Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rock Spring master plan update

I went to the Rock Spring Master Plan community update meeting last night to find out how the planning was progressing.  They split the meeting into three parts.  First there was a summary of prior meetings, then there were two staff presentations, one on an economic overview of the Rock Spring area and one on Placemaking, finally there were presentations by three developers in the master plan area.  After the structured part of the meeting there was an opportunity to talk one-on-one with the planners.

Economic Overview notes

In the Rock spring plan area (which includes Montgomery Mall and Wildwood shopping center) the top employers are (in order) Lockheed, Marriott, NIH, and Nordstrom.  The top three employers account for 62% of non-retail jobs in the plan area, so if any one of them moved away it would be a significant loss of jobs.  The area has 1.8 billion dollars in payroll and accounts for half of the corporate management jobs in Montgomery County.  It also has 3 of the 4 Fortune 500 companies that are in Maryland (Lockheed #64, Marriott #221,  and Host Hotels and Resorts #485).  There is currently 5.5 million square feet of office space

Placemaking notes

Placemaking is one of the currently popular buzzwords.  It means making an area appealing to people so they want to go there.  It encompasses everything from having a destination that draws people to having appealing sidewalks, to buildings at a "human scale" to bike lanes.  The focus on the rock spring area seems to be better walkways such as having sidewalks set back from the road by several feet with trees and greenspace, having buildings closer to the road (many parts of Rock Spring have them set back by up to 150 feet) and having chairs that can be moved (that last one came up several times during the presentation)

My thoughts on the meeting

They are spending a lot of time trying to make the different aspects of the Rock Spring area work together, but don't seem to be addressing how it fits into the larger community.  What can they do to not make area traffic worse, or even better, is there anything they can do to improve area traffic? Montgomery Mall has approval to build another 400,000 square feet of retail, how will people get to and from the mall?  If they add thousands of housing units to the area, how will those people get to the metro station or to downtown Bethesda? How will the bike lanes in Rock Spring connect to the rest of the bicycle network (such as the nearby Bethesda Trolley Trail). 

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