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White Oak residents endorse Science Gateway plan

For years, the White Oak area north of downtown Silver Spring has struggled with disinvestment. Last week, residents, community leaders and major landowners endorsed a vision to bring jobs and people back.

Rendering of LifeSci Village from Percontee.

Montgomery County planners recently finished a draft of the White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan, a proposal to turn the 1960's-era suburb that inspired The Wonder Years into an urban hub for scientific research. The centerpiece would be LifeSci Village, a partnership between developer Percontee and Montgomery County to turn a 300-acre brownfield into a mixed-use community.

During last Thursday's public hearing before the Planning Board in Silver Spring, all but a handful of the 35 speakers spoke in favor of it, highlighting the need to bring more investment to East County, which has lagged behind the rest of Montgomery County for decades. Many White Oak residents travel to Bethesda or the I-270 corridor for jobs or shopping, while some neighborhoods in the area grapple with crime and blight.

Many speakers highlighted the potential to make White Oak the "Silicon Valley of health care," using the FDA's presence to draw companies from around the world. Bringing more jobs and amenities to the east side of the county, they said, would relieve the county's east-west jobs-housing imbalance, reducing the need for long commutes. Other speakers stressed the need for alternatives to driving, like improved bike and pedestrian infrastructure and the 3 Bus Rapid Transit lines proposed for White Oak.

Meanwhile, a handful of representatives from local civic and homeowners' associations expressed concerns about the potential for traffic. Some residents opposed the plan's recommendation to rebuild and reopen a shuttered bridge on Old Columbia Pike, which planners say could help improve traffic circulation.

Over the next several weeks, the Planning Board will discuss the plan during a series of worksessions before voting on it later this summer. If it passes, it'll go to the County Council, which will hold another public hearing this fall, followed by a vote next spring.

I live-tweeted the hearing and compiled the best tweets in this Storify:

Dan Reed is an urban planner at Nelson\Nygaard. He writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. All opinions are his own. 


Add a comment »

Light rail extension along or parallel to route 29 from Silver Spring to Briggs Chaney? Anyone? Anyone?

by Randall M. on May 28, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

All the bridges over US 29 in Montgomery County have been designed to accomodate light rail. ACT sent a letter to SHA requesting this when the first overpasses were designed in the late 1990s, and it has been maintained as a design requirement.

by Ben Ross on May 28, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

" all but a handful of the 35 speakers spoke in favor of it"
Most of the speakers were: developers, attorneys for developers, attorneys looking for clients, Reid Temple, hospital people, County agencies who have purchased property, etc. Very few actual residents who live in the designated plan area spoke at the hearing, so the headline is misleading. Should read "White Oak developers endorse their own plan."

by WB on May 29, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

I think it's a great idea and here's hoping it helps spur an improvement in public transit in the Route 29/Ga. Ave/New Hampshire Ave. corridor.

by Capt. Hilts on May 30, 2013 8:30 am • linkreport

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