Monday, December 9, 2013

Winter has arrived

Snow on Sunday of about 3 inches in Wheaton. Followed by ice all evening and night, as predicted. Here are some photos.
On Trail in Wheaton Regional Park, Sunday, December 8

Baseball Fields in Wheaton Regional Park, Sunday, December 8

Pine Lake in Wheaton Regional Park, with Enhancement by Google

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Construction Update: The Exchange Safeway Building in Wheaton

The Exchange at Georgia Ave & Reedie Dr, with luxurious new sidewalks.
I am excited to share these pics taken last night. The sidewalk is finally open around the building!!  This is big news for those of us who walk or bike past there a lot and have been crossing Georgia Avenue twice each trip due to the complete closure of these sidewalks!

This is an update to my post from last winter, which included photos of the building under construction.

Another view facing Georgia Ave, with Safeway Now Hiring sign.
A friend of mine is looking for a new apartment so inquired about the rental options here (with my encouragement).  He learned that the first tenants will start moving in this
November Friday, before all floors are completed. [All are expected to be completed this December, according to the blog comment below.]

Nice new landscaping on Reedie Drive and Exchange Now Leasing sign.
He & his wife are in the market for a two-bedroom but probably won't be moving to the Exchange because they think the floorplan layouts are odd.  I think they designed them this way to be modern, but they think it results in some wasted space since a lot of the 2 bedrooms have wide hallways running down their middles.  They love the indoor pool located on a high floor, but think it was designed way too small since there will be so many people living in the building with access to the pool.  This couple is used to having a big outdoor pool at their DC apartment and it gets crowded in the summer, so they looked at the size of the Exchange's indoor pool and just imagine it overly packed.  They did really love the idea of a rooftop deck to lounge on with DC views, the views off in the distance from the apartments, and the big windows and decks in the units.

I hope other people appreciate the modern layouts and the building is filled soon -- if not, the unusual layouts are likely the reason.  If they have problems renting the space maybe they can redesign some of the units to have more conventional layouts that take full advantage of the space in each unit.  He loved the balcony and views and thought the materials used were solid and attractive.  The location across one small side street from the Metro entrance, and on the Red Line, is also a big draw.

Want to see the new units for yourself?  The Exchange is having a Grand Opening event Saturday, October 26, 1-4 pm.  This will include the drawing in a contest for free rent for a year!

No word yet about when the Safeway Grand Opening will be, but I'll certainly post an update when we know!  I'm looking forward to this new store.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Food Truck Festival (Curbside Cookoff) Coming to Wheaton Triangle this Saturday!

A deer in Wheaton Regional Park
This is becoming such a happening hood!  As reported by Good Eatin' in Wheaton, there will be a food truck extravaganza in downtown Wheaton this weekend!  It will have 19 or 20 of the regions food trucks (some gourmet) and a craft beer garden.

Of the trucks that will be there, the only one I've tried is Dangerously Delicious Pies, and it was good. They now have a cafe in Union Station and I'm happy to see they're sticking close to their roots with the truck.

It will be noon to 8pm Saturday 9/28.
A deer in a Wheaton front yard

In other news, there are a lot of hungry deer around Wheaton right now! Last week I saw several of them during my bike rides to and from the metro.  Here are two different deer from September 16...

In other other news, I did not make it to the community meeting last week (we can thankfully read about what happened in the WaPo) but I hope to make it to the Sligo Park community cleanup day this Sunday 9/29. Will I see anyone from the internet there?...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sligo Creek Park Community Cleanup Next Weekend: Sweep the Creek Sat-Sun Sept. 28-29

Sweep the Creek fall 2013 meeting sites near Sligo Creek
Sweep the Creek fall 2013 meeting sites near Sligo Creek Park
Yesterday I saw signs up for this event along Sligo Parkway and it should be fun to help out and meet some neighbors.  It is called:

Sweep the Creek and Celebrate National Public Lands Day!

There is no need to sign up ahead of time and "all you need to bring is your community spirit."  The event will feature trash pick-up from inside the parkland (something that is fun and rewarding to do!) and invasive plant removal.  Instructions will be provided on-site.  Friends of Sligo Creek will provide "gloves, bags, water, and guidance on what help is most needed in each section."

The sites near Wheaton are labeled 8, 9, and 12 on the map and are happening both Saturday and Sunday (some each day).  Here are the details:
Saturday, September 28, 9-11amCreek Sections 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10 Middle, 10 Lower and 12 
Section 12: Wheaton - Glen Haven Park. Windham Lane dead-ends at the park coming from the east or west.  This small park features mature trees and is peaceful and pleasant. Can be accessed easily from Wheaton by walking or bicycling.
Section 8: Whitehall Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge - on Sligo Creek Parkway in between University Blvd. W and Dennis Ave.  This will be at "Whitehall Bridge," a short distance north from the Sligo-Dennis Avenue Local Park and Activity Building. The path going over the bridge connects Gridley Lane/Sligo Middle School fields to the west, and Whitehall St./Tenbrook Dr. to the east. There's a small parking turnout here along the parkway that is readily visible and the site can be accessed easily from Wheaton or Forest Glen by walking or bicycling..
Sunday, September 29, 1-3pmCreek Sections 4 and 9
Section 9: Upstream from University Blvd W - Sligo Creek Park here is behind the Kemp Mill Shopping Center, which is at the intersection of Arcola Ave. and Lamberton Dr.  The cleanup group will meet between Shalom Kosher Mart (which will be open that day) and the walking/biking path in the park.  This is a perfect opportunity to use the path to get to the cleanup! 
The website has more details about exactly when and where the clean-ups will be taking place, including a link to a nice map of the meeting sites (a copy of their map is provided in this post).  Which ones will you join?

Monday, September 16, 2013

This Wednesday: Wheaton neighborhood meeting seeking our feedback about new development in the Triangle

Wheaton triangle from Grandview Avenue.
I hope to see you at the public meeting this Wednesday, September 18, at Wheaton High School.  According to the county website:

"The Montgomery County Government is inviting the community to a meeting with Stonebridge Carras/Bozzuto, the selected developer for the Wheaton Redevelopment Program. At the meeting, the proposed development plan will be shared along with details on the scope of their project and ideas for design. The County would like the community’s feedback as preparations begin for the development of a contract with the developer."

So come to the meeting and share your preferences for downtown Wheaton!  The triangle in question is in the middle of our community so should be of close interest to all of us.
"Wheaton Triangle" is shown here.

As background: our county is moving forward with plans to redevelop the Wheaton Triangle.  This is the area just northwest of the Wheaton Metro station that is currently a large parking lot with meters.  I think having new buildings here will be a good thing since they may bring more people to the area and they have promised a new "town center" as part of the deal.  There will be underground parking so there isn't a loss of the parking lot.

As I wrote last winter, the new development should be person-oriented with businesses on the ground floor, or at least displays that are nice to look at.

There is a contentious history of this redevelopment project, as JUTP reports in this blog post, since the county made a good plan in 2010 and then pulled out to the community's surprise and annoyance.  Specifically, "the county made a deal with developer BF Saul in 2010 to build several million square feet of apartments, shops, and offices in downtown Wheaton, along with a town square. BF Saul had a website and public outreach team to gather feedback, but the deal collapsed when the County Council balked at the $39.5 million price tag of building a platform over the Wheaton Metro station so BF Saul could build office towers on top." 

I hope they get it right this time and build things that will be a boon to the community. We need things that will be open and vibrant after work as well as during the workday, and we need open space with grass, trees, and benches.
Panoramic view of Wheaton triangle from outside Vietnamese restaurant on Grandview Avenue.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Another Pedestrian Fatality! More Stings Please.

Georgia Avenue in crosswalk at this crash site, 8/24/13.
Yet another person has been run over and killed in Wheaton.  Yesterday around 2pm a woman from DC was struck while crossing Georgia Avenue in a crosswalk just south of H Mart.  Today she died of her injuries in a hospital.

So sad and tragic.

As Patch reports, with a map of the accidents, "Twenty-two pedestrians and one bicyclist have been hit by cars in Montgomery County this yearSee the map of incidents here." And here's some of my coverage from last winter.
Georgia Ave at the crash site, 8/24/13.

Perhaps this new tragic death means that the effect has warn off from the Pedestrian Traffic Stings I wrote about last April and May.  Last winter there was a series of accidents when car drivers ran over people walking.  As Patch reported, 12 collisions in the first 10 weeks of 2013.  As reported in the Examiner in June:
"Fatal pedestrian collisions in Montgomery County have almost doubled in the first six months of 2013 from all of 2012, despite the county spending millions of dollars to promote pedestrian safety.  County statistics show 11 pedestrians have died since the beginning of this year, a number officials say is concerning since pedestrian fatalities for 2012 totaled six."
I think a lot of the county money must have been spent on those pedestrian safety advertisements in bus shelters and on buses.  I think those ads are unpleasant to look at, scary, and may be discouraging people from getting outside of their cars.  Maybe the images of tire marks on peoples' faces who otherwise seem unharmed make drivers think that getting run over won't hurt.  These people don't appear hurt at all, just unhappy.
One of the ads on a Wheaton bus shelter.

MoCo should have more ticketing stings to calm
drivers and forget these ads -- the stings generated a lot of publicity so even those who weren't ticketed heard about them and learned lessons.  Drivers who just saw the stings covered on the news had to have thought twice the next day about blowing through a crosswalk when they were driving!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Vegetable Gardening in Wheaton

Wheaton is a perfect place for veggie gardening.  Many homes have big yards (unlike Washington and many neighborhoods closer in) and the treecover isn't complete so there is plenty of sunshine for the garden (unlike Takoma Park, for instance).

I think backyard gardens are common, although I'm not sure as I can't see into many people's backyards.  Myself and two neighbors whose yards I can see into from my own all have veggie gardens.

Fresh figs from the tree in our Wheaton yard, August 18, 2013.
Brookside Gardens has resources for gardeners -- in addition to a demonstration vegetable garden to view, they have "Master Gardeners" who hang out in the nature center library and answer questions about gardening.  The program is called Master Gardener Plant Clinics and these people are there year round on the weekend and two weekdays April through October.  Another great local resource is Rooting DC -- although it requires traveling into the District on a winter day, this annual free day of gardening talks and workshops is stellar.

Our Wheaton backyard has grown a prolific amount of yellow squash this year and last.  Around this time there are squash bugs and a sort of rot that happens, but we have still gotten tons of squash fruit from May through August.

In addition to yellow squash, zucchini, and tomatoes, we have a lot of great herbs this year!  Basil, oregano, mint, chives, sage, and cilantro that we're letting go to seed so it can be harvested as coriander.
An example of what can easily be cooked with veggies from the garden and some noodles from H Mart, July 19.

Basil, arugula, chard, green beans, tomato, squash on July 19, 2013 -- all from our Wheaton vegetable garden.
Fresh garden chives, basil, tomato, squash on July 21, just before being scrambled with eggs.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Days in Wheaton

Here are some pictures of my bike ride to the metro station yesterday -- our first fall-like weather day of the year! It was 64 F degrees at 9:00am!

The hottest part of this summer was in July this year when it was in the 100s, then the last few weeks have been bearable in the 80s and 90s.  Yesterday and today and the next several days feel so much cooler in comparison.
August 14, 2013 in Wheaton, MD.

August 14, 2013 in Wheaton, MD.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Free concerts in Wheaton Friday, July 12, and 3 other Fridays through late August

Photo credit website.
Today on the Wheaton MD Facebook page I saw that there will be a free summer concert series in the Wheaton Triangle!  This sort of fun activity is exactly what Wheaton needs.  The location is a nice grassy space just across the street from the Wheaton Metro station and next to a large parking lot.
The Nighthawks kick-off the TGIF concert series this Friday, July 12 at 6:30PM. What a great way to start the weekend! Come on out and enjoy the show!
A little bit more research turned up this Patch write-up:
What: Wheaton "TGIF" Summer Concert Series
When and Where: Every second and fourth Friday, through August, from 6:30-8 p.m., in the Wheaton Triangle.
Deets: What to look forward to in July and August: jazz, reggae, Motown, and more. (Read more about who's playing when.)
This is the first I've heard of this series so I wanted to post about it here. I assume it is free but couldn't find that word written in any of these webpages. It will be outdoors in a park-like setting, so it must be free.  From the concert series schedule website:
Time: 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm
Kick-off your weekend with great music in downtown Wheaton!
Enjoy live music from top musicians in the DC area the 2nd and 4th Fridays July through August from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.
Bring a blanket, chair and your family and friends -- And don't forget to grab a bite to eat from one of our great local restaurants before or after the show! 
This year's lineup features:
July 12   The Nighthawks (Blues, Roots Rock)
July 26   Soul Crackers (Motown)
August 9   Sam 'O & JFC Band (Reggae)
August 23  School of Rock "Back to School" Teen Event

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sidewalk on Georiga Avenue in front of New Wheaton Rescue Squad Station

This post has been on my mind for months, and a recent Patch post about possible construction delays has prompted me to write it. Regardless of the construction delay, the sidewalk in front of the in-progress construction site should be fixed for the safety and mental health of residents.

According to the WaPo, "The $14 million fire station at Georgia Avenue and Arcola Avenue in Wheaton, [is] about 75 percent complete" and its completion "will likely be delayed" because the general contractor Milestone Construction is going out of business.

I have been eagerly waiting for the streetscape in front of the new building to be finished. The old sidewalk there now is skinny and way too close to Georgia Ave. Plus, to make it even less comfortable to walk there, during the spring the row of shade trees that used to border the sidewalk was cut down.

When construction is complete, I expect the sidewalk to be moved back even with the sidewalk in front of the Leesborough Townhome Development, and replacement trees planted between the new sidewalk and the road.

Here are photos I took of this sidewalk problem area on February 19, 2013 (it still looks the same, except without the pleasant bushes and sun-blocking trees around the construction area). 

The area where the two sidewalk configurations meet. Difficult to navigate on a bicycle.

The shade trees by the sidewalk and bus shelter that were cut down.

"Future Home of  Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad" sign and another view of the abrupt sidewalk transition.

The wider modern sidewalk just south of the construction at Leesborough Townhomes, with new shade trees.
This last photo is the current sidewalk at the recently built development just south of the rescue station construction.  This type of wider sidewalk is what the community expects when the construction is complete!  It should have this amount of space between the sidewalk and the road with trees in that space.

I have been hoping that this was self-evident, but wanted to write this post and share these pictures anyway in case this is not the plan.  This should be the plan!

Now that we know there may be a construction delay, and the old shade trees have already been destroyed and removed, can the sidewalk be fixed in advance of the construction being completed?  The fence can just be moved back and the sidewalk work finished.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Glad to avoid this major frustration for Silver Spring downtown residents

I would be very frustrated if I had to walk past the unfinished transit center every day. It's grass looks lush and green, but the whole area is completely fenced off to pedestrians while no work is being done on the building.

If I lived nearby and walked past that site daily to/from the metro, I would be tempted to knock down that fence. It doesn't seem fair to keep everyone out of what would be some nice public space if it were open.

As it is, I just stand and look at that plot of land sometimes from the metro platform when waiting for a Glenmont train after being booted off of a Silver Spring train (these two pictures show the area from the train platform).  It is a nice patch of bright green among the urban grey.

Silver Spring transit center lawn could be a new urban park.
If this area were open to pedestrians it would contain people sitting on blankets and enjoying the grass.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wheaton Costco is Good for the Mall So Far!

Wheaton Costco, April 10, 2013.
I saw this encouraging article shared on Just Up The Pike's Facebook page: "Wheaton Costco adds life to shopping mall: Nearby businesses see added traffic, sales."

I can confirm this by personal experience. This past Sunday I went to see the new Costco and was shocked by the number of people in the store and by the number walking around inside the mall near the store's entrance! There were too many people for the space so everyone had to walk slowly and inch around the giant shopping carts strewn about.  The general mood was festive and energized.

The article states that "Customer traffic at the mall has generally increased following Costco’s arrival, said Ken Buckner, the mall’s marketing director, though he said he could not divulge the exact numbers" and 12 new leases were signed at the mall after the Costco lease was finalized.

Inside the Costco, I was pleasantly surprised by the skylights that appear in the ceiling.  They let in lots of sunlight on the sunny day I was there, making the inside of the store seem airy and bright.  The skylights are spaced evenly in between the normal electric lights on the ceiling.  This photo gives a hint of the natural light inside.

I was also intrigued by the extensive Kosher selections available.  Large signs indicated sections of Kosher foods -- I noticed them in the bakery, cheese, and frozen section, although there could also be more.  In looking into this I found this piece on the Wheaton Patch with background about how this came to be -- the story involves a Kemp Mill resident's years-long effort.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pedestrian Stings Planned for Wheaton!

I saw today on Wheaton Patch (Plainclothes Police to Conduct 'Pedestrian Sting' Series) that the Montgomery County police will be doing stings soon to improve safety!

This was mentioned on this blog last month by Ken Silverman from Nancy Navarro's office and I'm delighted to read that it will be happening soon.

In other news, the Wheaton Redevelopment website where Montgomery County is asking the public "What are your ideas and priorities for a redeveloped Wheaton?" is going strong with 23 more days left. It has had 232 views and has 6 suggestions open for "liking" and comments!  Go there and add your ideas!!  It is easy!

5/10/13 UPDATE: Great Greater Washington reports today that the ticketing operation is going well. They report: "The police ticketed 72 violators in 2½ hours—one every two minutes—at a single crosswalk on Veirs Mill Road..." Officers found that "When you get out of the squad car and join the thousands who cross Veirs Mill every day (it's among the county's busiest bus corridors), you suddenly learn that "it's kind of scary."

I completely agree with the piece's (Pedestrian "sting" finds frequent driver lawlessness) recommendation that officers regularly and routinely walk on streets all over Montgomery County to prevent this sort of driver abuse of police inattention.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ideas for Wheaton Redevelopment Sought by County

Today there's a post by the Montgomery County Government on Facebook saying:
What are your ideas and priorities for a redeveloped Wheaton? Share them on engage Montgomery.
It looks like MoCo has taken a page from the Metro playbook (with their very similar Momentum suggestion website) and has decided to broadly ask the public for suggestions. Good idea! 

The page says we should use it to "Suggest, share and second ideas to help make Montgomery County, Maryland an even better place to live, work, and do business. Your posts will be reviewed to help shape decision making across the County."  Add your suggestions here and link them from the comments so we can support them!

Let's make some suggestions about making Wheaton more pleasantly walkable, bike friendly, and dense! I'd like it to be like Dupont Circle (also a lot of traffic going through it, but a great place to walk around/dine/shop/hang out anyways!

Maybe my first suggestion will be a plaza with a fountain in the middle of it and plenty of seating on the site of the current Veterans Urban Park.  Its uninviting lifelessness grates on me every time I pass.
Screenshot of Engage Montgomery Wheaton site 5/1/13

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Solution to Pedestrian Problems

Today Atlantic Cities has a piece called "Police Stings for Drivers Who Don't Yield in Crosswalks: Does it Really Work?"  They cite scientific research and conclude that yes, it does work.

Recently in Fort Lee, New Jersey, a place many commuters speed through while driving to New York, a police sting operation was set up to ticket people who didn't yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.  This approach could certainly help solve the problem we experienced this winter in the areas around Wheaton of traffic hitting people who are walking across streets.

Can we have a traffic crosswalk behavior sting in Wheaton, please?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wheaton Regional Park Train Now Open

2014 Update: The Wheaton Regional Park Train is open for the summer! This year the train and carousel have a Facebook page and are mentioned by Fodor's Travel as one of the top "8 cheap and awesome things to do with kids in DC."  Apparently our train is a replica of an 1863 train and some of the slides in the adventure park are 60 feet long!  The train's hours are:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 10am-6pm
June 1 - August 24Open Daily Monday-Friday 10am-6pm
Saturday & Sunday 10am-7pm
August 25 - 30Closed
SeptemberOpen Labor Day, Saturdays and Sundays, 10am-6pm

The Wheaton Train is now in operation for the summer of 2013!  It is open on weekends in April and then every day of the week from May 1-August 26.  See the Montgomery County Parks Carousel and Miniature Train website for times, directions, and the complete schedule.  Tickets are only $1.75 each so these are rides everyone can enjoy.  It is a multi-car small train that can accommodate adults and children and runs on a pleasant trail of tracks through the forest and meadow, past Pine Lake, joggers, and hiking trails.  Come ride the train and enjoy the park!

The parking lot is off of Shorefield Road and is also shared by the Wheaton Carousel, a big adventure playground, and several picnic shelters. Brookside Gardens is also easy walking distance through the park.

To get there from metro, get off of the Red Line at Wheaton and go north on Georgia Ave then turn right onto Shorefield.  Remember bikes are allowed on metro on the weekends and we have a spring break from track work until April 14!  Says the Metro CEO: "The spring break will give people an opportunity to experience the type of system we are working toward."  I am really enjoying the efficient and fast weekend metro.

Wheaton Regional Park Train Station, July 4, 2013, from the parking lot.
Wheaton Regional Park train as seen from a hiking trail in the woods, May 1, 2013.
A view of Wheaton Carousel, July 4, 2013. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Construction Update: Old First Baptist Church of Wheaton Site on Georgia Avenue

From the far southwestern side of the Wheaton Mall parking lot
As reported here, Wheaton church to be turned into luxury condos in June 2012, the construction project on Georgia Avenue just south of LA Fitness and the intersection with Viers Mill Road is going to be the "Solaire-Wheaton," a 232-unit luxury condo building.

From outside Montgomery Royal Theaters

The project (that's the official website with photo) is scheduled for completion in March 2014 and will be 6 stories including a 2 level parking garage on the bottom (hopefully underground).  The new building is expected to have a swimming pool, landscaped courtyard, fitness center, and is hoping for LEED Certification. According to the Washington Post, "about 60 percent of the units will be one-bedroom apartments, 30 percent will be two-bedrooms and 10 percent will be studios."

The only problem I predict with this site is that it is difficult to get to by walking or biking.  I had to try three vantage points before getting a decent view of the construction (all of these photos are from March 9, 2013).  That area is hilly and has too much traffic driving through it on Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road.

Maybe the people who live in this new large luxury building will do something to help calm the traffic at that intersection -- if they walk!  Otherwise they could make it worse by driving.  I hope this new development also helps combat the idea that Wheaton has a lot of low-income apartments.

From the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road
This location is the former site of the First Baptist Church of Wheaton, which has renamed itself Streams of Hope Church and relocated to Olney, MD. Their new location is farther north on Georgia Avenue, just north of the Intercounty Connector Highway.

I hope they are happy with their decision to cash out.  The new building bodes well for our neighborhood and we still have a lot of churches nearby.

Bike Commute for Effortless Exercise

Daffodils in Brookside Gardens, March 30, 2013
An inspiring article today is a good follow-up to my blog posts (recently and earlier) about how to bicycle:
"Studies show that bike commuting is one of the best ways to stay healthy."
It is such a good thing to do because it gets us active and exercising without us having to devote any of our leisure hours specifically to it.  Most of us have to commute anyway, so doing it on a bike gives us passive exercise!  It is a perfect situation.

And with the weather warming up it is a perfect time to get on a bicycle!  I expect those racks at the metro station to be filling up soon (haven't seen it yet, ever).  Rest assured that if they are full you can chain the bike up to any signpost or parking meter without an issue.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thoughts on the Silver Spring Transit Center

It has been under construction for years and was supposed to open in 2009.  I expected it to be finished soon after I moved to the area, instead it is still under construction and uncertainty abounds about its future.

I saw an article today in the WaPo "Metro could walk away from taking over Silver Spring Transit Center."  Apparently, Metro could refuse to take over the transit center if they don't agree that whatever repairs are made are good enough.  It sounds like Foulger-Pratt doesn't have a plan yet about how to fix it.

How about this idea... If the transit center is unrepairable, what if the land where it is built (prime real estate adjacent to the metro station) is put up for bids for privately funded projects?  Let a developer build a big condo building on that site with the requirement that the transit center be included on the first three floors of that building.  That way perhaps a different private developer would build the whole thing without charging the country taxpayers, and we would finally get a transit center.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Construction Update: The Exchange at Wheaton Station

Safeway Building, February 2013
Wondering about that huge building going up at Georgia Ave & Reedie, directly next to the Wheaton metro station? It is "The Exchange at Wheaton Station," planned to open in the summer of 2013!

Safeway Building, September 2012
It is a 486-Unit, 17-Story Apartment over Retail Tower being built by Foulger-Pratt. Inside it on ground level will be a large Safeway grocery store, SunTrust bank, Bergman’s drycleaner, and Starbucks coffee shop. There will be a parking garage for shoppers underground & a garage for residents above the stores, & the building is should even be LEED Certified!

Since my first trip to Wheaton last winter this space has been a large gaping hole in the ground.  I wasn't sure what the new building was replacing, but some research showed me that there used to be a "Zombie Safeway" there.  Here is a photo retrospective of that store's progress from functioning to closed to demolished.

I'm glad the new Safeway will be an urban building design!  That will be so much better than the old car-centric design.
"Ashes to Ashes, Dirt to Dirt" (from here), Safeway Post-Demolition, Spring 2012
The closed, space wasting, car-centric Wheaton Safeway in January 2010 (picture from here).

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Picking up Trash is Fun and Rewarding: A Trip to Wheaton Regional Park

A bag of trash collected in the park
A bag of trash collected in the park
On a trip to Wheaton Regional Park last weekend, two of us picked up 3 nice plastic bags of trash.  It felt very good to make a difference in the landscape.

Motivations: keep the place clean so it stays clean (people are less likely to drop litter in a litter-free environment) & prevent trash from flowing into our streams, rivers, and eventually making its way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Trash free view of Wheaton Regional Park
Trash free view of Wheaton Regional Park
Plus, it feels really good to help out nature in this way!  Try it, you'll like it! 

It is easy to retrieve a plastic bag that is hanging off of a tree or bush and fill it with bottles, cans, and other plastic bags as one walks around outside.  The amount of plastic bag waste is amazing, especially given the Montgomery County plastic bag fee. I can't even imagine the quantity of plastic bag waste there must have been flying around our parks before that fee!

I walked to the metro several times in the last week due to a flat bike tire, and also picked up a bag of recyclables en route yesterday.

Stormwater catchment system near train depot in Wheaton Regional Park
Stormwater catchment system near train depot in Wheaton Regional Park

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Another pedestrian hit by a car in Wheaton-Glenmont: This time a hit and run!

Map of collision area from
I'm shocked to read about another car-walker collision death in the Wheaton area this week.  It was again on or near Connecticut Ave, a busy main road where traffic regularly speeds.  This time, in the Aspen Hill/Glenmont area.  The victim was found on Elby Street near Connecticut Avenue

The driver shamefully left the scene and this is a hit and run.

Can we get some community outrage now?  Can we get some traffic speed enforcement on Connecticut, Georgia, University, etc?  What has to happen for cars to stop speeding through our neighborhoods and hitting people? 

As I wrote about last week, this keeps happening.  This is the fourth innocent pedestrian death in four weeks in the area that closely surrounds Wheaton. 

As reported by Patch (same link as above):
Montgomery County police are looking for a Toyota Corolla in connection with a hit-and-run that occurred in Aspen Hill Tuesday night. Police said via Twitter that the car in question is of unknown color and a model from the late 1990s to the early 2000s.  
According to a police statement, Ali appeared to have been crossing from east to west on Connecticut Avenue at Everton Street. She had crossed the northbound lanes safely but was struck by a vehicle in the southbound lanes.
Detectives are requesting that anyone with information contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240.773.6620. Callers may remain anonymous.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Crosswalk Area Problematic Configurations in Wheaton: Inquiry to State and Response

Welcome readers from Just Up the Pike's Facebook page! I am happy to see this blog featured there today and called insightful. Thanks to that we've had 171 page views already today, after a maximum of 12 on any other day so far.


I have been concerned about the pedestrian crosswalk situation in Wheaton since moving here. Some intersections have the type of setup where one has to press a button for the walk signal to turn from red to white (which first requires noticing that a button press is required and making it to the button). Others lack marked crosswalks at all, have them near the intersection but not at the actual intersection, or have crosswalks that are simply disregarded by cars at busy intersections.  A lot of pedestrians cross against the signal or at unmarked spots (which can be dangerous) when intersections are designed in either of those ways.

Today I want to write about Amherst Avenue and University Avenue -- which is an intersection with press button crosswalks and obstacles obstructing one of the buttons -- and Amherst Avenue and Arcola Avenue -- an intersection with a painted crosswalk covering only one of three possible crossings.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Dangerous conditions in Montgomery County should be improved

I have been taking photos and mentally preparing posts all week, but haven't had a chance to write them up.

One thing I do want to do is join Greater Greater Washington in writing about the sad, preventable traffic deaths of three adults in our county in the past three weeks. These collisions happened near Wheaton -- one in Aspen Hill and two in White Oak. These two other communities are similar to Wheaton in many ways, with large fast roads running through them and too much traffic, but dissimilar in that Wheaton has more stores and restaurants and has a metro station.

There needs to be some public outrage about these deaths and the lack of response to them. In the Wheaton Patch story about this, the police person interviewed gave a totally inappropriate response almost blaming the victims of this crash for the accidents. I hope some motion can start in our community to show the police that they need to hold drivers responsible for creating conditions that are conducive to other life existing on the streets.

The problem is that traffic regularly travels on Georgia Avenue at completely unsafe speeds. We need some speed limit enforcement on Georgia at least from Silver Spring downtown north through Aspen Hill. Drivers should also be pulled over and cited by police for not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.


This topic resonates with me strongly and I was thinking of it this morning when I snapped the photo below of the landscape walking along Georgia Avenue in Wheaton. The traffic was going past very fast and the sidewalk was positioned directly alongside the road.

Society could really improve life by making it easier and more pleasant to walk.
Traffic on Georgia Ave in Wheaton at 9:15am on a weekday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shopping for a Spiritual Home: The Church of the Atonement

I went to the Atonement church on Sunday, February 11, for their 11:00 am service, continuing my series of church adventures in Wheaton. My overall impression is that it was friendly, with lots of contemporary music. I had never been to a church service that had a live band before. They had a group with guitars, drums, a violin, and flute at various times, a small choir, and a couple of featured singers on mics at the front.

The pastor spoke rather informally without standing behind the pulpit.  He had a lot of enthusiasm and sort of reminded me of a passionate Reverend from a movie.

They kept mentioning their "bible study" classes and "Sunday School" classes that they were offering earlier in the morning.  They did Communion the day that I was there (perhaps they do it every week) and did it in a closed manner -- asking people to refrain from joining in the ceremony unless they had been baptized.  I prefer the attitude of more liberal churches like UCC where everyone can participate in Communion.

It is a Reformed Presbyterian type church and has a lot of evening activities. Is located on Georgia Ave near the boarder of Wheaton and Forest Glen.
The Church of the Atonement on Georgia Avenue, viewed from Amherst Avenue.

Friday, February 15, 2013

How to Bike to the Wheaton Metro Station

Bicycle parking area at Wheaton metro station's east exit.
Informal bicycle parking area at Wheaton metro station's east exit.
Here are photos of the bike parking areas that I mentioned in an earlier post.

I recommend that anyone who drives to the metro (especially from a mile or less away) consider riding their bicycle there instead.  It is great for your health and happiness, for the environment, and saves you money!

To bike to the metro:

  1. First, plan your route. Googlemaps has a bicycling directions option so use that to view all of the actual bicycle routes, but don't be afraid to bike directly on side streets and sidewalks of busy roads. We are considered vehicles and can officially go anywhere a car can go except highways.  Using a Googlemaps bike map, click on the "A" on the map & drag it to your starting point.  Then click on the purple suggested route and drag the line to adjust it to other route options. 
  2. Try to avoid Georgia Avenue, since biking on it (even on the sidewalk) is loud and rather unpleasant.  Cars speed and there are a lot of pedestrians on the sidewalks.  If Georgia is your quickest route to the metro, consider the small residential roads that run parallel on each side!  These streets do things to calm (slow) car traffic and are perfect for bikes.  Amherst Ave is on the eastern side to the north and south of the metro.  The northwestern side has Grandview Ave and the southwestern side (northern Kensington) has the Mall parking lot.  All of these alternatives to Georgia are quieter and calmer.  I do bike on the sidewalks along Georgia occasionally and it is certainly do-able, just less scenic. 
  3. Get a bike and a lock (you may already have these) and just do it!  There is no need for fancy equipment or clothing.  Bike at a moderate pace, go slowly up inclines and coast joyfully down them, and just wear your normal work clothes.  I usually carry a small backpack instead of a shoulder bag since having the weight centered makes my balance more stable. 
    • If you aren't in shape, consider biking one way one day, get picked up/walk/take a bus home that night, leave the bike at the metro overnight, use the same way to get back to the metro the next morning, then bike home the second night.  Sufficient rest for your muscles will keep bike commuting fun.
    • Also, know that it gets easier as you get more experience. Pretty soon you'll be able to bike your route like it is second nature.
    • If the weather is cold wear lots of layers. In the current winter weather I wear long underwear, work clothes, winter boots, a ski jacket, warm hat, & two pairs of gloves.
    • Remember to look around as you're riding and breathe in the fresh air on the side streets. Know that you're helping the planet and keeping yourself in shape!
    • Those are all the tips I can think of.  Any questions?

Future Plans:

The next step for me may be biking all the way to work in downtown DC.  I haven't done that since moving to Wheaton.  Sometime this spring I will do it and report back.  I think the best route will be to bike on the Sligo Creek Parkway Trail to either Silver Spring downtown or Takoma Park, then catch the Metropolitan Branch Trail the rest of the way to DC.

A good time to bike all the way to work may be the annual Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 17, 2013. I plan to participate in some way, if not biking the 15 miles from home to work, then I will get off the metro at Catholic University and use Capital Bikeshare to go the rest of the way from there.

BTWD is an awesome experience of group goodwill.  I participated several years from my old tiny dwelling place in DC to work.  The event includes bike convoys downtown from many starting points around the DC area and "pit stop" events with speakers, snacks, and giveaways.  The biggest pit stop is at Freedom Plaza in DC.

With any luck an experienced bike commuter from Wheaton, Glenmont, or Kensington (or even Forest Glen) will lead a BTWD convoy downtown that I can join.