Summing up the most common argument heard during sector plan discussions countywide these days, one resident said the lack of high school capacity "has to be addressed." Later, another resident complained that, while planners have acknowledged the issue, they have not yet proposed any specific solutions. One resident advocating a greater developer contribution to environmental needs recalled a developer recently told her, "You don't really think we're going to spend all this money on a property and give you a school." Residents were specifically asking for money in the County Capital Improvements Program to reopen Woodward High School as a high school, rather than a temporary holding facility.
The Executive Boulevard office park area off of Montrose Parkway is the area most in question in regard to land use. With the County's business climate such that the kinds of large firms and research facilities that prize such suburban office park locations are bypassing MoCo for Northern Virginia and other states, its vacancy rate exceeds the county average. Yet, one resident said during a breakout session, it remains "a very desirable place to put a technology or research company." A real estate broker familiar with the area argued that the Montrose Parkway and Metro station, as well as future transit expansion such as Bus Rapid Transit, give it an advantage over downtown Bethesda. It's very difficult to get in and out of downtown Bethesda from the interstates, he said. "The more you can make [the Pike District] easy to get in and out of," he suggested, the more attractive it will be to companies.
Another suggestion to make that office area more attractive? Extend the mixed-use of Pike & Rose across Executive Boulevard, or at least make it easier to walk between the two locations with better pedestrian crossings at Old Georgetown and Executive.
Retail and restaurants could indeed make it more attractive for employers, the broker agreed. "When you saw Whole Foods open that [Pike District] store, that changed that neighborhood overnight," he recalled. While it is starting slowly, he predicted, "White Flint will eventually be the place to be" in Montgomery County.
Can the job center return to prosperity? "There's no certainty that it won't come back," planner Luis Estrada told a group. "We want to give [office use] a chance to come back," Senior Planner Andrea Gilles said. But with more flexibility in land use, Estrada added.
|Eric Grosse of the|
Friends of White Flint
summarizes the discussion
in his group
|Planner Luis Estrada notes|
a resident suggestion on a
map of White Flint 2
A second pedestrian-averse area remains the Rockville Pike bridge over Montrose Parkway, and the unused Park-and-Ride lot at Hoya Street. There are also confusing connections from the parkway for drivers attempting to reach Pike & Rose and Montrose Crossing. For example, heading eastbound on the Parkway, you actually have to turn left and go north in order to reach your destination of Pike & Rose to the south.
I've been wondering over the past few years how those two Federal Realty properties could perhaps be connected, to provide a better pedestrian route between Pike & Rose and a future redevelopment of Montrose Crossing. One idea that came up at two separate tables during the breakout session last night, was to realign Hoya Street with an entrance to Montrose Crossing.
Estrada said another connection could be to extend Market Street into the area between Executive Boulevard and Luxmanor. Some residents suggested a road through the Green Acres School property, as well.
Federal Realty, which owns multiple properties in the Pike District, has already had success in providing one pedestrian connection on its own. The developer created a pedestrian walkway between Federal Plaza and the Miramont condos and apartments, that is now heavily used by residents.
Gilles said there will be two more meetings on the White Flint 2 plan in November. Planners will submit a draft plan to the Planning Board in March or April of 2016, and it should go to the County Council next summer, she said.