The Friends of White Flint displayed the designs next to what the Sector Plan recommended. Together with the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Friends group encouraged supporters of a more pedestrian-friendly road design to write to county officials. So far, more than 350 people have written emails calling for an Old Georgetown Road design that matches the Sector Plan, according to the group.
Stewart Schwartz of the DC-area’s Coalition for Smarter Growth contested the idea that street redesigns have to be put on hold. ”The traffic engineers are nervous about the interim period,” he said. “They don’t recognize that congestion always provides a feedback signal. If there’s congestion, people change the time of day of their commute; they change the mode of their commute; and you’re likely to see more transit riders. What this points to is the need to move faster in redesigning these places and incentivizing redevelopment.”
We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the Rapid Transit system coming to Montgomery County. A recent development in the planning of the Georgia Avenue route highlights why community involvement, attention and advocacy is crucial in plans like these.
Your Friends have been out in the community over the last month and we’re grateful to our partners for engaging us in these fascinating opportunities. Dan Reed and I were both panelists during a Montgomery Housing Partnership breakfast focused on social media in community engagement.
Montgomery Housing Partnership’s mission is to expand and preserve affordable housing in Montgomery County – something that will become an issue in White Flint if the county truly wants to draw a younger demographic. MHP doesn’t just advocate, they also walk the talk by “acquiring, rehabilitating, building and managing quality affordable housing.”
Friends of White Flint was very proud to be part of Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Walking Tours and Forum Series. ”White Flint: From Drag to Desirable” was the topic that kicked off this season of walking tours – and to a sold out crowd! Nearly sixty people joined Stewart Schwartz of CSG, Nkosi Yearwood of the Planning Department, Tommy Mann from Federal Realty and me on a beautiful morning’s trek through the past, present and future of White Flint.
The tour was a great way to feel and see the differences between streets that solely car-focused, as opposed to those that consider all travelers. Features like tree buffers, bike lanes, benches and trash cans equalize priorities among pedestrians, bikers and drivers. Many of our main White Flint streets still have a long way to go in becoming truly walkable.
Friends of White Flint also hosted a Developer Showcase on April 30th in the Whole Foods Rockville café. It was an opportunity for the community to browse new projects in White Flint’s future, and meet the people behind the ideas. Paladar Latin Kitchen, Montgomery County Parks Department (Wall Park), LCOR (North Bethesda Center), Lerner Enterprises (White Flint Mall), and Federal Realty Investment Corp (Pike & Rose) were all available to chat, show their plans and share guacamole. Friends of White Flint member Chevy Chase Land Company was also present with information about their plans for Chevy Chase Lake.
Over 100 visitors checked out the exciting plans for White Flint and appreciated seeing the images up close. If you weren’t able to join us that rainy morning, let us know if you’d like us to host a similar event on an upcoming evening!
Finally, Friends of White Flint has begun a monthly presence at the Pike Central Farmers Market! Find us among the food trucks and produce and learn more about your community while you browse!
And, wherever you see us – don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on the plans for White Flint. We’re here to have a positive and consensus-building conversation. Join in!
The Coalition for Smarter Growth has released the following regarding Rapid Transit in Montgomery County:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21st, 2013
Contacts: Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth, (703) 599-6437
Montgomery Planners Propose 78-Mile Rapid Transit system
Today, Montgomery County planning staff present to the Planning Board a 78-mile version of the proposed Rapid Transit System, based on several months of data-driven modeling and analysis. The Rapid Transit System would be a premium, reliable transit service using dedicated lanes as much as possible to bypass traffic, running frequently throughout the day, and stopping at enhanced stations featuring real time arrival information and efficient boarding like that found on Metro.
“The Rapid Transit System will complement the Purple Line and our Metro system, offering high quality transit to more of Montgomery County and helping to address traffic and future economic development. It is an essential investment, providing residents more affordable transportation and a better option than sitting in traffic,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
Facing an additional 200,000 residents, 200,000 new jobs, and a 22% increase in the amount of time residents will spend on roadways by 2040, planners know that the county’s roadways, already overburdened with traffic, will be unable to handle additional vehicles. Their analysis, forecasting ridership to 2040, demonstrated that dedicating lanes to transit on several corridors could move more people per lane than individual vehicles, while improving traffic countywide. They are recommending a phased approach based on that data, with a first phase that would include two lanes dedicated to the Rapid Transit System in the center of Rockville Pike and northern US29, and one reversible lane in the direction of rush hour traffic on parts of Georgia Ave, Viers Mill/University Blvd, and New Hampshire Avenue. Their models show that their recommended network would attract a ridership of approximately 184,000 daily riders by 2040.
Said Lindsay Hoffman of Friends of White Flint, “We’ve come together in our neighborhoods and supported a vision for a walkable community in White Flint where it will be possible to leave the car at home and live a healthier, more affordable lifestyle. Improved and expanded transit service on Rockville Pike is critical to making that vision possible, and we as residents will need to work together to ensure this proposal meets our communities’ needs and becomes a reality.”
“The planning staff’s network is smaller than the full Transit Task Force proposal but also much larger than the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) proposal. The staff’s analysis is both rigorous and practical, and results in a network that can be effectively implemented,” concluded Schwartz.
In the planning staff’s brief, they reported, “ITDP did not do any ridership forecasting, whereas our transportation modeling work has shown that the forecast 2040 ridership on MD355 is far higher and we are confident that we should begin planning for a two-lane median busway for most of this corridor.”
The Montgomery County Planning Board will now have a month to review the staff’s recommendations before they release a draft for public hearings to be held in the beginning of May. After public hearings, the Planning Board will submit their draft proposal to the County Council.
About 100 advocates of turning White Flint into a transit-oriented urban area crowded into a back room at Seasons 52 restaurant one evening last week to talk about making Rockville Pike more hip.
The location was appropriate. The restaurant is in a block of newer buildings, near the White Flint Metro stop, that includes an Arhaus Furniture store and a Whole Foods Market. The stretch is linked together by landscaped streets and sidewalks.
Across Rockville Pike is White Flint Mall. Built in the 1970s, the mall’s empty stores and surface parking lots are exactly what many people at the Jan. 29 networking event wanted to replace.
Advocates for urban development built around public transportation say White Flint can be a model for similar growth elsewhere in Montgomery County and in the nation as a whole. To accomplish that, groups that sprang up around a sector plan a few years ago are redoubling their efforts and drumming up support for their vision.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth, founded in 1991, pushes for walkable communities around the District, connected by high-quality transit, said Kelly Blynn, manager of the coalition’s Next Generation of Transit campaign.
“We are focusing a fair amount on White Flint, which we see as an important model for how you need to plan land-use planning with transit planning,” she said.
The White Flint Sector Plan, which set guidelines for development and land use in the area, was adopted in 2010. Now, Blynn said, the area is entering another critical phase as individual developers submit building plans and government officials consider creating new transit options.
Officials are considering putting a rapid bus transit system in the area, which Blynn said would tie the communities on Rockville Pike together.
“We think it’s a complementary system for other programs that are underway,” such as upgrades to the Metrorail system and the Purple Line, she said.
Lindsay Hoffman, executive director of the organization Friends of White Flint, said the sector plan was the big picture and the vision for White Flint, but advocacy groups still play a role in making sure that individual development projects fit into the plan.
“Every little site and development and piece of land has to go through [its] own process very similar to the sector plan process,” she said. “We still want to generate energy, generate positivity and generate a collaborative framework.”
Hoffman said Friends of White Flint helped get community groups, residents and developers together relatively early in the sector-plan process, which offered a venue for people to give feedback on ideas for the area rather than waiting until developers submitted plans to the planning board further down the line.
“By having that collaboration early on, we were able to overcome [many] people’s concerns,” she said.
Now, Hoffman wants to get people involved in the early stages of discussions about plans for transit projects and funding transportation improvements.
“We’re going to work on stimulating some energy among community residents who are interested in it to speak out,” she said.
The White Flint Partnership, a group of major property owners, also formed around the sector plan development process, but is planning to stay active.
Francine Waters is the senior managing director of transportation and smart growth for Lerner Enterprises, one of the developers working on plans to demolish most of White Flint Mall and replace it with a mixed-use town center. She also serves as executive director of the White Flint Partnership.
Waters said the partnership plans to work with groups such as Friends of White Flint to keep people up-to-date on the status of development projects and infrastructure improvements. She also hopes to bring in urban planning experts for a speaker series.
Rod Lawrence, a partner at JBG Companies who helped found the White Flint Partnership, said the group stayed together to make sure the plan doesn’t stray from its original intent. It also helps bring attention and resources to the area, he said.
“We’re trying accelerate the infrastructure development [and] encourage the right type of redevelopment,” Lawrence said.
JBG developed North Bethesda Market, which houses Seasons 52, and is planning a second phase of the mixed-use development project, dubbed North Bethesda Market II.
Lawrence sees the White Flint Partnership as a precursor to some kind of business improvement district or place-management group to bring attention to the area and encourage public-private cooperation.
The group needs “people — citizens, businesses, public officials, everybody — coming together to make sure that you build momentum and keep momentum for the plan,” he said.
Nearly one-hundred people came out to talk about the future of White Flint at a happy hour Tuesday evening co-hosted by the Friends of White Flint and the Coalition for Smarter Growth at Seasons 52 on Rockville Pike.
Lindsay Hoffman, from Friends of White Flint, and Kelly Blynn, from Coalition for Smarter Growth, greet the crowd.
County Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Roger Berliner offered a few words about the potential of White Flint as envisioned in the White Flint Sector Plan, which the council passed in 2010. “We are on the verge of a golden age in Montgomery County and it’s projects like this that are bringing that life,” Riemer was quoted as saying by Bethesda Now.
Studies show that changing demographics combined with a renewed interest in urban living have resulted in a greater demand for compact, walkable neighborhoods like what’s envisioned in the sector plan. North Bethesda Market, where Seasons 52 is located, shows where White Flint will go in the future, with high-rise apartments set over shops and restaurants around a central plaza.
Councilmember Berliner said that projects like it are integral to attracting young, educated residents to the county. “Montgomery County’s future in my judgement does in large part depend on being able to attract this kind of crowd, a young, energetic crowd,” he said.
The Friends of White Flint and the Coalition for Smarter Growth both plan to hold more happy hours and other events in the area. Stay tuned for announcements of future events!
Photos courtesy of Dan Reed.
Smart Growth advocates and supporters of dense, transit-based redevelopment of White Flint gathered in North Bethesda yesterday to mingle and discuss the large-scale changes coming to Rockville Pike in the next few decades. The nonprofit Friends of White Flint, which describes its mission as implementing the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, co-hosted a happy hour at Seasons 52 in North Bethesda Market with the Coalition for Smarter Growth. In the crowd were neighbors, transit activists, developers, County Council members Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) and Hans Riemer (D-At large) and others from outside the White Flint area interested in the various projects that are estimated to bring 14,000 housing units and 13 million square feet of redevelopment around the White Flint Metro station.