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.

Mandatory Referral No. MR 2021020, Request for the acquisition of 11600 Nebel Street in Rockville as an emergency homeless shelter

Read the entire staff memo here.

Project Description

The Montgomery County Department of General Services (DGS) is acquiring an office building located at 11600
Nebel Street to operate an emergency homeless center. An existing facility in Rockville will soon close, and
recreation centers, which have been utilized during the pandemic as temporary spaces, will re-open as the
pandemic eases. The proposed facility will ensure that a full complement of homeless services is available for individuals seeking emergency shelter in the County. All physical changes for the building will occur in the interior of the structure. DGS anticipates that the building will accommodate approximately 200 beds. The operator, Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will determine the specific staffing number. DGS anticipates closing on the property soon.

Site Description

The property at 11600 Nebel Street consists of an existing office building and is surrounded by approximately 100 surface parking spaces. The existing building is approximately 33,048 square feet in size. Two driveways from Nebel Street provide vehicular access to the property. There is a minimal amount of landscaping on the property.

Surrounding Neighborhood

The proposed emergency shelter is located west of Nebel Street, between Marinelli Road and Nicholson Lane. To the immediate north is the Pepco Substation, which is under construction, and the Fitzgerald GMC Rockville automotive dealership is to the south. The WMATA bus depot is located west of the subject site. A variety of non-residential buildings are located east of Nebel Street, including the Montgomery County Pre-Release Center.

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

170 residences proposed in six-story building in the Pike District

From Bethesda Beat

A development proposal in the White Flint area calling for a six-story building with 170 residences has been filed with the Montgomery County Planning Department.

The Montgomery Housing Partnership has proposed a six-story residential building at the intersection of Nebel Street and Old Georgetown Road.

The group’s development application says the goal is to provide units for people with a range of incomes. At least 25% (43) of the units will be designated as affordable housing and some will be rented at “levels substantially below” affordable housing guidelines.

The site is currently undeveloped and “contains numerous environmental features that make redevelopment of this prominent site challenging,” according to the development application.

There is a stream and significant slopes, but developers plan to preserve many “existing environmental features,” documents say.

The building design will incorporate the environmental features, developers wrote. It will provide “ample transparency overlooking the natural features” at the back of the property and there will be an outdoor deck “built into the trees.”

There will be an approximately 7,000-square-foot park and plaza, as well.

Read the entire article here