Sunday, July 18, 2010

Miscellaneous design features for parts of North Bethesda

The county has approved the White Flint sector plan for North Bethesda with certain goals/requirements. One is to have a community center, and also to have a civic green for use by the new residents and residents of surrounding communities. At this time, the civic green may be placed on the south side of Old Georgetown Road, where the car dealerships are right now, and is planned for 1-2 acres. The White Flint Coalition is pushing for at least a 2-acre green/park. This is worth lobbying for.

Wall Park, next to the aquatic center (between Old Georgetown Rd & Executive Blvd., north of Nicholson Lane) will become a highly programmed park with ballfields, tennis courts, and other sports activities.

The Bethesda Trolley Trail, which currently connects from Tuckerman to the corner of Edson Lane and Woodglen, is to be extended through to Marinelli, ultimately connecting to the Metro station.

North Bethesda buildout politics & funding

It may be possible to obtain federal matching funds to develop the public infrastructure for the sector plan. It is critical that the Rockville Pike boulevard "complete street" design, as planned, be completed in as early a phase as possible to promote further development along rational, staged lines and to create a sense of place for North Bethesda. In order for this to happen, all of the political powers must include the creation of a new, improved Rockville Pike and North Bethesda as a priority. The plan, as approved, is a major step forward in the cooperation of public, private, and community sectors and could serve as a model for other emerging urban areas nationwide.

Currently, many of our local, state, and national leaders are on board to push this project for federal funding. On board are councilmembers Elrich and Berliner (I haven't confirmed with others, but suspect that Trachtenberg and Andrews are also proponents). Other local leaders in the City of Rockville are intrigued and would want to tie in with Rockville Town Center. On the state level, our delegates, Frick and Lee, state Senator Frosh, and Governor O'Malley are enthusiastic. Senators Cardin and Mikulski will also fight for the funding. However, Executive Leggett seems to be focusing on the Shady Grove Science Center and the Corridor Cities Transitway, leaving this important economic and social engine unattended. If you agree, please call or write Ike Leggett to let him know that we want his attention and backing for this project and the possibility of applying for and receiving federal funding.

The design for Mid-Pike Plaza

Hopefully, FRIT will have their sketch plan posted online, keep an eye out for it as a link from www.Friendsof
Here is a short text description that covers some of the points and questions made by community members during the July 14 sketch plan presentation. I hope that I don't butcher the plan with a clumsy description!

There will be nine blocks. Phase 1 is on the south end of the property, abutting Old Georgetown Road, and will comprise primarily 4-story buildings with a residential component above retail street-fronts. Since the plan for the sector modifies the current Old Georgetown/Executive Blvd intersection (the southwest corner of FRIT's property) so that Hoya Street will be opened to Old Georgetown Rd, Executive Blvd will no longer curve to intersect in that location and will be straightened through the current auto dealer sites so that it will continue through Mid-Pike Plaza (to be renamed...any nominations to send to FRIT?) and become the property's "main street" running north-south. The new streets that define the blocks will run roughly along the same driving routes that the current parking lot uses. The Exec. Blvd. "main street" will deadend at a T intersection at a large public plaza (the largest of 3 pedestrian/public plaza areas planned for the development). This public space will be larger than the plaza in Rockville Town Center in front of the regional library. For comparison, Rockville Town Center (also owned and developed by FRIT) is 13 acres, total. The public space will have lawns and pavilion shops, and can be closed off for large events (farmers' market, movie night, etc.) A hotel is projected to front this plaza. At the far north section of the property, The public space will be in phase 2, with the hotel in phase 3. Other public spaces will include a "raised street" with distinctive paving to delineate areas and uses, and another programmable space with a wide sidewalk. It is unknown if the paved surfaces will be pervious, but the engineers involved are aware that the community is asking for the most environmentally friendly designs possible. Most of the office space will be located closest to the southeast corner of the property, near the White Flint Metro station. The sector plan provides for an additional entrance to this station on the north end, catercorner from FRIT's property.

Parking and trucks- Parking will be along some of the streets and in 3 parking garages, which will utilize the red/green light technology used in Rockville to indicate where there are open spaces. It is unknown if there will be parking fees, but it is to be assumed that, eventually, all parking in the sector will be charged. The garages will be about 4 levels above ground. Some retail tenants may validate parking, and there will be ample parking for retail use, 3-4 spaces per 1,000 sq. ft. Office parking will be limited, as in the current Nuclear Regulatory Commission buildings, 2 spaces per 1,000 sq. ft. (approx. 3-4 workers). There will be 1 space per residential unit. It is calculated that residents of condos/apartments in the sector development will have fewer vehicles and will use buses, walk, bike, or use Metro more that in standard developments. Residential and office parking will be dedicated, not open to the general public for retail parking. Loading docks will be internal to each building, so that there will be no need for trucks to stop on the streets for loading or unloading.

Phase 1 will build the first part of the main street area at the south end, with residential above retail. Mid and high-rise buildings will be LEED certified (a certification process to rate "green" buildings). Due to stormwater management requirements and the need to reduce energy use, a number of the roofs will be vegetated. Phase 2 will complete the main street, with most of the retail space. Commercial (office) buildings will have bike racks and showers to encourage walkers and biker commuters. FRIT is negotiating with potential retail and commercial tenants, with the construction of high-rise office buildings dependent on leasing.

Process/Timeline for the redevelopment of Mid-Pike Plaza

On July 14, Federal Realty Investment Trust presented the sketch design for Mid-Pike Plaza to the community at large. The presentation was made by Evan Goldman. FRIT owns a number of very successful commercial properties and has made a specialty of developing transit-oriented mixed-use projects. Mid-Pike Plaza is located at the very north end of the White Flint Sector Plan, bounded on the north by Montrose Parkway, south by Old Georgetown Road (where it bends to meet Rockville Pike), east by Rockville Pike, and west by the old Old Georgetown Road, recently renamed Hoya Street. It is 24 acres, the 3rd largest property in the sector (after White Flint Mall and LCOR's WMATA site behind the White Flint Metro). The plan is to be completed in three phases, with the projected calendar as follows (take this with a large grain of salt; no one knows how long the process will take, but these are goals):

Next 2 months, Evan will meet with any and all community groups to share the presentation. White Flint Coalition's meeting is Aug. 3.
The sketch plan will go to the county sometime in September, with a public hearing in the fall and approval by the end of the year.
During the next year, 2011, the detailed site plan for phase 1 will go through the approval process.
Groundbreaking on phase 1 will occur in about 2 years. This will cover the area currently occupied by ToysRUS and the old Linens 'n Things space. Those leases expire at the end of 2012.
The other leases on the property (smaller stores, including Filene's Basement, Bally's, CVS, La Madeleine, Chipotle) are valid until the end of 2014, so that area will be part of phase 2. Phase 3 will be built on the parking area north of the shops.