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


  1. I completely agree that open space is paramount to a successful, redeveloped Wheaton. I'm so glad you mentioned Veterans Park! This has got to be the least used park in the entire county and for good reason. It's incredibly uninviting and is used only once a year, on Veterans Day, as far as I can tell. It wouldn't even be that difficult to improve the park! Adding some seating to the plaza like you suggested would go a long way towards activating the space. It's increasingly important that this occur sooner rather than later given the impending arrival of the Wheaton Exchange apartments. Those residents and all the adjoining apartment dwellers deserve some modicum of attractive, public outdoor space.

    Updating Veterans Park is a good first step to creating better public use spaces in Wheaton, but we need to think bigger. The county should look at building the platform above the Wheaton Metro bus bay, but turning it into an urban park (Highline Park in NYC immediately come to mind). An architecturally unique public park in the core of the Wheaton CBD could be the signature feature that it's currently lacking. This would give you roughly 2 acres of open space as opposed to the 1/3 of an acre park that is currently proposed for Lot 13. 1/3 of an acre isn't going to cut it for a downtown area. Residents of Downtown Silver Spring are beginning to realize this themselves and have been pushing for larger urban parks that go beyond the pocket parks that have become so prevalent there. If you create excellent public use spaces it will put more people on the street which is a fundamental goal of Wheaton redevelopment.

    I understand that some Wheaton residents are still holding out hope that the bus bay platform could someday be home to office towers and a hotel, but given the current vacancy rates and estimates of excess supply in the region for decades to come, I can't foresee a scenario in which commercial development of this parcel makes financial sense. To do nothing on top of the bus bay would be a missed opportunity, however. I'm of the opinion that doing something with this space is better than nothing.

    On a less grandiose level, it would be great to have a new gateway sign for Wheaton at the intersection of Veirs Mill and Georgia. The current sign is just pathetic looking. Replacing the current sign with a new sign that is of a similar size and reflects Wheaton's new logo is OK, but we need to think bigger again. Design a larger welcome sign with some artistic flair and that gets the community talking. And put it on the traffic island instead of on the WMATA property so it stands out. You can barely see it where it currently is.

    1. This is a great idea for Wheaton redevelopment, Chris! I strongly suggest adding it to the County website. It is easy to register there and start adding ideas. I'll "love" your idea after you add it!

  2. Great catch, Avocado. I hope the engage Montgomery forum on Wheaton Redevelopment will be well used! It will only be open for one month. Chris, you should put your idea about the gateway sign up on the forum. I would love to see something more significant and iconic than just a sign, though.

    1. There are 6 great ideas at the site now. I hope people keep adding ideas & liking the ideas that are there. This shows the county that we care about Wheaton. There are 23 days left in the open comment period.