Category Archives: Traffic

The Rockville Pike Plan Is Out of Control

Car tracks on road out of control.When the Rockville Mayor and Council set out to update the 1989 Rockville Pike Plan in 2007, Apple released the first iPhone and the New Horizons space probe was passing Saturn.  In 2015, Apple is working on the iPhone 6s and New Horizons just passed Pluto–but the Rockville Pike Plan is still incomplete. It’s a complex area but something is definitely wrong with the planning process in the City of Rockville if it takes eight years to revise a plan for an area of 410 acres.  What happens when Rockville tackles the Comprehensive Plan for the 14 square miles of the City of Rockville?  Will it meet the state deadline to update that plan every ten years?

Rockville-Pike-Planning-Process

When you look at the timeline for the project, it’s pretty clear that the Pike Plan is languishing with the Planning Commission.   A closer looks shows they’ve held six public hearings, 32 work sessions, and formed two sub-committees and they’re still not done.  In contrast, the Mayor and Council have held five public hearings and one work session.  Looks like the Planning Commission is suffering from “paralysis by analysis.”

What is extremely puzzling is that the Planning Commission is taking as much time or more than Continue reading →

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Asian Retail Expands in Downtown Rockville

This just in from the JBG Companies:  they’ve fully leased their retail space at 275 North Washington Street, a new mixed-use building in downtown Rockville anchored by Bank of America (where the Giant Grocery store once stood).

Reflecting the growing international flavor of the surrounding area, four Asian-owned businesses have signed for the remaining retail spaces adjacent to Rockville Town Square. They are French-Asian cafe Lavande Patisserie, Kung Fu Tea, Quickway Hibachi Grill and Amber Door Day Spa. In addition to 12,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, JBG’s 275 North Washington Street includes 12,000 square feet of available Class A office space on a second level.

“This area offers a unique multi-ethnic dining and shopping experience that adds flavor and choices. It’s a draw for Rockville residents and for those living outside the city,” said Anthony Greenberg, a JBG principal. “There are several Asian markets and authentic Chinese restaurants near 275 North Washington Street, and we are pleased to be a part of an organically emerging district.”

Lily Qi, director of special projects for the Montgomery County executive, said Rockville is known as the Chinatown of Montgomery County because of its high concentration of ethnic Chinese residents and Asian businesses. Rockville’s central location and accessibility makes it a magnet for amenities that cater to the everyday living needs of this population, as well as to the tastes of the broader community who enjoy a diversity of cuisines and retail choices.

Retailers are moving into their spaces this month and expect to open this spring. Bob Liang, founder of regional Quickway Japanese Hibachi, said he chose the location because of the area’s diverse demographics and proximity to Rockville Town Center. The restaurant, which features fast casual Japanese, will be the 10th to open in the D.C. region.

Lavande Patisserie, owned by mother and son Julie Yi and Andrew Liang of Gaithersburg, is a farm-to-table café and will serve breakfast, lunch and French pastries with an Asian twist, such as kumquat fruit tarts. Lavande will butcher its meat in-house, mill its own flour, make its own creams. “Everything is fresh and purchased within 50 miles, nothing is store bought or pre-processed,” said Liang. Kung Fu Tea is a national franchise from New York that serves specialty tea drinks. The Rockville location will be the first in the Maryland, D.C., and Virginia area. Amber Door Day Spa is locally owned and will offer spa packages that include massages, facials, body treatments, makeup and more.

Continue reading →

Rockville City Council Lowered Building Size on Pike in 1988

As we’re contemplating a new Rockville Pike Plan, it’s always useful to step back in time to see how decisions were made in the past and created the community we live in today.

In 1988, the Rockville Mayor and Council dramatically lowered the height of buildings along the Rockville Pike, rejecting the advice of the planning commission for improving the “traffic-choked corridor.”  After six years of study (sound familiar?), the Planning Commission recommended reducing the maximum building size from 200,000 square feet (sf) to 35,000 sf for a 100,000 sf parcel but would allow up to 300,000 sf (a bonus) if developers provided certain community amenities, such as pedestrian bridges, plaza areas, and day care centers.  The City Council accepted the lower size but rejected the bonus, effectively decreasing the size to one-sixth of what was currently allowed.  Mayor Doug Duncan believed it would, “keep the retail strength of the plan. . .large office buildings [are] not in the interest of the community.” Planning Commission Chair Richard Arkin countered that “without the bonus system, the plan would lead to more small, unattractive shopping strips and few of the kinds of amenities that could transform the pike into an attractive road that is accessible to pedestrians.”  Now that 25 years have passed, what was the result of their decisions?  Who was more prescient?

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, read the entire story, “Building Curbs Supported for Rockville Pike” from the April 28, 1998 issue of the Washington Post.

Twinbrook Coming Out of Snowstorm

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Although schools, government, and most businesses are closed today due to last night’s snowstorm, it looks like the residents of Twinbrook (and I assume the rest of Rockville as well) are coming out with shovels and plows to get back to work.  I took a walk around a small section of Twinbrook Forest (along Twinbrook Parkway, north of Viers Mill Road) and here’s what I discovered at 10 am:

  • The main roads (Viers Mill, Twinbrook Parkway) have been plowed and can be driven, but the lanes are narrow and I wouldn’t recommend it unless it’s urgent.
  • Some side streets have been plowed, some not.  For example Pinneberg Avenue has been plowed to a one-lane width but Dorothy Lane has not plowed.  Meadow Hall Road is a mixed bag.  The section connecting Viers Mill and Twinbrook has been plowed but not the section leading to Carl Sandburg School and the Twinbrook Forest Condos.  On unplowed side streets, snow can range from 6″-12″ deep, so I wouldn’t attempt it in a car unless it’s prepared for these conditions.
  • Most sidewalks haven’t been cleared, so you’ll be forced to walk in the street.  Wear boots.  As you may know, it’s particularly difficult at intersections because the snow is piled high by the plows, you can trip on the hidden curb, and melted snow can be 6″ deep.  If you’re driving, please be courteous to pedestrians in the street and slow down–your tires throw up snow and water even at low speeds, especially if you’re in a truck.
  • Most stores are closed and the parking lots are in the midst of getting cleared of snow.  In Twinbrook, open are Dunkin’ Donuts, Safeway, and the Sunoco gas station.  The Asian Market and Bamboo Buffet have lighted signs saying they’re open, but the front doors are locked.  More stores may open later, so you should call ahead to be sure.

For more information about conditions in Rockville, check the City website.

Is the new Children’s Resource Center right for Twinbrook?

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Montgomery County is proposing to add a new Children’s Resource Center (CRC) for the school district on the former Broome Middle School campus on Twinbrook Parkway in Rockville.  There have been a series of public meetings about the project and the County held its fourth and last meeting on January 25, 2014.  They presented four conceptual designs for the front elevations for review and comment.  About a dozen residents attended along with City Councilmember Beryl Feinberg and the chief of staff of County Councilmember Andrews.

Basically, the building consists of two blocks of different sizes joined by a tower.  The designs show different “skins” of a varying mix of materials and colors.  It’s not supposed to complement the existing Broome School because that’s slated for demolition and the replacement school hasn’t been designed, so I’m assuming the design of the CRC will set the pace for the new middle school.  The Gazette reported that the county believed that, “the people at the meeting seemed to prefer Scheme 2” but having attended the meeting, that’s a gross overstatement.  My sense is that we were still gathering information and had lots of questions.  There didn’t seem to be a preference for what we liked but rather what we didn’t like.  No one was enthusiastic about Continue reading →

Community Meeting on New Development Downtown

Suburban Trust Co. bank building, 255 North Washington Street, Rockville.

Suburban Trust Co. bank building, 255 North Washington Street, Rockville.

Rockville Town Center, LLC, the owner of the property at 255 North Washington Street (at Beall Avenue) is holding a community Area Meeting at 6:30 pm on Thursday, December 5, 2013 in the Black-eyed Susan Room in City Hall to discuss their development plans and allow the community to ask questions and provide suggestions.  They propose to demolish the existing five-story bank/office building and replace it with a six-story residential/retail building that includes 280 multi-family dwelling units, 6200 square feet of ground floor commercial space, and a parking garage, as follows: Continue reading →

Capital Bikeshare Launched in downtown Rockville

A crowd gathers in downtown Rockville for the launch of Capitol Bikeshare.

A crowd gathers in downtown Rockville for the launch of Capital Bikeshare.

Capital Bikeshare, the popular bike rental program in DC, has jumped the Beltway and into downtown Rockville. This morning a crowd gathered near the Red Brick Courthouse to witness the launch of this fun and healthy program in our hometown.  Although the program doesn’t provide the transportation connections I had hoped for (there’s nothing in the south end of Rockville for the Twinbrook Metro station), I’m still delighted that it’s here and we’re part of a larger regional network.

Capital Bikeshare puts over 1800+ bicycles at 200+ stations across Washington, D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, VA and Montgomery County, MD.   Check out a bike for your trip to work, Metro, run errands, go shopping, or visit friends and family and return it to any station near your destination.  Join Capital Bikeshare for a day, 3 days, a month, a year or try their new daily key option, and have access to their fleet of bikes 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The first 30 minutes of each trip are free. Each additional 30 minutes incurs an additional fee of $1.50 to 2.00, depending on your membership level.

Rapid Transit on the Rockville Pike?

Rockville Pike at Bou Avenue, Rockville, Maryland

Rockville Pike at Bou Avenue, Rockville, Maryland

Rockville is a key link in the effort to improve transportation from  Friendship Heights to Clarksburg.   Everyone complains about the traffic, but what can be done about it without building more highways through our neighborhoods?   Join residents, local businesses, organizations, and community leaders to learn about the County’s Rapid Transit proposal, get your questions answered by County officials, and engage in a discussion about Rapid Transit and other solutions for turning 355 into a safe, efficient, and attractive boulevard of the future.  This is related to the Rockville Pike Plan, so if you’re following that project, you’ll probably be interested in this as well.

Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 6:00 pm in the Cafeteria of the Executive Office Building, 101 Monroe Street in downtown Rockville.  Metered parking on the street; free parking in the jury parking lot at Jefferson and Monroe.

Speakers: 

  • Casey Anderson, Montgomery County Planning Board
  • Larry Cole, Montgomery County Planning Department
  • Chuck Lattuca, Rapid Transit System Development Manager for MCDOT.

Refreshments will be served.

If you are interested in attending, please register in advance.

This event is co-sponsored and facilitated by Coalition for Smarter Growth and Communities for Transit.  Our co-hosts include Montgomery County Sierra Club, TAME Coalition, the White Flint Partnership, and Friends of White Flint.

Capital Bikeshare Coming to Rockville (somewhat)

Capital Bikeshare station in Washington, DC.

Capital Bikeshare station in Washington, DC.

The City of Rockville has announced that Capital Bikeshare is coming to Rockville in early fall with 13 bike stations through a partnership with Montgomery County.  Capital Bikeshare is a network of bicycle-sharing stations that provides access to bikes and offers an alternative to driving.  Check out a bike for your trip to work, run errands, go shopping, explore a neighborhood, head to a park, or visit friends and family.

Through bikesharing, cyclists can rent a bike from a designated station and drop it off at any other station within the Capital Bikeshare network. The  program currently has more than 1,800 bikes at over 200 stations in circulation across Washington, D.C. and Virginia.  It’s been incredibly popular in Washington, DC with both residents and tourists, and I’m happy to see it come into Rockville.

The bike stations in Rockville will be some of the first locations for Capital Bikeshare in Maryland. Proposed locations in Rockville include:

  • Campus Drive and Mannakee Street
  • Piccard Drive and West Gude Drive
  • Rockville Metro – East
  • Rockville Metro – West
  • Courthouse Square and East Montgomery Avenue
  • Fallsgrove Drive and West Montgomery Avenue
  • Fleet Street and Ritchie Parkway
  • King Farm Boulevard and Piccard Drive
  • King Farm Boulevard and Pleasant Drive
  • Monroe Street and Monroe Place
  • Spring Avenue and Lenmore Avenue
  • Taft Street and East Gude Drive
  • Fallsgrove Boulevard and Fallsgrove Drive
Proposed stations for Capital Bikeshare on a Google Map with bike routes.

Proposed stations for Capital Bikeshare on a Google Map with bike routes. Click to enlarge.

I’ve plotted these locations (plus Shady Grove Metro, which is outside of Rockville but will be part of the BikeShare network) on a bike-route-version of Google Maps to better understand the impact on and benefit to Rockville.  Google Maps can identify bike routes, with a Continue reading →

JBG Reveals Updated Plans for Downtown Rockville

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The JBG Companies, who are currently building a large complex of offices, residences, and stores around the Twinbrook Metro station, are also working on a portion of downtown Rockville that’s slated as phase two of the Town Center.  The 2008 economic downturn slowed development considerably but is now picking up, as evidenced by the construction of the corporate headquarters of Choice Hotels.  JBG owns the former Giant Grocery store at 275 North Washington Street (across from the Beall’s Grant Apartments) and has been exploring various uses for this vacant building and adjoining parking lot.  Today, they shared the following plans:

New shopping, apartments and offices are slated for an overlooked city block in Rockville’s downtown, offering the opportunity to energize a long-vacant Giant grocery store site and adjoining tracts. The JBG Companies is proposing to demolish the grocery store and build new offices and shopping as a complement to busy Rockville Town Square next door. JBG has shared its plans with multiple audiences including neighbors, city officials, community groups and civic users.

“We are fortunate to have strong support from neighbors and businesses alike who have long been asking for renewed vigor in this part of downtown Rockville,” said Anthony Greenberg, a JBG official. “Redeveloping this property is an excellent opportunity to Continue reading →