Saturday, December 19, 2015

A small change you can hardly notice

Sometimes you don't notice the little things, small, subtle changes that can pass you by without you even realizing it.   Here is one of those things.  Before Capital One Bank bought Chevy Chase bank, the name above the door said "Chevy Chase Bank",  For a long time after, even when Capital One changed the name of the branches, the sign remained.  At some point, without me noticing, they changed the sign above the door to read "Chevy Chase Trust"  Anyone know when this happened?

I dug through my old pictures and came across this one from 2008 which has the old name on it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December Rock Spring planning meeting

 Last night there was another Rock Spring planning meeting at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda.

The start of the meeting was a quick recap of what was covered at prior Rock Spring planning meetings, possible future development in the area, and a review of the recomendations of the Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel (ULI TAP) which looked at the high office vacancy rate in the Rock Spring and White Flint 2/Executive Boulevard areas.  After that there was a presentation on planning ideas for Rock Spring, Breakout sessions where people at the meeting could talk with planners, and finally, report outs from each of the breakout sessions.

Possible Future plans

 Since the last planning meeting, the planning board met with several property owners to discuss their plans for possible future development.  These plans include:
  • Montgomery Mall: Possible expansion of anchor tenant and expansion of a parking garage.
  • Wildwood Medical site: Recieved special exception in 2012 for a 5 story residential building and has applied to amend that approval to increase the height of the building.
  • Wildwood shopping Center: Proposing an addition at the end of the shopping center building.

ULI TAP presentation

The planning department requested the Urban Land Institutes (ULI) assistance to look at the office vacancy in Rock Spring and White Flint 2/Executive Boulevard.  They only focused within the boundaries of Rock Spring, they weren't looking holistically at the area and were looking for ways to decrease the office vacancy rate by changes to the areas
  • Identity
  • Connectivity
  • Amenity
  • Land Use

The full presentation that resulted from the ULI TAP workshop is available on the planning website.  The parts related to Rock Spring are on pages 54-69 of the powerpoint (which is actually a PDF)

Rock Spring Plan

Mike Bello (the planning departments lead urban designer) then gave a presentation on the status of the rock spring plan and ideas they are considering.

Major community issues

  •  Lack of Access to White Flint or Grosvenor Metro stations
  •  Safety concerns crossign Old Georgetown Rd
  •  Too much congestion at intersections
  •  More schools
  •  Larger library
  •  Safety issues crossing Democracy and Fernwood
  •  More open space and recreation
  •  Better trails and walking paths
  •  Improve access to the mall
  •  Lack of walkability

 Creating a Spine

Mike brought forward the idea of "creating a spine" of rock spring running from the mall, across the bridge, down Fernwood road, then down Rock Spring drive, along the proposed BRT route.

Streetscapes and streetscape comparisons

Mike went over the current profile of the various major roads in the Rock Spring area, then showed how some similarly sized roads in other parts of the county were laid out.  The above picture compares Rock Spring Drive to Redland Boulevard.  Both are roads with two lanes in each direction.


 One thing I have learned is that planners are obsessed with adding the word "shed" after everything.  Watershed and Viewshed I had heard before, but Walkshed was new to me.  It includes all the area that are within a ten minute walk of a place.  The goal is to increase the number of places that you can reasonably walk to (increase the walkshed) by improving pedestrain connectivity options.  (I suppose this means there is the term "bikeshed" and it doesn't mean a place you store bikes.)

Breakout groups

After the presention, there were breakout sessions so those in attendance could talk tot he planning department on areas of interest.  The meeting closed with each of the four groups reporting out what they talked about.

Next Meeting

The next Rock Spring Master Plan Meeting will be 7pm  January 28, 2016 at Walter Johnson High School.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Is it Spring already?

The warm weather recently has been pleasant, if uncharacteristic for this time of year.  It has succeeded in confusing not just people, but trees too.  I was driving on Little Falls Parkway on Sunday, and right at the corner of it and Dorset Avenue were about half a dozen cherry trees blossoming!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

New York City day trip

Last weekend I took a day trip to New York City to see the sights.  I saw the WTC memorial site, the Statue of Liberty, and Times Square.  You can take the bus from Bethesda in the morning, spend 6 or 7 hours in NYC, then get back to Bethesda, all in the same day.  Both Vamoose Bus and Tripper Bus make these runs.

Make sure you plan what you want to see and how you are going to get there before you go, you will probably want to take the subway once or twice to quickly get you from one spot to another.

WTC memorial North pool

The morning sun illuminates one wall of water at the North Pool of the WTC memorial

WTC memorial South pool

Survivor Tree: This tree was originally planted in the WTC complex.  After the attack it was temporarily moved, then planted here once the memorial site was constructed.

WTC 1 from Battery Park
 There are a few ways to see the Statue of Liberty.  The park service contracts a ferry operator to take people to the island where you can walk around (it also goes to Ellis Island), and several other private ferry operators run tours that circle the island (but don't stop at it).  If you don't mind just seeing the statue from the water, the private ferry tours are much faster.  To actually get on the island you have to go through airport-style security with a long line, then the ferry itself has one of the slowest boarding processes imaginable.  The boat holds about 800 people and there is a single entrance to the boat that you are going through that only one to two people across fit through.  Between coming and going to the islands, expect to spend well over an hour waiting in lines.
The main building on Ellis Island

The statue of liberty

The statue of liberty

Manhattan Island

Times Square area

Times Square