Montgomery County’s bikeway coordinator said an extension of the Bethesda Trolley Trail in North Bethesda should be complete by September and it will use a street marking unique to many suburban areas.
Patricia Shepherd told the White Flint Implementation Committee on Monday that the county is prepared to begin a .29-mile extension of the trail from the northern terminus of its off-road portion at Edson Lane along Woodglen Drive to Nicholson Lane.
The Bethesda Trolley Trail is a six-mile route meant to connect the Twinbrook Metro station in Rockville with downtown Bethesda through White Flint. The off-road portion of the Trail, which includes bridges over the Beltway and I-270, runs to just south of NIH at Battery Lane.
The development of North Bethesda Market has led to concerns from bikers who use the Trail on Woodglen. A Whole Foods supermarket, parking garage entrances and curbside parking can make navigating the area difficult.
The county’s Department of Transportation hopes shifting a shared-use sidewalk from the Whole Foods side of the street to the west side of the street will help things. The county is waiting for WSSC to finish a project in the area. Then, it will remove the existing five-foot concrete sidewalk on the west side of Woodglen and add an eight-food shared-use path in its place.
In a move Shepherd said could become more common in downtown Bethesda with the introduction of Capital Bikeshare, the county will apply new lane markings to the street called sharrows. The markings mean bikers can use the full lane, just like the driver of a car.
MCDOT will remove six curbside parking spots from the street to help widen the lane, which will make it possible for cars and bikes to travel the roadway side-by-side.
Shepherd said cyclists were concerned that a traditional bike lane to the outside of regular traffic could lead to collisions with car doors that fling open in street parking spaces. She also said its important to connect the Bethesda Trolley Trail to Wall Park, which is just to the northwest of Woodglen Drive.
The latest redevelopment proposal in White Flint is an apartment that will cater to the entry-level millenial set, according to the project’s developer.
Foulger-Pratt is partnering with ProMark to build two six-story apartment buildings with a total of 362 units called Tilden Place at 11600 Nebel St. in North Bethesda. Dick Knapp, senior vice president at Foulger-Pratt, presented the sketch plan for the site on Monday.
Knapp said 70 percent of the units will be one-bedroom or studios around 825 square feet. He compared it to Foulger-Pratt’s recently finished Citron mid-rise apartment in Silver Spring. Rents there run from $1,725 to $2,975 a month, according to real estate website Trulia.
The apartment, as proposed, will include about 320 underground parking spots and no ground-floor retail. Knapp said the retail planned for nearby Nicholson Lane, including another Foulger-Pratt project, will be enough for the area. The sketch plan calls for a pool and green area intersecting the two buildings.
There are tenants in the existing office building on site. Knapp said the company hopes to start construction by the end of 2014 and have the first phase done by 2016, then the second phase by 2017.
The development includes a new street built by the developer that will be dedicated to the county. Foulger-Pratt bought the 1970 property in December for $5.1 million.
Some residents and developers expressed concern that a communications tower on the edge of the massive redevelopment efforts underway in White Flint could serve as an eyesore.
Across Nebel Street from Washington Gas’ property, construction continues on a 18-story, 341-unit apartment building. A plan for a trio of 300-foot residential towers along Rockville Pike, a few blocks west of the property, is in the pipeline.
During a meeting on Tuesday of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee, residents, developers and nearby business owners seemed satisfied with the utility company’s plan for a monopole that would be installed about as far from the street as possible.
The tower proposal will likely go to the county’s Tower Committee in July for an engineering review. But because Washington Gas’ property is zoned industrial, there appears to be little surrounding developers or neighbors could do if they weren’t satisfied with it.
Washington Gas officials Orlando Spencer and Mike Marsters explained the communications tower was necessary to provide for internal communications and data transfer in case the company needed to shut off a valve with a leak or another safety issue popped up. The tower must be in the line of sight of other towers in the network, including one in Rockville.
The company could, however, lease out antenna capability to cell phone companies or other groups. Marsters estimated Washington Gas would use about 30 percent of the capability provided by three sets of cellular antennas installed on the tower.
Marsters also acknowledged there is a possibility Washington Gas would have to move the tower in case nearby development blocked its ability to communicate with others in the network. After some coordination with the county, Marserts and Spencer found there is no project in the current pipeline that would block that communication.
Montgomery County transportation officials want to shrink lane widths, build curb extensions at intersections and offer off-peak hour street parking to create the urban, pedestrian feel developers and some residents crave for White Flint’s new road network.
But the objective of moving as many vehicles as quickly as possible remains, especially when it comes to State Highway Administration road planners who have authority over Old Georgetown Road.
In preliminary designs of the Western Workaround presented on Monday, a realigned Executive Boulevard would have less space for bikes than some hoped. A 40 mph speed limit along six-lane Old Georgetown worried White Flint Sector Plan supporters who see that design as more suited for the area’s existing strip mall shopping centers than the mixed-use, street retail and shops that are coming.
The success of White Flint as a connected, walkable community could hinge on the delicate balancing act of thru lanes, rights-of-way, sidewalk widths, traffic projections and capital funding. And if state transportation engineers don’t budge, don’t be surprised to see developers or other stakeholders lobby state political leaders for changes.
“We are quite sensitive to the Sector Plan’s vision and want to provide an environment that will be pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly and encouraging people to get out of their vehicles,” said Montgomery County Transportation Engineering chief Bruce Johnston. “We’re modifying the road code standard, trying to incorporate that vision. …The [State Highway Administration] staff we work with has authority to trump us.”
The future of Wall Park is important to many in White Flint who see it as the rapidly developing area’s central green space and perhaps one day home to concerts and festivals.
That makes it a strong candidate to be one of the first Montgomery Parks projects subject to a recently approved corporate sponsorship policy that could include any number of things related to programming, advertising, or naming.
“We have been involved in some conversations about the public-private partnership of Wall Park. Whether it’s a partnership or a sponsorship or a naming has yet to be determined,” said Kate Stookey, Montgomery Parks’ chief of public affairs and community partnerships. “There’s very likely to be some aspect of any of those in the development of Wall Park. We are very open to that.”
Montgomery Parks hopes to revamp and expand the existing Wall Local Park (4901 Nicholson Lane) with the new mixed-use residential and commercial developments of White Flint as the catalyst. The Planning Board approved the corporate sponsorship policy in January.
Stookey said the policy should help fund and pilot new programs by allowing for more frequent and widespread marketing of corporate sponsors that pitch in. Don’t expect a corporate sponsor to swoop in and acquire the naming rights to Wall Park.
Parks staff found other municipalities that have similar policies don’t really use it as a way to make up for tight budgets. Other areas generated between $100,000 and a little over $1 million with their sponsorships, which would only cover a small piece of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s budget for parks.
“We’re not seeing this as a way to replace tax funding because it can’t,” Stookey said. “But it is a way to generate revenue to enhance existing programs, to pilot new programs, to maybe fund community events that could then be free to the public.”
Plans for Wall Park would seem to fit naturally with that goal. Parks wants to transform it from 12 acres tucked behind the Shriver Aquatics Center and a 250-space parking lot to a great lawn, complete with activities and programming that would make it a destination for more than its swimming facilities.
Parks hopes to replace that parking by entering into a public-private deal with Atlanta-based developer Gables Residential, which plans to build 450 to 500 apartment units in three buildings on its property just north of Wall Park and the Aquatics Center. Gables so far has said it is on-board with the idea of including 250 parking spots (and another 150 for a planned recreation center) in its garage for the development.
But many factors are in play, including a new street grid for the area that has yet to get off the ground. Without a realigned Executive Boulevard as imagined in the White Flint Sector Plan, Gables can’t build the project it has designed.
Rachel Newhouse, a landscape architect and planner for Montgomery Parks, attended numerous meetings about Wall Park and the Gables development over the past few months in order to get community suggestions for features or programming. She said she would like to take the Concept Plan for the expanded park to the Planning Board at the same time Gables presents its Sketch Plan, which it’s expected to file in early June.
Montgomery County recently announced it will start posting advertisements in June in two Bethesda garages.
Map via Montgomery Parks
The developer of a proposed apartment complex just north of Wall Park and the Shriver Aquatic Center in North Bethesda faces a number of hurdles before construction can begin.
Besides the typical approval process, Atlanta-based developer Gables Residential must wait for Montgomery County to design and fund a new road network and work out an agreement with the Montgomery County Department of Parks on the funding and operation of a parking garage that would serve both apartment residents and Wall Park visitors.
Gables Regional Vice President Jorgen Punda and architects presented the Sketch Plan to community members in a required public meeting on Tuesday. The Sketch Plan envisions three 70-foot-tall apartment buildings that would include 450 to 500 units on top of 30,000 square feet of ground floor retail, courtyards and a parking garage.
That garage is a key part of the developer’s plan and the future of Wall Park, which the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan envisions as the major park and green space for a rapidly developing White Flint. The area today includes a small park, the Shriver Aquatic Center and 250 parking spaces.
Punda said the company has agreed to reserve 250 parking spots in its garage for Montgomery Parks and another 150 spaces to accomodate a future planned recreation center. The existing 250 spaces in the park would be replaced with park functions that are still being designed.
Park planner coordinator Rachel Newhouse took suggestions for possible park features during the meeting.
Attorney Stephen Kaufman, who is representing Gables out of Bethesda-based firm Linowes and Blocher, said the plan is for Gables to provide the land for the garage. It would be up to Montgomery County to pay for its construction. Kaufman suggested the county could use payments Gables will have to make into a general development fund.
Newhouse said Parks hopes to go to the Planning Board at the same time Gables does with a concept plan for the park. The garage will include about 590 spaces reserved for residents and retail use.
It appears neither can go forward without a resolution to the Western Workaround. Gables can only start the project once Executive Boulevard is realigned and Market Street is built, making the existing triangular lot into a bigger rectangular one.
Montgomery County has been negotiating with the State Highway Administration on design aspects of the new street grid’s intersections. The county must also purchase important right-of-way from the vacant car dealerships on the south side of Old Georgetown Road, a process Kaufman said the developer hopes will accelerate when it files its Sketch Plan in June.
Once construction starts, Punda said it should be 18 to 20 months until the apartments are completed. But it’s uncertain when all of the elements — new Wall Park, shared parking garage and new street network — will come together.
“The project can’t be built unless the roads are in place,” Kaufman said. “We’re looking at 2016 or the year after. Either it’s going to happen by then, or White Flint is going to be in big trouble.”
Images via Gables Residential
But not all major developers, including one that has already branded its property as North Bethesda Center, are on board. Developers are split on whether to label the rapidly redeveloping area around the White Flint Metro station as White Flint or as North Bethesda.
Francine Waters, from Lerner Enterprises, told a meeting of an area advisory board that the group, called the White Flint Partnership, is close to signing a contract with a firm to conduct the branding study. Lerner Enterprises owns White Flint Mall, which it plans to redevelop into a mixed-use, town square-oriented community.
LCOR, the developer that plans a similar project along Old Georgetown Road called North Bethesda Center, is not part of the Partnership, which Waters said includes Lerner, Saul Centers, Gables Residential, Federal Realty Investment Trust and JBG. All have agreed to pitch in to pay for the study.
“We reached out to all the developers in White Flint. We asked that they participate financially,” Waters told the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee on Tuesday, without referring specifically to LCOR. “We were politely told that they’d love to be engaged but were not interested in contributing financially.
“I would say, when you think about branding and naming, if you come up with a new name, then you have to think about what it would take to define that place with the new name,” Waters said.
“It’s not just a question of the new name or the existing name, because we have two existing names,” said Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce Board member Andy Shulman.
Montgomery County officials think they can avoid the controversies that have threatened food trucks in other places, even as its food truck community grows into a more organized and more prominent alternative to the corner sandwich shop.
Dan Hoffman, Montgomery’s first ever chief innovation officer, is working on a program that would pinpoint locations where food trucks could be successful without interfering with the business of traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Hoffman said the county hopes to identify and input “food truck-friendly” locations into a data set that would be accessible at the county’s Data Montgomery website, with the hope the info would lead to the creation of apps with which food truck operators could reserve space ahead of time or let customers know where they’ll be on a particular day.
“We want to be proactive. We want to create some consistency and some reliability for food trucks,” Hoffman said. “These are small businesses we want to embrace.”
Just not necessarily in areas already populated with restaurants.
Saul Centers, a part of Bethesda-based development company B.F. Saul, on Tuesday revealed its plans for three 300-foot residential towers and two 200-foot buildings on its two properties near the White Flint Metro station.
Saul Centers purchased the two-level shopping center at Metro Pike Center (across from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) and the Staples-anchored shopping center at 11503 Rockville Pike two years ago with the intent of developing the site under the new zoning codes of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.
The buildings would likely be built in phases over a number of years, Saul Centers Vice President of Development Brian Downie told attendees of the required public meeting at the Bethesda North Conference Center. The company would begin building its first tower in about two years, if everything goes smoothly in the approval process.
Saul Centers will submit its sketch plan to the Montgomery County Planning Board by the end of May. It is not releasing the renderings it showed on Tuesday until that submission.
Metro Pike Center would be torn down and redeveloped with a 300-foot residential tower on the spot of the existing McDonald’s at Marinelli Road and Rockville Pike. Just to the south, Saul Centers would build a matching 300-foot residential tower with a new east-to-west street in between. South of that, across another new east-to-west street, would be a roughly 200-foot predominantly office building.
Woodglen Drive is to be extended behind the property to Marinelli Road under the Sector Plan. It currently cuts off at Nicholson Lane.
At the Staples site, Saul Centers would build a 300-foot, L-Shaped residential tower along Rockville Pike and another 200-foot residential tower to the east with a public plaza in between.
Lindsay Hoffman, a resident near White Flint who runs the Friends of White Flint organization, said she gets questions all the time about what exactly is coming to the soon-to-be redeveloped parcels along Rockville Pike.
On Tuesday morning, many of the developers creating those places gathered in the same place to answer some of those questions, show renderings and get to know the community that will see big changes over the next few decades.
Representatives from White Flint Mall, LCOR, Federal Realty and the Chevy Chase Land Company were a part of the showcase event held at the Whole Foods at North Bethesda Market. Park planners from the Montgomery County Department of Parks and staff from the Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar, coming to North Bethesda Market this summer, were also on hand.
Parks staff asked for ideas from residents for the expansion of Wall Park. As part of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, the site of the Shriver Swim Center and parking lot will be transformed into a multi-purpose recreation center and green space between Old Georgetown Road and Executive Boulevard.
The plans also include an above-ground parking garage on the Gables property. Park planners are waiting to see what that developer does with the property before devising a formal plan for the park.
Rockville-based Federal Realty is progressing with its Pike & Rose project for Mid-Pike Plaza. During a walking tour of White Flint last weekend, Federal’s Tommy Mann said the developer wants Pike & Rose to be the premier arts and entertainment destination in the White Flint/North Bethesda area. Federal has signed luxury movie theater iPic and has a deal with Strathmore for a 250-seat music venue.
LCOR plans to build out its North Bethesda Center development across Rockville Pike. Francine Waters, from Lerner Enterprises, showed residents the White Flint sketch plan and renderings from the White Flint Partnership of what a Bus Rapid Transit network could look like on Rockville Pike.
Following the ins and outs of the many redevelopment projects slated for White Flint isn’t easy.
So on Saturday a group of smart growth advocates put together a walking tour of the area to show about 50 area residents what is going on and what they hope to see happen to the strip malls and sidewalks of Rockville Pike.
The D.C.-based Coalition for Smarter Growth, a nonprofit funded by an environmental group, organized “White Flint: Drag to Desirable,” a two-hour tour of the area that included Tommy Mann from developer Federal Realty, County planner Nkosi Yearwood, resident Lindsay Hoffman from Friends of White Flint and Coalition executive director Stewart Schwartz.
They talked about plans for Federal Realty’s Pike & Rose project, underway at Mid-Pike Plaza, and developer LCOR’s North Bethesda Center on the east side of Rockville Pike near the White Flint Metro station. Yearwood answered questions about the realignment of Executive Boulevard, which the county hopes will one day run through what is now Mid-Pike Plaza and the Saab auto dealership across Old Georgetown Road.
Schwartz pointed out some of the less noticeable signs of car-oriented, older suburban planning that still exist on the Pike.
The high-speed right hand turn lane from Old Georgetown Road onto southbound Rockville Pike is one example. Drivers looking to get onto the Pike are more likely to look left for a gap in southbound traffic than to look right for pedestrians crossing at the crosswalk.
There is no tree buffer between the sidewalks of Rockville Pike and the road, a streetscaping tool that is apparent off the Pike near the Bethesda North Marriott and nearby apartment buildings.
Many asked about school overcrowding from new residents in mid-rise and high-rise apartments. The 2010 White Flint Sector Plan includes a new elementary school at the White Flint Mall redevelopment site. Yearwood fielded questions about public amenities, including a green space planned for near Wall Park.
And many wanted to know exactly what was going to be built and when. Mann answered questions about parking and retailers coming to Pike & Rose, the first major mixed-use development coming under the Sector Plan. Phase one will be done next year.
But residents found the bulk of redevelopment for White Flint is going to be a long process in which all the details — road construction, land ownership, the fate of existing small businesses, even a name — aren’t finalized.
The first thing out of most mouths at the first-ever meeting of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee earlier this month was that the area needs one identifiable and marketable name.
What went unspoken is the disagreement over exactly what that name should be.
The area around the White Flint Metro station is projected to see 14,000 new housing units and 13 million square feet of commercial redevelopment in the strip shopping centers along Rockville Pike over the next 25 years.
The bulk of that development will come in four major projects from four different developers that appear split. Should the area be called White Flint, like the Metro station and landmark mall, or North Bethesda, to better identify it on a map?
“Not being a ‘Little Bethesda’ but creating a district that is unique and identifiable and that actually leads the county,” Federal Realty’s Deirdre Johnson said at the April 9 meeting of developers, business representatives, residents and county staff. “We want people saying, ‘Look at what they did,’ and not, ‘Look at what Bethesda did and they replicated it.’”
Ohio-based Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar announced it will open its first D.C. area in late July or early August in North Bethesda Market.
The 180-seat restaurant, with two patio seating areas, will take over the space at 11333 Woodglen Dr., across from the Whole Foods Market.
The menu will obviously be Latin-inspired, with seafood, steaks, sandwiches, appetizers and deserts including Cuban Braised Beef Ropa Vieja, Blackened Fish Tacos, Plantain Crusted Crab Croquetas and three kinds of guacamole served with chips blended from plantain, yucca, malanga and tortilla.
It will also carry more than 50 rums, rum flights and tasting-size pours, as well as Mojitos, Caipirinhas and Margaritas.
“It is our goal to provide an upbeat, fresh American interpretation of Latin food, borrowing and blending from the many unique aspects of the various cultures represented by the menu offerings,” co-President Andy Himmel said in a press release. “We see Paladar as approachable, affordable and comfortable — a place to go not just for special occasions, but for any occasion. We want to share with our guests the vibrancy, colors, tastes, music and soul of Latin America.”
Paladar will be open for brunch on Saturday and Sunday, traditional happy hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week and a late night happy hour from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
The restaurant will be Paladar’s fourth. It also has plans to open a location in Tysons Corner.
Photo via Google Maps
UPDATE 2:55 p.m. Montgomery County Police say a county Ride On bus driver has been charged with a traffic citation in an 11-car accident in North Bethesda yesterday that left at least four people injured.
Officer Rebecca Innocenti, a police spokesperson, said an officer charged the Ride On bus driver with failing to reduce speed to avoid a collision.
MCP’s Public Information Office is awaiting a full report on the details of the accident. What is known is that around 1:40 p.m. on Monday, a multi-car collision on Nicholson Avenue, just east of Rockville Pike, caused the closure of Nicholson Lane for about three hours.
Innocenti said 11 vehicles were involved, four people were transported to hospitals with non-serious injuries and one woman who is pregnant drove herself to the hospital where she was kept for some time for observation. Seven of the 11 vehicles involved needed tows.
Photo via TrafficLand.com
UPDATED STORY | MCFRS is on the scene of a multi-car accident at Nicholson Lane and Rockville Pike that involves as many as eight cars and a county Ride On bus.
The accident happened around 1:35 p.m. just east of the intersection, where multiple ambulances are on the scene and traffic is snarled.
Photos via TrafficLand.com and @chrisrhopkins