18 October 2013

WUDAC's Letter Re: Historic Preservation of Wheaton Youth/Rec Center

October has been a busy month for Wheaton and WUDAC. In addition to the redevelopment of the central business district, the proposed historic preservation designation of the Wheaton Youth/Rec Center has generated press coverage.

As a little background, in 2012 the County Council approved funding for a new facility that would house a new library + a recreation center for Wheaton. The location of this new facility would cover both the old Wheaton library site plus the old Wheaton rec center site. In mid-2013, Grimm + Parker (selected architectural firm) held two community meetings to gather ideas for the new project. 

In September 2013, the Historic Preservation Commission (HRC) held a public meeting and made a recommendation to the Planning Board to place the Wheaton Youth/Rec Center under historic preservation. The Historic Preservation Commission's report is available here. A historic preservation designation could affect the plans for the new Wheaton Library/Rec Center. As of today, WUDAC is researching the issue, but has not taken a position. 

The HRC's recommendation now sits with the Montgomery County Planning Board (MCPB). The matter was on the agenda for the October 17 MCPB meeting, but it has now been postponed until November 14. Details on the time will be forthcoming. Once the MCPB votes in favor/against historic preservation designation, the matter is then placed in front of the County Council for the final vote. 

WUDAC submitted a letter to the MCPB. That letter is available here

16 October 2013

WUDAC Submits Letter Re: Wheaton Redevelopment

After careful consideration, WUDAC submitted a letter regarding StonebridgeCarras/Buzzuto proposal for Parking Lot 13 and the current Midcounty Regional Services Center (RSC) site. Below is the letter pasted directly onto this blog, but please refer to the PDF copy of the actual submitted letter HERE if you wish to see the letter in its original format.  


October 15, 2013
Al Roshdieh
Deputy Director
Department of Transportation
101 Monroe Street
Rockville, MD 20850

Dear Mr. Roshdieh,

The Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee (WUDAC) is writing to submit the following  letter and urge a timely and thorough consideration on our thoughts on the community’s collective vision of Wheaton and the redevelopment of Lot 13 and the Regional Services Center (RSC) site. Specifically, WUDAC offers comments on: 1) the location and layout of the town square, 2) traffic, and 3) ensuring that the final product is a warm and thoughtful development that capitalizes on Lot 13’s location as the heart of a redeveloped Wheaton.

WUDAC consists of a representative cross-section of the Wheaton community, including homeowners, small businesses, and large businesses.  The story of the Wheaton redevelopment effort has extended for well over a decade. At the center of the community’s redevelopment effort has been the push for a new town square on Lot 13. As the chapter with the B.F. Saul development closed in early 2012, the Wheaton community advocated for a commitment from the County to ensure that any future development provided for a vibrant town square on Lot 13. The Wheaton community received this commitment, evidenced in the 2012 Montgomery County’s Wheaton Redevelopment Program CIP – N. 150401, which states that “the [Wheaton Redevelopment Program] provides for a town square on Parking Lot 13 that is at least 1/3 the area of the site.” The May 2013 Amended Wheaton Redevelopment CIP also includes this commitment.

Throughout the redevelopment process, WUDAC has expressed continued concern with any proposal that creates a town square not located on Lot 13. During the September 18, 2013, presentation by StonebridgeCarras/Buzzuto, the developers explained that the elevation change of the RSC site made it difficult to utilize the area for the park and planning building. WUDAC feels that this is not a sufficient enough of an explanation to not have the town square on Lot 13. A town square on the RSC site will be surrounded by an active bus transit area to the south, the WMATA-owned land patch to the east, vehicular traffic on Reedie Drive to the north, and a garbage staging area to the west. This option is not in line with the look and feel of an attractive space for a town square. WUDAC cannot endorse the current rendering and any other proposal that does not provide a comprehensive explanation as to why a town square on Lot 13 is not possible.

Of equal concern is the current proposal’s design to have Reedie Drive bisect the town square while remaining open to vehicular traffic. WUDAC strongly advocates for a continuous town square that is uninterrupted by a street and vehicular traffic, regardless of its final location. There are a number of advantageous reasons for a continuous town square, including pedestrian safety and the opportunity to connect the town square to the retail along Grandview and Triangle Lane. To this end, WUDAC urges developers to consider eliminating Reedie Drive between Grandview Avenue and Triangle Lane. Not only would this solve the issue of having a town square split by vehicular traffic, it could also generate creative ideas for the use of additional land space made available by removing this portion of Reedie Drive.[1]  For example, one can consider construction of the Park and Planning building[2] on the RSC site that includes the additional land from Reedie Drive and parts of Lot 13, and placing the town square entirely on Lot 13 between the Park and Planning Building and the Buzzoto development.

WUDAC understands that this new chapter for Wheaton redevelopment is only beginning. We also know that the renderings presented to the community are not final. At the same time, the decisions made in the coming months will alter Wheaton’s landscape for decades. WUDAC’s message has been consistent throughout the entire process, and the comments above are not only reflective of WUDAC, but also come from the countless informal sessions and comments received from the community. In turn, WUDAC adds the following three requests:
1) That the Wheaton community continue to receive timely project updates;
2) Honest and thorough explanations on final decisions and the deliberation process with regards to all aspects of redevelopment; and
3) For the developers to sincerely engage the community to understand what components will make this project innovative and one that is true to Wheaton’s character.

Community engagement in the redevelopment process has always been a top priority and WUDAC insists on continued and open dialogue. We encourage and urge developers to seriously take the suggestions outlined in this letter under consideration. We also invite you to utilize WUDAC to assist you with your outreach to the community. Please contact me or Ana Lopez van Balen if you have any questions or want to begin a dialogue with WUDAC. We also invite you to our monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of the month at 6pm. Thank you for your time and consideration.

/s/Henriot St. Gerard
Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee (WUDAC)

[1] Another intriguing option that was discussed was to close Reedie Drive between Grandview Ave and Triangle Lane, while simultaneously creating the underground garage access points at the terminus of the “new” Reedie Drive. This could help alleviate some of the traffic concerns with the current proposal’s utilization of Grandview Avenue and Triangle Lane to access the new “alley” that would be created to access the underground garage.

[2] While much of this letter focuses on the town square, WUDAC also urges the Wheaton redevelopment team to ensure that this project serve as a catalyst for future private development. For example, many members of WUDAC have expressed concern that the park and planning building proposal has no additional commercial space that would house private firms that desire to be located next to park and planning.

15 October 2013

Avalon Bay Presents Plan for New Development in Wheaton

At the WUDAC meeting on Tuesday, October 8, 2013 representatives from Avalon Bay presented the company's plan for the future redevelopment of the site enclosed by the intersections of Georgia Avenue, Blueridge Avenue, and Reedie Drive. This site is currently occupied by a 7-story office building (mostly leased by BB&T) and two smaller buildings on Blueridge. 

The project will be a multi-family rental community titled "AVA", a derivation of the name "Avalon" the reps informed the audience. The consciously-chosen name is the result of a 2008 renter segmented study to target the interests and preferences of Millenials.

Another selection is the building's exterior: a colorful facade with corrugated metal will face Georgia Avenue. Other planned design features include the community's 25-foot setback from Georgia Avenue and a walkway along Reedie to connect AVA to the adjacent WMATA site and Leesborough community. The project is not anticipated to include commercial space.

Arlington, VA based Avalon Bay has communities in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Pacific Northwest. There is one existing AVA community in the Metropolitan area: AVA H Street in Washington, DC.

WUDAC has reached out to the developers to get some pictures of the proposed development to post on this blog. Stay tuned. 

Nadia A. Sesay

03 October 2013

Meeting Agenda for Tuesday October 8th, 2013

Please silence cell phones

Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee
2424 Reedie Drive, Wheaton, MD 20902

October 8, 2013

1.   Call to Order, Introductions,
  Approval of Minutes,
  Report of Chair                                     St. Gerard            6:00 – 6:15 pm
2.  RSC Director Report                               Van Balen            6:15 – 6:20 pm

3.   Report from Council Staff                                                    6:20 – 6:30 pm

4.   Redevelopment Update                            DOT                     6:30 – 6:45 pm

5.   Lerch & Early presentation on Avalon Bay                                6:45 – 7:00pm
6.  Sub Committee Report/New Business                                  7:00 – 7:20 pm
      a. Approval of redevelopment letter
      b. Wheaton recreation center and library

7.  Community Concerns                                                            7:20 – 7:30pm

8.   Adjourn                                                                                 7:30 pm

This information is available in an alternative format by calling 240-777-8103. Sign Language interpreter services will be provided only upon request with notice as far in advance as possible but no less than 72 hours prior to the event. If you need other services or aids to participate in this activity, please call 240-777-8101.

Meeting Minutes, Tuesday July 9th, 2013

Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee
Mid-County Regional Center 2424 Reedie Drive Wheaton MD 20902
Meeting Minutes, Tuesday July 9th, 2013

Members Present:  Henriot St. Gerard(Chair), Devala Janardan(Vice-Chair),Jim Onder, Jeannette Feldner, Marian Fryer, William Moore, Rick Kessler, Dan Thompson, Nadia Sesay, Luis Bonilla
Members Absent:  Tom Stanton
Staff Present:  Ana Lopez van Balen, Director, Mid-County Regional Center
Guests: Holly Sullivan, President, Montgomery Business Development Corp.  Virginia Sheard, Kensington View Civic Association.  Gigi Goins, Wheaton Farmers Market

Call to Order: 6;01pm by Chair Henriot  St.Gerard.  The Chair introduced Holly Sullivan, President of the Montgomery Business Development
The June meeting minutes were approved without changes
Henriot turned the floor over to Ana Lopez van Balen to conduct election of officers.  After brief remarks by the candidates the current officers were re-elected to new terms

Chair Report:  Henriot informed the committee of upcoming Capital Improvements Program meetings on July 11, 22, and 30th at various county sites
The next meeting of the Night Time Economy Task Force is July 15th, 5-7pm at the Hollywood East Café.  WUDAC’s Tom Stanton is scheduled to speak.
Henriot asked for member input into selecting a date for the fall retreat.  October 5th was tentatively selected and Henriot will ask Matt Barry about using space at Westfield.

Directors Report:  Ana Lopez van Balen reported on two meetings on the Wheaton Library. A development roadmap was finalized  on how to proceed.  More info will be available in September.
The Night Time Economy Task Force has finished 2 of 6 planned meetings and will be able to make recommendations soon.
Mid-County Fireworks went well.  There is talk of moving it back to Westfield in the future.
Ana produced proclamations from the County for retiring members Jim Onder and Marian Fryer. WUDAC thanked the members and photos were taken.
Ana asked Ana about the situation with the new Wheaton Rescue Squad building.  More info is needed.

Presentation from MBDC:  Henriot asked for introductions from members and guests and then turned the floor over to Holly Sullivan from MBDC.  Holly gave a brief background on herself and then presented an introduction to MBDC.  She stated their goal is to make Montgomery County more business friendly.  They will report to the County Council on economic development and sustainability issues.  They have been vocal about Mass Transit and the State’s Maintenance of Effort Laws.  MBDC will launch a website soon at montgomerybusiness.org.  They will be partnering with UMD on data demographics and job growth and will have listings for available industrial and retail properties on their website.  Holly then took questions from WUDAC members. Some responses from her included the need to make Wheaton more pedestrian friendly, encourage small business development and youth employment, and the necessity to include housing, marketing, and transit in any economic discussion.  She also emphasized the need to streamline permitting and the time and cost to get things done to help alleviate the negative perception of the County by the business community. MBDC will make recommendations to the County Council twice a year.

Sub-Committee Reports:
Economic:  Nadia Sesay reported that Tom Stanton has been in contact with Karen Klein of SCRAPDC about her interest in a center in Wheaton and her interest in partnering with other Arts groups. Tom has also been in touch with Roundhouse about the terminating of its lease in downtown Silver Spring to introduce Wheaton as a possible new home and also met with the Director of the Blackrock Center in Germantown to understand better the workings of opening and operating an Arts Center in the County.
Tom is also involved in the Night Time Economy Task Force and will be speaking at the NETF meeting on July 15th at the Hollywood East Café.
The Economic subcommittee is broadening the focus of the A&E hub from Price and Elkin to other areas in the Urban District. Nadia also stated that there is a meeting with Jen Bozzell from Strathmore scheduled for Aug 1st and that they are waiting to see what bidders may offer for Veterans Park Redevelopment.
Lastly, Nadia turned the floor over to Rick Kessler for discussion of a draft of a thank you letter to send to the County Council as a followup to the Walking Tour.  Dan Thompson made a motion to include mention of a Town Square.  The motion was defeated and members voted to send the letter as drafted.

Design: Due to time constraints, Dan Thompson submitted written notes to the Secretary and will send email to members

Other Business:  Henriot asked for member input into what went well and what didn’t during the current term and ideas on what we can improve upon

Community Concerns: Virginia Sheard from the Kensington View Civic Association reminded WUDAC that the RFP ends in July and it is important to stay involved during our August recess.
Gigi Goins, a representative from the Farmers Market,  stated that 3 or their 4 Farmers Markets are thriving but Wheaton needs support.  She would like help with Folger and Pratt to secure space in front of the new Safeway.

Adjourn:  7:31pm