Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wheaton Recreaction Center/Library Renewal - Comments on Planned Construction

Update 6/27/14: The film "Led Zeppelin Played Here" is being screened at AFI Silver Spring for a week!  Check it out!


There is a huge construction project planned for Wheaton that I haven't touched on yet -- the construction of a new Library and Recreation Center.  There is a debate about whether to demolish the old Rec Center's building or save it.  I hadn't formed a strong opinion one way or the other -- until the past couple of days.

Yesterday JUTP published a nice piece about December's 50th anniversary celebration of the current Rec Center building mentioning its history and artistic attributes.  The building does look unique with its Japanese-style rooflines.

Near the end of the article it is mentioned that there is "a list of 13 organizations willing to take over the building" and reuse it for other purposes" (the arts, theater, a cultural center) and here's a proposal for how the site could be used to include both the existing and new buildings. 
How the new recreation center and library (right) could fit in with the old one. Image from Montgomery County Planning Department and from JUTP blog.

That is pretty convincing. This sounds like the perfect solution.  Instead of just letting a group use it, the county should auction the old building off.  Why not have the 13 interested groups make offers?  It could include in the contract that the group that gets the building has to bring it up to code as well as keep the historic facade.  That way the county could make some money on it, the building is reused instead of being demolished (remember Reduce, Reuse, Recycle?), historic preservationists are happy, a community group has a space which also adds more life to the community vs a grassy open lot where that building used to be.

This ideas is so logical it boggles my mind.  It doesn't matter if the building is auctioned off cheaply -- at least it isn't given away.  And the community group that gets the building gets to choose their own renovation plans and do whatever they want inside, as long as it passes safety inspections.  Some community groups might be able to renovate the building cheaply using volunteer/donated labor.  More power to them!  I see no reason to demolish a building that can be renovated.


Personally, I use the library a lot more than the rec center.  The library is very well used so I hope it can be rebuilt as quickly as possible once the construction project begins.  I don't mind the delays in beginning the construction because that means I get to use the library longer before it is temporarily closed, and I'm sure the crowds studying and using the computers there every night agree.  The library serves a vital role in the community -- people fill the tables reading and studying while other people occupy all of the computer terminals every time I go there in the evenings.

I hope the newly constructed library will be more spacious to accommodate all of these people along with the book stacks, children's area, and used book store.  There is clearly a need in Wheaton for study/computer lab space.  It will be sad when our library is temporarily closed to be rebuilt, even though I know it will be nice to eventually have a new building.

I hope the sidewalk outside the library and rec center can remain open during the construction so people don't have to cross the street to avoid it as they did when the Wheaton Safeway was under construction.  That was a major inconvenience.

Also, during the construction I hope the authorities lay a new sidewalk that is set back from the street so it is more pleasant for walking. They should then remove the old sidewalk and plant grass and trees in the area between the new one and the road, as is already the practice in other locations in Wheaton.  See my post about this here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fence to keep Metro Patrons from Safeway, Lack of Snow Removal, and Ava Wheaton Planned Construction

It has been quite a while since I wrote a post.  I think about things to write quite often as moving around Wheaton, but have been busy and not able to write them down and upload the photos.  This blogging experience has given me a new admiration and respect for journalists.  It is hard to keep writing about a topic. 

One things that struck me tonight is an apparent fence that is being built in the vegetation median down the center of the street.  The issue is that the Metro station entrance/exit is directly across Reedie Drive from an entrance to the new Safeway grocery store.  So naturally people take the most direct route, walking across the street.

Instead of building a crosswalk there for the citizens walking across the street, the county or the state or someone is apparently building a fence.  I just hope the fence is pleasant to look at, because the trees and ornamental grasses that are planted there are pleasant and lots of people wait at the bus stop outside the Metro station.  They are entitled to a nice view and convenient route to their destinations.  Why does urban planning often go against logic the way I see it?
View down Reedie Drive from Georgia Ave intersection, showing the new black fence posts.
View of the Safeway entrance and the fencing company truck.

View of the nearest crosswalk at the corner downhill.
The following photos show Wheaton's unshoveled sidewalks after the last snowstorm. These two were taken February 18, well after the original storm.  The snow had been completely cleared from the street but was still covering the sidewalk in many places.

I wish the police would ticket these people who don't clear their sidewalks.  This is alongside a parcel that will be redeveloped soon, so apparently the owners aren't concerned about the safety of those who live nearby now.
Snowcovered sidewalk on Georgia Ave north of Blueridge Ave.
This stretch of sidewalk goes very close to the road and a big area of grass is isolated with chainlink fence for no apparent reason alongside.  I wish this fence would be removed so people and animals can use that grass.  Why is a big empty area fenced off??  And why didn't whoever owns it clear the sidewalk alongside?  I hope they were ticketed.
Snowy sidewalk a little bit farther north on Georgia Ave.
Here is the development application notice for Ava Wheaton, the large apartment building that someone wants to build at Georgia Ave and Blueridge Ave, next to the unshoveled sidewalk. Here's a story from October about that development.  It will be designed to attract millennials by consisting of smaller than normal apartment sizes and seeing like nice places to live without including high end appliances. This keeps the cost lower.  It will be in a nice location, near Wheaton's restaurants and only about a block from the library.
Development Application Notice for Ava Wheaton

For sale sign for big parking lot next to the proposed Ava Wheaton - This sign is gone as of 2/27/14.
I have more photos to share but these are the most recent.