Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Montgomery

Bicycling


Silver Spring is getting a new protected bikeway

Montgomery County has been stepping up its seriousness when it comes to building bike infrastructure. Next up? Silver Spring's first protected bikeway.


Map of the proposed separated bike lanes. Screenschot by author. Image from Montgomery County.

The county is considering protected lanes that would run for about a mile along Cedar and Spring Streets, between 2nd Avenue and Wayne Avenue. The route circles around the northern and eastern edges of downtown Silver Spring, close to many of its major destinations and connecting with bike routes along several cross streets.

Another way to describe the lanes' location is to say they'll be right in the middle of Montgomery County's Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Area for Silver Spring, which is where planners are looking to make biking and walking a safer, more appealing options.

At the bikeway's western end (near Spring Street and Second Avenue), it will connect to the future Capital Crescent Trail, and at its eastern end (at Cedar Street and Wayne Avenue) it will connect to the future Silver Spring Green Trail; both trails are being built as part of the Purple Line.

After Purple Line construction, the bikeway could extend to Sixteenth Street.

Planners will unveil more specific designs at a public meeting on February 2nd. Those details would show what type of barriers will go up between the bikeway and traffic, and how the bikeway will cross intersections.

Parking


NIH 2015: Growing without adding parking is "impossible." NIH 2016: Okay, it's possible.

The National Institutes of Health won't add any new parking spaces to its campus after all. After saying "high-ranking scientists" were too important to take transit or carpool, NIH leaders have seen the error of their ways and modified the master plan to cap the parking.


The NIH Master Plan.

NIH last presented a draft master plan last April. The plan would add 3,000 employees to the Bethesda campus, and NIH wanted to build 1,000 new parking spaces for them.

However, the National Capital Planning Commission rejected NIH's plan. NCPC has a policy that federal facilities outside DC but near Metro stations (like NIH) should have one space per three employees. NIH has 1 space per 2.3 employees, more than the NCPC standard.

When NIH last updated its master plan, NCPC planners pushed NIH to work to reach the 1:3 level. But at the April meeting, NIH facilities director Ricardo Herring irritated NCPC commissioners by insisting that achieving that was "impossible" because "high-ranking scientists" just won't abide not being able to have their own free parking spaces.

Apparently it's not actually impossible, because NIH has now changed its plan. Instead of adding 1,000 spaces, it will add zero, capping parking at the current level of 9,045. That would shift the parking ratio from 1:2.3 to 1:2.6.

NCPC spokesperson Stephen Staudigl said in an email, "In response to our concerns, NIH suggested a cap on existing parking on the campus, as opposed to its previous proposal to add new parking. We see this cap as an interim step towards achieving a long-term goal of the 1:3 ratio. ... Looking forward, we plan to continue working with NIH staff in anticipation of its next master plan update in 2018, which should include a more detailed approach to parking reduction over time."

The plan will consolidate much of the campus' surface parking into a few new parking garages. This will let NIH actually increase the percentage of open space on the campus from 36% to 39% while growing, because parking will drop from 9% of the land area to 5%.

As NCPC commissioners pointed out in April, a public health organization, in particular, ought to recognize the value of having people not dependent on cars. Thanks to NCPC's pressure, it seems to have come around.

Transit


This futuristic concept for the Bethesda station entrance has an even more futuristic Metro map

Imagine that one day the Bethesda Metro station's entrance could look like this. Then look closely at that Metro map and imagine that we could have all of the extra, nonexistent Metro lines it shows.


Image from Brookfield Properties.

This rendering shows the escalators and stairs from the street level to the current bus bays. People entering Bethesda station from the street descend to the bus bay level, then continue into longer escalators continuing down.

As Bethesda Magazine reports, Brookfield wants to build a high-rise building on top of what's now a large but mostly inert plaza, and create a "Bethesda Central Park" of more active and greener space.

But Clark Enterprises, another developer in Bethesda whose headquarters are next door, wants to keep the space open to protect views from its buildings, and has designed a competing park plan that puts the park space closer to the street, atop Brookfield's land.

Brookfield recently tried to sweeten the pot by proposing a big facelift for the bus bay level and the entrance. Neither company, however, is in a position to make one piece of this drawing a reality: that Metro map, which is not the real Metro map but actually Neil Flanagan's 2009 fantasy Metro map:


Image from Neil Flanagan.

Flanagan designed a Metro loop that's somewhat like the one WMATA has actually proposed, but larger, stretching out to U Street and Florida Avenue instead of staying downtown, and with a branch east of the Anacostia and out to National Harbor.

This happens to be the same fantasy map Terry McAuliffe's campaign accidentally used in a flyer attacking his 2013 gubernatorial opponent, Ken Cuccinelli:


Imag from the McAuliffe campaign.

Presumably there's a search on Google Images or the like which brings up this map, and some graphic designers less well versed in the Metro system grab it, not realizing what it is. It's happened to maps I've made as well, like this 2008 MediaBistro ad or this graphic from one cheesesteak shop:

It's always worth laughing at this phenomenon, though.

Development


The White Flint Mall has become a ghost land. Here are some pictures.

There's a lawsuit holding up redevelopment of Montgomery County's White Flint Mall, but the 70s-era structure itself is almost completely gone. Deconstruction will likely be complete by the time we get snow.


A look from the west side of the property. You can clearly see the central elevator shaft here. All photos by the author.

Here's background on the mall from my first post with photos of the tear down, in early September:

Developer Lerner Enterprises wants to turn the mall into a new urban neighborhood with shops, housing, and a new street grid. It's one part of Montgomery County's plans to make the larger White Flint area into a new downtown.

But department store Lord & Taylor, which still has a store at the mall, says that violates a promise Lerner made in 1975 to keep the mall a mall, and filed a lawsuit against the developer last year. Last month, a Maryland judge ruled in favor of Lord & Taylor and said Lerner has to pay them $31 million in "lost profits," which the Lerners say could imperil their plans to redevelop the site.


A shot from the south. The golden, round shape is one of the mall's glass elevators.

These two photos are from near the old main entrance. The elevator tower in the front is the Borders Bookstore elevator.

Lord and Taylor is actually now separated from the mall structure: There's a vertical space just above the right side of the planter, and the department store is on the right while the mall is to the left.

I hope to talk to the management of North Bethesda Market and get a shot from on high once the last parts are down and carted away early next year.

If you've ever wondered how it feels to live in a desolate wasteland that may not recover because of your own lawsuits, just ask Lord and Taylor.

Development


Silver Spring's old police station could become new artist housing

Three years ago, Silver Spring neighbors proposed turning an old police station into artists studios. Now, it looks like they might get their wish, along with new housing for artists.


The police station today. Photo from Google Street View.

Minneapolis-based developer Artspace wants to turn the old 3rd District Police Station on Sligo Avenue in downtown Silver Spring into artist work space, in addition to adding 68 apartments in a new, four-story building and 11 townhomes. Artspace builds artist housing and studio space around the country, including developments in Brookland and Mount Rainier.

In the proposal, a new apartment building would wrap around the old police station, forming an "F" shape. The lawn in front of the police station on Sligo Avenue would become a public, partially paved plaza, while a rear courtyard would give the residents private open space. To the east, eleven townhouses would sit along Grove Street, with an alley and parking lot in back.


The proposed plan. Image from Artspace.

For artists to move in, they need a place to live

Montgomery County vacated the 1960's-era police station last year after a new one opened in White Oak last year. In 2012, a proposal to tear down the police station and build townhouses met opposition from neighbors in the adjacent East Silver Spring neighborhood, which with nearby Takoma Park has had a long history of attracting people in the arts.

Neighbors and architects Steve Knight and Karen Burditt wrote an op-ed in the Silver Spring Voice saying that the building should become an arts center modeled on the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, and that the green space around the building become a community garden.

At the time, I suggested that the arts center idea would only really work if there were also artist housing, since people who make art for a living often have a limited income and may not be able to afford close-in, urban neighborhoods like Silver Spring.

The county eventually did reach out to Artspace, and officials announced the projectearlier this year. While neighbors were initially skeptical of any housing on the site, the East Silver Spring Civic Association unanimously voted to support this project.


Artspace building in Mount Rainier. Photo from Google Street View.

It's great that neighbors are okay with building some townhouses here, considering how other Silver Spring neighborhoods fought building them. They're a great option for households who need more space than an apartment but less than a house—especially in Silver Spring, where most housing is either high-rise apartments or single-family homes.

We don't know what the units will look like on the outside, but hopefully they'll incorporate high-quality materials and be designed to look good on all four sides, since the backs of the townhouses will face the plaza.

Overall, the project looks like a great compromise. Neighbors get an arts center that allows them to showcase their work and some open space. Artists get studio space and housing they can actually afford. And the community as a whole gets a new gathering place in the form of a public plaza.

Artspace's plans will go to the Montgomery County Planning Board for review December 17.

Transit


Lots of Maryland residents from places other than Montgomery and Prince George's use Metro

Although WMATA's impact on Maryland is most significant in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, the system is important to the entire state. 5% of daily Metrorail total ridership comes from Maryland locations outside of those jurisdictions.


Photo by ehpien on Flickr.

Every Maryland Metro station is in Montgomery or Prince George's County, but we have long known that Maryland Metro riders come from all over the state. A typical morning at Union Station finds a flow of MARC train commuters going from the commuter rail line to the subway. Other residents from southern Maryland, for example, access the system by parking at Prince George's County stations.

While lawmakers in Annapolis often see WMATA as a Montgomery and Prince George's County issue, the system affects a much larger portion of Marylanders.

The study includes the origination and destination of Maryland riders, purpose of the trip, and how riders get to and from the system. You can read the full study here, and some major takeaways are below:

  • Only a small majority (52%) of Maryland Metrorail riders access the system by car, with the rest using other modes such as bus, bike, or foot.
  • While 34% of Montgomery County riders access Metro by foot in the morning, just 11% in Prince George's County riders do so. That suggests that investment in transit-oriented development in the two counties has not been equal.
  • 5% of rail and bus system riders commute from DC and Virginia into Maryland each weekday morning, representing a not insignificant reverse commute.
  • 3.3% of all rail and bus trips on a typical weekday are by Maryland residents besides those living in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.
  • 5% of daily Metrorail ridership on a typical weekday is by Maryland residents besides those in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.
  • There are thousands of Metrorail riders from jurisdictions in Maryland besides Montgomery and Prince George's Counties. The data should be more focused in future reports, as right now WMATA only studies five non-Montgomery and Prince George's categories of origins.
WMATA capital and operating subsidies represent a rising cost for the state of Maryland even though WMATA is not increasing the jurisdictional operating subsidy this year. For Maryland's investment to continue to grow—and if WMATA is going to be a world class system again, it's going to have to—it's important to have data such as this to support Maryland's role in the system.

The study, which a 2015 General Assembly bill called for, was part of a broader effort to increase attention to WMATA issues in the state house. It's now required every five years, and future versions should have even more specific data.

Support Us