Wednesday, February 12, 2014


One misleading notion being promoted in the Westbard redevelopment push is that the Westbard Sector is comparable in size to downtown Annapolis, Maryland. This has been mentioned by the architect for the developer, and is also within the presentation to which the public is being directed to online.

Now, when I heard this the first time, it struck me as being ridiculous. I'm not only a lifelong resident of Bethesda who grew up in the Westbard area, but also happened to spend much time in Annapolis as a child, as well. When I think of downtown Annapolis, that is a large area that includes the Maryland State House. Annapolis is a state capital, and a port city. In the larger sense, it is home to multiple major institutions of government and education. While the Westbard Sector has much history yet to be acknowledged by the county - including significant African-American and Native American sites - it has never been a capital, nor the equivalent of a port.

A more fundamental difference exists between both: Annapolis is a destination; the Westbard Sector is a commercial, retail and service area for the residential neighborhoods that surround it.

While the comparison seemed silly to me, I decided to go to an actual expert to settle the question once and for all.  Believe it or not, you can't just Google the question of "what is the size of downtown Annapolis?" Try it. But in trying to dig up the answer, I eventually was forwarded to the official GIS Coordinator for the City of Annapolis. By his calculation, the size of what is considered to be downtown Annapolis is .75 square miles.

According to the official Westbard Sector Plan document, the Westbard Sector consists of 153 acres of land. In converting acres to square miles, here's what we end up with:

ANNAPOLIS .75 square miles

WESTBARD  .239062 square miles

In other words, you could fit 3 Westbard Sectors into a space the size of downtown Annapolis.

So, what is the significance of floating this idea of Westbard being the size of Annapolis? Obviously, it's an attempt to influence public perception regarding the appropriate scale of development for the area. But it's simply inaccurate.


Anonymous said...

Maybe they mean size by population?

Anonymous said...

Wow - your analysis could not be more off - let me explain:

First, let me say that I actually agree that the comparison was silly but not for any of the reasons you indicate.

The comparison was solely meant to demonstrate the effect of density to the general public. The devloper was using a poor example to illustrate the fact that the Westbard area properties are under-utilized in terms of denisity. They are and I think it would very difficult to argue otherwise.

More importantly, the graphic used in the presentation uses a radius analogy. The Westbard Sector plan does not cover all of the area that is in their radius example. That doesn't make the example any less relevant. You are comparing apples and oranges.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Equity One is trying to lure the Naval Academy to re-locate to Westbard Avenue?

Anonymous said...

I saw that slide (overlaying the two areas) at the Equity One presentation. The "Westbard Area" shown included quite a few blocks of the Springfield and Kenwood neighborhoods. I wondered if Equity One thought those homes were part of their acquisition? Very sloppy, I thought...This whole act of "tell us what YOU want" is so insulting. They probably have firm plans drawn up already and this is merely a show. They only have their interests at heart.

Anonymous said...

I'm staying open minded until I see the plans. First and foremost, the shopping center needs to serve the needs of the surrounding community. I'm all for improving it. It's a walkable community already.

We need some of the things Robert has proposed, such as better transit connections to downtown Bethesda.

Anonymous said...

Obviously the developer thinks he can throw comments like this around and no one will call him on it. Kudos to you for doing the math.