestrians and bicyclists by 2030.

“Slower speeds provide a safety buffer by shortening stopping distances and lessening the impact of crashes,” said Director Conklin. “When crash impact speeds rise from 20 to 30 miles per hour, the risk of fatality to a pedestrian increases eight-fold. Safety is at the center of all of our work. We are constantly asking ourselves what can be done to better protect the public and this pilot program falls in alignment with these values.”

Pike District Updates from the Master Plan Ombudsman in the Office of the County Executive

June 2021 from Pete Fosselman, Master Plan Ombudsman in the Montgomery County Office of the County Executive

• The Research and Innovation Center proposed for the White Flint Metro site continues to move forward. The County Executive has been meeting with potential universities and higher education institutions. Meanwhile, the CEX staff and I continue to meet regularly with WMATA Staff.
• The County’s Budget and Finance Departments continue to work with the County Council and the Pike District property owners on the White Flint Taxing District deficit. We met June 1st with DOT and the Planning Staff to review the existing Capital Improvement Projects and the future 355 Bus Rapid Transit.
• The Harwood Flats development off Nicholson Lane adjacent to the Home Goods is finalizing details with DOT and DPS. The project is mixed use with 335 residential units.
• The Grand Park project across from Pike & Rose and adjacent to the Conference Center has entered into a purchase and sale agreement for the development of the western end of the block which will be the first of three phases to move forward.
• North Bethesda Market II has a sketch/preliminary plan amendment in for review at the Planning Department.
• Rose Village (aka Wilco Property) The vacant office building currently on this parcel will be torn down, but the other two existing office buildings will remain. 375,000 square feet of office space and 1,300 and 1,500 residential units will be constructed along with a one-acre civic green area.
• The site plan for the Northpark at Montrose (aka Wilgus property) will go to the Planning Board on June 24.
• The Montgomery Housing Partnership has proposed a six-story residential building at the intersection of Nebel Street and Old Georgetown Road. The project will have 170 residential units with 25% affordable housing. MHP has submitted a sketch plan to the Planning Department.
• Pike and Rose Lot 2 is proposed for a Research & Development building and is at the Planning Department for a site plan amendment. We met with DOT and FRIT June 1st to go over the 355/BRT improvements schedule.
• Advancing the Pike District team is focused on three active components: 1) coordinating with stakeholders to implement solutions identified in the “Development Trends, Infrastructure Update, and Short-Term Solutions” report, 2) working with property owners to create streetscape design guidelines for the Pike District, and 3) designing the Pike District Connector.
• Pike District Connector team is coordinating with MCDOT to finalize pedestrian improvements along the Connector route and is working with Montgomery Parks, Better Block, and community members to design activations at critical intersections along the Pike District Connector, with a goal of opening the Connector in early August.
• The County Executive sent a letter to the WMATA Board the last week of May indicating the community’s desire to rename the White Flint Metro to the North Bethesda Metro. Thanks to Council Member Friedson, Friends of White Flint, the Downtown Advisory Committee, and the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce

Thrive Explained: How Design Can Add Value and Build Community

From Montgomery Planning’s The Third Place

Design of the built environment strongly influences our quality of life. The pattern of development across a city, county, and region; the configuration of neighborhoods and districts; and the architecture of individual buildings collectively shape our perception of places and influence how we choose to travel, recreate, and socialize.

The Wedges and Corridors plan envisioned a variety of living environments and encouraged “imaginative urban design” to avoid sterile suburban sprawl. Unfortunately, design approaches intended to serve many functional objectives and aesthetic aspirations soon succumbed to an emphasis on the convenience of driving and the assumption that different land uses, building types, and even lot sizes should be separated. Over time, these priorities produced design approaches that failed to create quality places with lasting value.

Automobile-oriented design meant that thoughtful site arrangement was subverted by an insistence on providing abundant (and visually prominent) surface parking, with buildings placed in the middle of large asphalt lots or entrances and front doors obscured by driveways and garages. Buildings were disconnected from public spaces. Streets were widened, pushing buildings farther apart and preventing a sense of enclosure, which discouraged walking by making it less convenient and comfortable. Space for sidewalks, seating and greenery was sacrificed to make more space for parking and roads, shrinking the size and utility of public spaces and degrading the quality of the public realm.

Buildings designed to accommodate single uses, while less expensive when considered in isolation, created an inventory of structures that are inflexible and costly to reuse. Malls, office parks, and other large, single-use buildings are difficult to repurpose and the high cost of adapting their layouts to meet new spatial needs due to technological shifts, demographic changes, and market preferences shortens their useful lives and makes them less sustainable.

Dispersed buildings and sprawling parking lots lead to underbuilt sites that are poorly suited to repositioning, infill, and redevelopment and reduce the utility of investment in parks, transit, and other public amenities and infrastructure. The consequences of the limited adaptability of our building stock are evident in persistently elevated office vacancy rates accompanied by an acute shortage of housing.

Thrive Montgomery proposes three main strategies to address these issues:

  1. An emphasis on the role of design in creating attractive places with lasting value that encourage social interaction and reinforce a sense of place. This requires design guidelines and regulatory tools that focus on the physical form of buildings, streets, and spaces. It replaces vague concepts such as “compatibility” with clear standards for form, site layout, setbacks, architecture, and the location of parking, and removes regulatory barriers and facilitates development of “missing middle” housing types while adopting context-sensitive design guidance for all master planning efforts. This means that land use regulation should become somewhat more prescriptive but also more predictable.
  2. Promotion of retrofits and repositioning to make new and existing buildings more sustainable and resilient to disruption and change. Thrive Montgomery recommends encouraging sustainability features in both new public buildings and large private development projects to help mitigate the effects of climate change and promoting cost-effective infill and adaptive reuse strategies to retrofit single-use commercial sites such as retail strips, malls, and office parks into mixed-use developments. It also recommends incentivizes forthe reuse of historic buildings and existing structures to accommodate the evolution of communities, maintain building diversity, and preserve affordable space.
  3. Support for arts and cultural institutions and programming to celebrate our diversity, strengthen pride of place and to make the county more attractive and interesting. This involves promoting public art, cultural spaces, and cultural hubs as elements of complete communities. Thrive Montgomery 2050 also calls for eliminating regulatory barriers to arts and culture with a focus on economic, geographic, and cultural equity. It encourages property owners, non-profit organizations, and government agencies to maximize use of public spaces for artistic and cultural programming, activation, and placemaking. Finally, it argues that public art should be incorporated into the design of buildings, streets, infrastructure, and public spaces so that residents can experience it in their daily lives.

Learn more about the Design, Arts and Culture chapter in Thrive Montgomery 2050.

It’s official!

Montgomery County Executive Elrich Submits Letter to WMATA Requesting White Flint Metro Station to be Renamed ‘North Bethesda Metro Station’

Last week, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich submitted a letter to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) requesting the renaming of the White Flint Metro Station to be named the “North Bethesda Metro Station.”

Beginning in 2020, the County collaborated in station retitling efforts with the Greater Bethesda Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, the Friends of White Flint, the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee, and other community leaders. A public meeting, sponsored by the above groups as well as the County Executive and the District One Councilmember Andrew Friedson, was held on March 31, 2021 where the new designation of “North Bethesda” was selected.

“The development of the North Bethesda Metro Station is not only critical to the future economic growth of Montgomery County but the entire state and region,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “Thanks to our State Delegates in Districts 16 and 18, we have secured $250,000 toward the renaming costs. In addition, the County will contribute $50,000, and there is a commitment that remaining costs will be paid by the key property owners in the immediate vicinity of this station. The choice of ‘North Bethesda’ was the consensus of this community. I expect for generations to come the name ‘North Bethesda’ will be known as an epicenter in the bio/life sciences and quantum computing industries supported by private sector companies, academics, and federal agencies developed in a 21st-century sustainable and equitable location.”

“The Metro station is crucial to the viability of this area and our community’s vision for it,” District 1 Councilmember Andrew Friedson said. “We need a Metro station that reflects that vision and helps our economic development, regional competitiveness, and placemaking efforts so the Pike District and North Bethesda becomes an even more vibrant, walkable, and livable destination.”

“The entire Montgomery County House and Senate Delegations recognize the economic potential of ‘North Bethesda.’  Rebranding the Metro station is crucial to achieving that success and we were pleased to fight to obtain that state investment,” said Marc Korman, Delegate from District 16.

In 2010, Montgomery County completed a comprehensive update to the White Flint Sector Plan. Since that time, much has changed in North Bethesda including the former White Flint Mall which was dismantled between 2017 and 2020. A key goal for the community – both residential and business – is identity; and White Flint is no longer a relevant name or term used.

“Friends of White Flint believes the name ‘North Bethesda’ honors the history of this remarkable neighborhood and heralds a spectacular future as a walkable, transit-oriented, vibrant community,” said Amy Ginsburg, executive director of Friends of White Flint.

“Renaming the Metro station has been an imperative goal of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee to support current and future branding efforts of both the Pike District and greater North Bethesda,” said White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee Chairperson Andy Shulman. “We are pleased with the consensus amongst community, government and property stakeholders around the name ‘North Bethesda’ for the station.”

You can also read the media coverage:

WTOP: Montgomery Co. executive seeks name change for White Flint Metro stop

Bethesda Beat: Elrich supports ‘North Bethesda’ as new name for White Flint Metro station

Washington Business Journal: Montgomery County looks to rename White Flint Metro station

Updates from the White Flint Implementation Committee

Here are some important updates from the White Flint Implementation Committee.

Site Plan

  • Pike & Rose-Phase 2, R&D building, is under review. The proposed R&D building will be located north of Rose Park and Bark Social.
  • The site plan for the Northpark at Montrose (aka the Wilgus property) will go to the Planning Board on June 24.

Concept Plan

  • Rose Village is the proposed redevelopment of the office property (6001, 6003 and 6011 Executive Boulevard), which is located west of Towne Road and between Executive Boulevard and Montrose Parkway. This property is within White Flint 2, but it is within the White Flint tax district and follows the staging provisions in the 2010 White Flint plan.

Sketch Plan

  • The Montouri property, which is located at the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Nebel Street and opposite North Bethesda Center, has submitted a Sketch Plan. The vacant property has several environmental issues. Montgomery Housing Partnership (MHP) is the property developer.

Mandatory Referral

  • Montgomery County is in the process of purchasing an office property at 1600 Nebel Street for an emergency homeless center. The interior of the existing building will be renovated for the proposed use. The Board will review the property acquisition on Thursday, May 27.

Metro Station Renaming

  • The existing White Flint Metro Station will be renamed as North Bethesda in the future.

20 is Plenty

  • This MCDOT initiative seeks to lower speed limits to 20 MPH on some urban areas in the County, including White Flint. Executive Boulevard, Security Lane, Woodglen Drive and Edson Lane are included in this pilot project.

Advancing the Pike District

  • The project team is currently work with MCDOT on implementing the Pike District Connector and the creation of streetscape guidelines for the plan area.

Randolph Hills Walk Audit

Take the Pike District Connector survey

The Montgomery County Planning Department, is partnering with the Friends of White Flint and the Better Block Foundation to add local semi-permanent art and public seating at four main intersections along this temporary one-mile connector that will link pedestrians and bicyclists from the Bethesda Trolley Trail to the Montrose Parkway Trail this summer.

The public has until May 28 to provide feedback through an online survey, so please take a quick moment and submit your thoughts by clicking on the survey button below.

Thrive Explained: Complete Communities and 15-Minute Living

From The Third Place

A compact form of development – discussed in this post on corridor-focused growth – is necessary but not sufficient to ensure the emergence of great places, because a tight development footprint is only the first step. The combination of uses and activities in each of these communities must add up to a cohesive whole, allowing people who live and work there to meet as many of their needs as possible without the need to drive long distances. This combination, which Thrive Montgomery calls, “complete communities,” not only helps to reduce the need for driving but makes these centers of activity more diverse, interesting, and appealing.

What makes a community complete? Or to put it another way, what combination of infrastructure, services, amenities, and land uses makes a community the kind of place where people want to live and work?  Planners around the world have embraced the concept of “15-minute living,” the idea that most if not all basic needs should be within a 15-minute walk, as a guidepost for creating this kind of place. This concept is a way of thinking about how existing communities can be reimagined and adapted to respond to current and future challenges while also making them more competitive, equitable, and resilient.

But how does 15-minute living apply in a place with the geographic diversity of Montgomery County and its mix of urban, suburban, and rural places? The basic idea is that housing should be planned within a comfortable walking distance of schools, childcare, neighborhood-serving stores or restaurants, parks, transit – or similar daily needs. The concept acknowledges that people may travel more than 15 minutes for work, entertainment, or specialty services and that not everything will be within walking distance but strives to accommodate as many daily needs as possible within a short walk to maximize livability, convenience, and efficiency.

Read the rest of the post here.

Tomorrow night – Community Kickoff Meeting for the Pike District Connector

Wednesday, April 28, 7-8 pm

Join the Montgomery County Planning Department and Friends of White Flint for a community kickoff meeting for the Pike District Connector on April 28 (7-8 pm). The Connector is a temporary, one-mile pathway on the west side of the Pike District that will link the Bethesda Trolley Trail to the Montrose Parkway Trail. As part of this project, the Better Block Foundation will activate hubs at several intersections along the Connector with seating, artistic elements, and planters. Better Block is a nonprofit that educates, equips, and empowers communities and their leaders to reshape and reactivate built environments to promote the growth of healthy and vibrant neighborhoods. The Planning Department previously worked with Better Block for the White Flint Placemaking Event in 2018 and the Burtonsville Placemaking Festival in 2019.

Please register in advance (https://montgomeryplanning.org/events/pike-district-connector-community-kickoff-meeting/), a meeting link will be shared the day of the event.