Posts about Rockville Pike
Today, the Montgomery County Planning Board reviews plans for a second phase of Pike + Rose. Meanwhile, the first phase of the new urban neighborhood at Rockville Pike and Montrose Road inches closer to opening next year.
When finished, Pike + Rose will have housing, offices, shops and restaurants, a high-end movie theatre, and a hotel, along with several public open spaces. A redevelopment of a 1960's-era strip mall, it'll be multiple times the size of developer Federal Realty's other projects in the area, Bethesda Row and Rockville Town Square.
According to Evan Goldman, Federal Realty's vice president of development, the first phase will start opening next year. In the meantime, let's visit the construction site.
Back in July, the first of three buildings in the first phase, a 174-unit, five-story apartment building called PerSei, topped out. Units here will start renting late next spring, Goldman says. You can see cream-colored brick going in on one side.
Like many new apartment buildings, PerSei has been designed to look like a block of smaller buildings. The windows on Old Georgetown Road and Grand Park Avenue, one of several new streets, are more modern, with large panes and less ornamentation. But around the corner, the windows have smaller panes and more detail, almost like those on a warehouse.
Across the street, 11800 Grand Park Avenue, an office building, has topped out as well. It'll open in fall 2014, along with 150,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space in both buildings. 75% of the retail is already leased and will include a high-end iPic movie theatre, a music venue operated by Strathmore, several restaurants, and a Sport & Health Club.
Read on and see additional photos at the Friends of White Flint.
The federal government may be closed, but this week you can still
talk about the future of Franklin Park, celebrate walkable urbanism with the Coalition for Smarter Growth and author Jeff Speck, and explore Bus Rapid Transit on Rockville Pike at events across the region.
Join us for happy hour: Tonight, join GGW contributors and readers for the latest installment of our regular happy hour series in Arlington. From 6 to 9pm, we'll be at Fire Works Pizza at 2350 Clarendon Boulevard, just two blocks from the Court House Metro station. As our commenters duly noted, they're running happy hour specials until 6:30pm.
Party with CSG: Tomorrow night, the Coalition for Smarter Growth hosts Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City, at its annual social and fundraiser. The event will feature refreshments and runs from 6:30 to 8:30pm at Eastern Market. Tickets are only $25 and proceeds will help CSG continue their work to strengthen walkable and inclusive communities in our region. To learn more or RSVP, visit their website.
Franklin Park's new future: [Note: Due to the shutdown, this event has been postponed until further notice.] Also tomorrow, the DC Office of Planning and its Franklin Park partners will hold a kick-off public presentation and open house about how to turn Franklin Park into one of the country's premier urban parks. Come share your ideas for how to improve and enhance the visitor experience of the park. Attendees will hear a project overview and an initial site analysis and conditions report. The project team also will hold a visioning and programming workshop to gain a deeper understanding of desired park uses and current issues.
The meeting will be from 6 to 8pm at the Four Points by Sheraton at 1201 K Street NW. You can RSVP at the project's website.
Talk about BRT on 355: Do you live, work, or travel along Route 355, also known as Wisconsin Avenue and Rockville Pike? Join CSG, Communities for Transit, and other local organizations hosting an educational event for residents and business owners along 355 between Friendship Heights and Clarksburg. Speakers will include Montgomery County Planning Board member Casey Anderson, county planner Larry Cole, and Chuck Lattuca, BRT system manager at the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.
With 44,000 projected riders by 2040, a BRT line along 355 is likely to move forward early on in the development of Montgomery's rapid transit network. The event will take place on Thursday, October 3 from 6 to 9pm in the cafeteria of the Executive Office Building at 101 Monroe Street in Rockville. Click here to RSVP or for more information.
Update on the Purple Line: Next week, the Action Committee for Transit hosts Mike Madden of the Maryland Transit Administration for the latest news on the Purple Line at its monthly meeting. Governor Martin O'Malley recently announced that the state will seek a public-private partnership to build and operate the line, which could start construction as early as 2015 if it gets federal approval this fall.
The meeting will be at 7:30pm on Tuesday, October 8 at the Silver Spring Civic Building, located at the corner of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street, just a few blocks from the Silver Spring Metro. For more info, visit ACT's website.
New developments in urban areas often have a lot of chains. At Pike + Rose, the large mixed-use development on Rockville Pike, all of the first six restaurants to open will be chains as well. Will there be room for local businesses in the future White Flint?
Representatives from Federal Realty say their goal is to create an interesting array of shops and restaurants, no matter what they are. "It's less important to us whether something is a chain than [having] a mix of retail types, a mix of expense points, and a mix of dining types," says Evan Goldman, vice president of development. "We want...a diverse mix of options to get a diverse mix of people there."
Projects like Pike + Rose can be risky. Successful retail isn't a given even on a busy corridor like Rockville Pike, and both developers and business owners want to minimize risk. Unlike chains, which have a standard store format that's easy to recreate, small businesses also have to design and build a space from scratch, costing money and time.
And if an entrepreneur opens a second location that fails, their business may be sunk. If a chain's 20th store isn't successful, existing branches can help subsidize it. That's why developers often find it easier to work with chains in new projects.
"We know they can perform, they know they can perform," Goldman says. "And God forbid it doesn't perform, it's not going to take down their company or ours."
Where do chains go today?
When Pike + Rose is finished several years from now, it may look like other town center developments in the region, with a mix of stand-alone stores, national chains, and local chains, which I define as locally-owned businesses whose locations are primarily in the DC area. So Georgetown-based Sweetgreen counts, because all but 4 of its 20 locations are here, but Virginia-based Five Guys, which has over 1,000 locations across North America, doesn't.
Some projects have more locals than others. They're 22% of the businesses at the Market Common at Clarendon to 65% at the Mosaic District in Fairfax. At Bethesda Row and Rockville Town Square, both owned by Federal Realty, locals make up between 50 and 60% of all businesses.
The distribution of chains vs. local businesses at 7 DC-area town center projects. Image by the author.
Locally-owned restaurants and shops, whether one-offs or small chains, can be an asset for communities, supporting the local economy and providing unique attraction for customers. To make it easier for them to open, they need to have lower risks. There are two ways to do that: reduce the cost of doing business, or increase the potential number of customers.
How can we do that? Read the rest of my post on the Friends of White Flint..
White Flint's future as an urban place depends on a street network that welcomes people on foot and bike, not just in cars, and roads that are pleasant to spend time in, not just move through. But county transportation officials may not make getting there easy.
On Monday, representatives of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) gave a presentation to the White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee about the Western Workaround, a planned network of new streets on the west side of Rockville Pike.
"We want to provide an environment that's pedestrian and bicyclist friendly and will encourage people to get out of their vehicles," said Bruce Johnston, MCDOT transportation engineering chief, citing the county's Road Code, which describes how to make streets in urban areas. But the streets he presented continue to prioritize moving cars over pedestrians and bicyclists or creating enjoyable urban spaces.
Old Georgetown Road will get wider, not more pleasant for people
The White Flint Sector Plan calls for Old Georgetown Road to have 4 car lanes, a median where pedestrians can wait while crossing the street, a "shared use path" for bikes and pedestrians, and one of the few actual bike lanes proposed for the area.
Instead, MCDOT proposes keeping the 6 existing lanes and adding 2 more at intersections for right and left turns. The bike lanes are gone, and the wide sidewalks have been reduced. The speed limit would remain at 40 miles an hour, which is totally inappropriate in an urban environment. Ken Hartman, director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, pointed out that the speed limit on Old Georgetown in downtown Bethesda, which has 4 lanes and a turn lane, is just 30 miles per hour.
Johnston blamed the Maryland State Highway Administration, which controls state roads like Old Georgetown and has resisted attempts by MCDOT to lower speed limits or reduce the number of lanes.
"The state has the authority to say 'I know that's in the sector plan, but traffic volumes are what they are,'" he said, adding that if White Flint residents and landowners want bike lanes and safer, pedestrian-friendly streets, they can "go over their heads" and speak with Governor O'Malley.
Cars, not people drive design choices
But even streets that are entirely under MCDOT's jurisdiction, like an extension of Executive Boulevard, have been designed for cars first. Johnston described it as a business street with tall buildings up against the sidewalk, which might make you think of Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda, one of the best urban streets not just in the county, but in the region.
Instead, Executive Extended will be 5 lanes wide, including a turn lane. Landowners who have willingly agreed to give up land for the new street have asked MCDOT for on-street parking, which would not only serve future businesses but give pedestrians a nice buffer from traffic. Instead, on-street parking will only be available during rush hour.
Meanwhile, pedestrians and bicyclists would get a 10-foot "shared use path" on either side of the street and a 6-foot buffer. To compare, the sidewalks on Woodmont Avenue are about 20 feet wide, and there's also a separate, 6-foot wide bike lane.
When asked why there's so little room for pedestrians and cyclists, Johnston said they need all 5 lanes "because of the anticipated traffic volume of the road."
But as Fred Kent from the Project for Public Spaces likes to say, "If you design for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you design for people and places, you get people and places." It's not a given that Executive Boulevard needs 5 lanes, especially if there are legitimate alternatives to driving. But MCDOT officials seem unwilling to entertain that possibility.
Mary Ward, a White Flint resident and regular cyclist, was disappointed by the new street designs. "This kind of needs to be rethought," she said. "The Complete Streets vision is that it's all levels of cycling, not just experienced cyclists."
Better street network means baby steps
Thankfully, MCDOT's street designs are only 35% complete, meaning there's still room for improvement. Evan Goldman, vice president of development at Federal Realty, which is building Pike + Rose, says the plans are flawed, but are better than what MCDOT has presented before. For instance, lanes on many streets including Old Georgetown would be 10 or 11 feet wide, compared to 11 or 12 feet today. That means slower traffic speeds and extra space for sidewalks.
"There are a lot of good things happening here," Goldman said, though he admitted that he will go to the governor to ask for "appropriate" street designs on Old Georgetown Road.
Until then, the only bike lane White Flint's getting anytime soon will be on Woodglen Drive between Executive Boulevard and the Bethesda Trolley Trail, a distance of less than 1/3 mile. MCDOT will remove 6 parking spaces in front of Whole Foods to make room for a northbound bike lane. They'll also paint sharrows, or lane markings that tell drivers to watch out for bikes, in the southbound traffic lane, which will become 5 feet wider.
"There's a lot of competing uses among our roadways," said Pat Shepherd, MCDOT bikeways coordinator. "We need to reallocate this space."
Shepherd has it exactly right. The White Flint Sector Plan calls for the creation of a new downtown where people have real alternatives to driving. To make that happen, we need streets that prioritize and celebrate pedestrians and bicyclists, rather than treating them as an afterthought. And we need transportation planners, both at the state and county level, who are willing to fight for them. We shouldn't have to go to the governor to ask for bike lanes because MCDOT won't stand up for us.
Crossposted on the Friends of White Flint.
Over 50 speakers packed the Planning Board auditorium in Silver Spring Thursday night to offer comments on Montgomery County's proposed Bus Rapid Transit network. Over more than 3 hours, residents debated the merits of the 10-route, 79-mile system county planners envision.
A slight majority of speakers spoke in favor of the plan, saying BRT could give people a real alternative to driving and support projected population and employment growth. Many speakers highlighted the importance of transit in attracting new residents, particularly young adults who already flock to the county's walkable, transit-accessible neighborhoods.
Skeptics of the plan had concerns about taking away space from cars on Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase and Route 29 in Four Corners to give buses dedicated lanes, arguably BRT's most important feature. These corridors already have the county's highest transit ridership and are projected to carry the BRT network's most-used routes.
The Planning Board will discuss the plan and potentially make changes to it during a series of worksessions over the next several weeks. After that, they'll vote on whether to approve it. If it passes, the plan will then go to the County Council later this year for additional public hearings and worksessions and a final vote.
Kelly Blynn of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, who live-tweeted the event with myself and Ted Van Houten from the Action Committee for Transit, compiled this summary of the hearing on Storify:
Federal Realty's mixed-use developments have transformed suburbs from Bethesda to San Jose. But the size and ambition of their newest project, Pike + Rose in White Flint, is their most ambitious attempt yet to create an urban place from scratch in what's now a very suburban space.
Last week, the Rockville-based developer unveiled their plans for Pike + Rose, a new neighborhood that will be built over the next several years at the former Mid-Pike Plaza shopping center at Rockville Pike and Montrose Parkway.
As the Friends of White Flint blog wrote last week, it will be huge, with 3.5 million square feet of apartments, offices, shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and a hotel on 24 acres. The first of four phases at Pike + Rose broke ground this summer and will open in 2014; when finished, it'll be 5 times the size of Bethesda Row, which took Federal Realty over a decade to build.
But unlike Bethesda Row, which was built in an established community with some urban features, Pike + Rose will attempt to create an urban environment from scratch. The challenge is to create a place that feels "authentic" without the benefit of time and to encourage tenants and visitors to get out of their cars in an area where driving is often the only way to get around.
As the first big project to be built under the White Flint Sector Plan approved in 2010, county planners, elected officials, other developers and residents will be watching to see how successful it is. If done well, Pike + Rose could become a standard-bearer for White Flint, a glimpse of the community's future and a signal to other property owners to step up their game.
Will it be "authentic"?
New suburban town centers are often derided as fake and contrived, though they have the ability to create meaningful urban places. Like other Federal Realty projects, Pike + Rose tries to avoid this by looking like it's been built over time.
One way is through having a variety of building forms. Along Rockville Pike are tall office towers with large retail spaces, which will give big companies and big-box stores alike the visibility and prominence they want. In the center of the site is Grand Park Avenue, a street with smaller shops, restaurants and a plaza that could become Pike + Rose's social heart.
And along Hoya Street are a line of "point towers," apartment buildings whose ground-floor units have private entrances and yards, providing a transition to the residential neighborhoods to the west.
Another is by having different architects design each building. Three firms worked on Pike + Rose, including WDG Architecture of the District and Street-Works of New York, which also worked on Bethesda Row and Rockville Town Square, and Baltimore-based Design Collective.
As a result, the architecture varies widely from building to building. In the first phase is 11800 Grand Park Avenue, a modernist office building with huge panels of glass and metal accents, and PerSei, an apartment building made to resemble a brick warehouse. In the second phase is a building with terra cotta panels and a heavy cornice that mimics architect Louis Sullivan's Wainwright Building in St. Louis.
Some of these buildings are more successful than others. This approach is hard to do, and when executed poorly, it really can feel artificial. But it can be avoided if each building, regardless of architectural style, is done to a high standard.
A building with poor details or cheap materials in any style will look bad, but if those things are done well, the building should mature with time. Federal Realty did a good job with this in Bethesda Row and Rockville Town Square, though it may be too early to tell how they'll look in the future.
Will it be "connected"?
To its potential tenants and visitors, Pike + Rose claims to offer a complete live-work-play environment. But Ben Harris, who writes a local blog called North FlintVille, notes that a truly "organic" development is one that "is itself a small part of a greater whole."
The White Flint Sector Plan calls for a grid of new streets, which will divert traffic from Rockville Pike, provide multiple connections between each development, and make it easier to get around by foot or bike. Pike + Rose does their part with their network of streets and pedestrian passages, which divide the site into 9 city blocks. Those streets will eventually link up with new streets built by Montgomery County and the state of Maryland, such as an extension of Hoya Street to Old Georgetown Road.
Though the streets are pretty narrow compared to the arterial roads surrounding the development, they appear to have generous sidewalks with lots of landscaping and street trees. The blocks themselves are fairly small; most average about 300 feet long, comparable to blocks in older, inner-city neighborhoods.
Federal Realty's renderings show lively streets lined with restaurants and shops, but it's important that they don't simply stop at the edge of the development. That's what happened at Rockville Town Square, which has two great internal streets but presents blank walls, loading docks and parking garages to the rest of the world.
If Rockville Pike is going to become an urban boulevard, it needs to have buildings open onto it, whether with shops, restaurants, or even large windows that people can see into. The same goes for Old Georgetown Road, where the Sector Plan calls for a two-acre Civic Green across from Pike + Rose that could become White Flint's answer to Dupont Circle.
The stakes are high
Ten years ago, Federal Realty decided to stick with building and running strip malls. They'd literally been burned by Santana Row, an ambitious town center in San Jose that suffered a catastrophic fire and opened half-empty in a recession, and decided that the risk and complexity of urban redevelopment wasn't worth it.
Like Santana Row, the stakes at Pike + Rose are high. Judging from the details we have so far, it could not only transform White Flint, but light the way for suburban redevelopments across the country.
Crossposted on the Friends of White Flint.
For years, Montgomery County officials have been trying to remake Rockville Pike's retail strip into an urban boulevard. Yet thanks to a fluke in zoning, Walmart could drop a standard suburban big box in the middle of an urban neighborhood trying to become more walkable.
The new Walmart would be located at Rockville Pike and Bou Avenue, just north of Montrose Road in the Pike Center shopping center.
According to the Washington Post, the store would be considerably smaller than traditional Walmarts, with about 80,000 square feet of floor space. By comparison, a typical modern supermarket is about 60,000 square feet, while larger Walmart Supercenters can reach 185,000 square feet.
Renderings from the Post show the Walmart displacing an existing row of shops in the strip mall, which include national chains like Office Depot and CiCi's Pizza in addition to local businesses like Bagel City.
This would be the third Walmart in Montgomery County, after an existing store in Germantown and another proposed store on Connecticut Avenue in Aspen Hill. But unlike those stores, which are far from Metro, the proposed Rockville Walmart is a half-mile from the Twinbrook station. Despite County Executive Ike Leggett's assertion that the store is "consistent" with the county's goal of building around public transit, this proposal completely undermines those intentions.
Plans by the City of Rockville and Montgomery County envision Rockville Pike as an urban boulevard with tall buildings against the street, not behind big parking lots. By bringing shops, housing and offices together near Metro stations along the Pike, planners hope to make it easier for people to walk, bike or take transit to their destination, providing alternatives to driving and reducing congestion.
In order to do so, higher-density development has been approved around the Twinbrook and White Flint Metro stations, the latter of which was written up in the New York Times as a model for suburban redevelopment. Residential and office towers have already begun sprouting up along Rockville Pike.
The proposed Walmart, however, sits along a short stretch of the Pike that falls under a completely different plan that was drafted in 1992 and still allows strip shopping centers. This kind of development is exactly what the community is trying to prevent from being built along Rockville Pike in the future.
It'll only encourage more people to drive to Rockville Pike rather than taking advantage of other modes of transportation, creating more traffic. But it's likely that Walmart chose to locate in Pike Center because it was easy to build a conventional store there, without going for a time-consuming zoning change or building in a more expensive, urban format that doesn't just cater to drivers.
Two of the eight stores Walmart plans to build in Greater Washington will take an urban form. Their proposed store on New Jersey Avenue in the District will sit at the base of an apartment building, while a new store in Tysons Corner, which is undergoing a transformation similar to Rockville Pike, will be part of a larger complex with a gym and offices. Ironically, those two branches and the one on Rockville Pike are all being developed by JBG Rosenfeld, whose vice president Jay Klug called Walmart "pretty enlightened" about building stores to fit an urban context.
Walmart has the right to build as they see fit so long as the zoning allows them to do it. Yet their store as proposed is completely inappropriate for Rockville Pike as it tries to become a denser, more urban corridor. Last week, the Montgomery County Council introduced a bill requiring big-box stores to craft community benefits agreements to reduce any negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhood. They might also want to figure out how to make this big-box store fit into the new Rockville Pike before it brings down one of the most ambitious suburban redevelopment projects in the country.
- Metro maps out loop line between DC and Arlington
- The reason cyclists love green bike lanes
- More roads won't solve traffic on I-95 in Northern Virginia
- Ask Congress to give DC self-rule on building heights
- Alexandria board rejects King Street bike lanes
- It's fine to not build parking at Tysons Metro stations
- DC sports spaces give short shrift to girls