Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Montgomery County creates White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee

It's no great secret that the White Flint North Flintville area of Montgomery County is booming. With several massive mixed use developments currently under development and several more in the near-term pipeline, the area is going to change immensely over the next five to ten years. A drastic uptick in density and commercial activity means that north Flintville is changing, and in this blogger's meager opinion, that change is undoubtedly for the better.

However, how that change occurs, and ensuring that the changes are truly beneficial to nearby residents, is an ongoing concern for the County. After all, you don't want such drastically evolutionary change occuring without also ensuring that area residents, businesses and stakeholders have provided appropriate input that has been received and responded to.

it is with this in mind that the County recently announced the formation of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee. According to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center:
The Committee will advise County departments on public services in the White Flint Sector Plan Area; and coordinate community activities that promote and advance business interests, and a sense of place, community, maintenance and walkability within the Area. The Committee will also advise and make recommendations to the County Executive and County Council on the feasibility and timing for the establishment of the Urban District in White Flint no later than September 2017. The Committee will provide an annual report to the County Executive and County Council.

County Commissioner Ike Leggett (D) is seeking to fill eight vacancies on the Commission: three representatives of commercial property owners in the Sector Plan Area; two representatives of businesses that employ fewer than 25 employees; two representatives of residential communities in the Sector Plan Area, and one representative in or outside of the Sector Plan Area. In addition, according to the Regional Services Center, the Committee "will also include two members nominated by the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce; one representative who is a member of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board; and three ex-officio, non-voting members representing the County Executive, County Council, and North Bethesda Transportation Management District."

The White Flint Sector Plan was created in March 2010 following years of diligent, difficult work on teh part of amny in the community. According to the Montgomery County Planning Commission's website, the Sector Plan was designed and implemented with the following aims in mind:
  • Create thriving, diverse mixed use center with highest intensity closest to Metro and along Rockville Pike
  • Create new parks and open spaces
  • Transform Rockville Pike into a boulevard with street trees and improved crosswalks
  • Develop a transportation network that includes a grid of new public streets
  • Improve the pedestrian and bicycling environment
  • Promote sustainable development
The full plan can be downloaded and accessed here.

Members of the Advisory Committee will serve staggered three year terms. Those interested in being considered for positions on the Board can find more information on the County's website.

White Flint is "walkable"--but by how much?

A story in the Washington Post over the weekend highlighted the fact that the so-called "walkability" of a community is increasingly becoming a prized asset in the real estate world. The ability to walk to one's place of employment, to the grocery store, to restaurants, coffee shops and bars, and so forth is a highly desirable asset. From the Post's article:

“Walkable” is a feature sparking sales and energizing future development and redevelopment, according to a recent report by a George Washington University professor that calls the Washington area a national model for compact urban areas where residents can live and work without cars.
“The strongest housing market is in walkable urban areas,” says Christopher B. Leinberger, author of the report, “DC: The WalkUP Wake-Up Call.” “That’s where the demand is.” 
...Regionally significant walkable urban areas — referred to in the report as “WalkUPs” — have cultural amenities such as museums and libraries, offices, shopping, restaurants and different types of housing. There are 43 such neighborhoods in the Washington area, spanning seven counties. 
One of those 43 neighborhoods is the North Bethesda/White Flint area. The neighborhood rates pretty highly on the walkability index, scoring an 89 out of a possible 100 points. (The index rates the portion of day-to-day activities that can be accomplished within a ten minute walk--approximately 1/2 a mile--of one's home.) It's hard not to argue that, as far as suburban neighborhoods go, the White Flint area is indeed more walkable than many.

The sheer number of commercial centers lining Rockville Pike, coupled with the presence of the White Flint Metro station (and, a bit further north, of Twinbrook) coupled with access to numerous bus routes and sidewalk-accessible streets make it quite convenient to live one's life without the absolute need for a car. In fact, one might plausibly argue that we actually live within closer walking distance to a number of services and retailers than we did when we lived in Logan Circle in DC.

And yet, by and large, we both find ourselves driving more here than we did in DC. Why is that?

Part of the answer is sheer convenience. Parking is plentiful and free around nearly all of the commercial strip malls dotting the Pike, taking away a significant negative factor in trying to drive to destinations in dense urban environments. But part of it lies in how desirable it actually is is to walk around the North Bethesda area.

The picture above is the eastern side of Rockville Pike facing south, in front of the Mid-Pike Plaza, which is currently being redeveloped into a massive mixed-use development. Pedestrians walking along this part of the PIke find themselves encountering obstacles both physical (narrow sidewalks, horribly designed intersections and crosswalks, physical barriers, etc.) and mental (aesthetically unpleasing, and the unease that comes with walking immediately adjacent to an urban highway with cars flying past you at upwards of 50 mph). It all contributes to a feeling on the part of the pedestrian that maybe I'm not really supposed to be here.

Thus, the truly important question is not "can you walk somewhere?" Rather, it is "do you want to walk somewhere?" The Post article touches on this a bit towards the end:

But it’s not just about distance. Success depends on how appealing a walking environment is — whether there are trees and short blocks, for example — Goldman and other experts agree. If traffic is whipping past, if the sidewalks are adjacent to empty parking lots (or nonexistent), people won’t walk, they say.
Take Dan Hoffman, a government project manager, who could walk from his Randolph Hills neighborhood to the White Flint Metro station in 20 minutes but doesn’t because of physical obstacles (a fence) and traffic.
When the projects are complete, says Hoffman, chairman of the White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee, “Our neighborhood will be able to walk to dining, shopping, offices.”
And the walk to the Metro will become much safer and more appealing, Hoffman says.
I completely sympathize with Dan Hoffman, and I don't even have a fence blocking my efforts to walk. Most mornings and evenings, I walk to and from my home to the White Flint Metro station, and it is a trip wrought with obstacles. First, there is no simple way to access Rockville Pike from our home just off of Montrose Rd.--the most convenient way to do it involves cutting through the ill-planned commuter lot at Montrose and Hoya, then walking across an unpaved, muddy "desire path" to reach the sidewalk on the Pike (see below).

Once I've reached the Pike, I walk parallel to a street that basically acts as an urban highway, with cars, trucks, buses and utility vehicles flying by within feet of me at speeds regularly in excess of 50 mph. When I reach the intersection of Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road, I feel at times as if I am taking my life into my hands attempting to cross that intersection, as cars turning right onto Old Georgetown from the Pike are given a softly arcing turn that can easily be made at 30 mph--and that cuts directly through a crosswalk. More times than I can count, I have either had to dart quickly across the road, or relied upon the braking system of the car driven by the distracted driver who did not see the pedestrian crossing until it was almost too late.

Upon reaching Marinelli (where the Metro station is located), I must wait upwards of two minutes to cross the six-lane thoroughfare, whereupon I have to be particularly vigilant for left-turning vehicles who don't see or ignore pedestrians in the crosswalk. All the while, I can't shake the nagging feeling that I'm an outlier here, that I really shouldn't be out here walking around, even though the sidewalks and crosswalks say otherwise. I don't feel welcome. And all of that is to accomplish a walk that, by distance, is barely 1/2 a mile. Is it any wonder more people don't walk around here?

This is one of the greatest problems that the ongoing redevelopment of North Bethesda is attempting to solve. It's not simply the physical barriers and engineering, some of which is being addressed as new projects come online and changes or made to street grids and functionality in anticipation of an influx of new residents. Rather, it's also creating an environment where walking isn't simply legally permissible, but actually welcomed and encouraged.

This means building wider sidewalks, designing intersections that are friendly to both pedestrians and vehicles, creating a greater barrier between pedestrians and cars along the Pike and--yes--lowering the speed limit along the Pike.

Montgomery County is trumpeting the onslaught of new development surrounding the White Flint Metro as the beginning of the transformation of White Flint into a dense, walkable truly urban environment. And they're banking on a lot of people taking the Metro once they're here. I hope that they are successful in this endeavor, because it's going to take more than simply tall buildings and ground level retail to make White Flint a neighborhood that one wants to traverse using something other than an automobile.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Restaurant news: Rockville Ale House opens, Vegetable Garden closes

Following on the September opening in Rockville of popular DC restaurant Chef Geoffs in the former Houston's/Againn space, another new dining spot has hit the Rockville/North Bethesda scene. Rockville Pike became home to the nation's 57th Miller's Ale House, which opened recently at 1471 Rockville Pike, just north of the Congressional shopping plaza.

Miller's doesn't purport to offer anything particularly groundbreaking in either its food offerings or its drink menu. Its website boasts: "Can’t decide between a steak, fresh seafood or Buffalo wings? Our restaurant menu has it all," while the beer offerings won't be giving the always fantastic Gilly's a run for its money anytime soon. Still, it's an option to kick back with some drinks and pub fare in front of a bunch of TVs in a part of suburbia surprisingly lacking in such options. So I guess the people at Miller's did their research. The Ale House will be open till 2 AM Monday through Saturday, and until midnight on Sundays.

A bit farther down the Pike (and a bit late in delivering this news), a longtime Asian staple has closed its doors. The Vegetable Garden, which had a devoted following among those who crave good vegetarian Chinese cooking, shut down after a lengthy run in the strip mall across the street from the White Flint Metro station. Apparently the inevitable "lease issues" were to blame, with the strip mall owner in search of new tenants and having no qualms about losing old ones. (Witness the opening of the sex shop, La Tache, at the end of the strip mall.)

According to those who spoke with the owners, there are no plans to reopen. Another restaurant in the strip mall, Mediterranean House of Kabob, closed briefly earlier this year also following a dispute with the landlord. It has subsequently reopened.

For those still looking to get their vegetarian Chinese fix in Rockville, well, there remains no shortage of options. Chief among them is Yuan Fu, a bit farther north up the Pike.

North Flintville Perspectives: One North Bethesda

Snapped this photo of the recently opened One North Bethesda tower, located directly behind the entrance to the White Flint Metro station. ONB is one of the homes of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and is part of LCOR's larger North Bethesda Center project. Phase two of the project, including a second residential tower near the intersection of Marinelli and Chapman, is currently under construction.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

White Flint Metro platform retiling almost complete

If you're growing weary of walking around metal barricades and along wooden planking while you race to catch your train at Metro's White Flint station, your commute is about to become just a little bit easier. Metro is wrapping up a retiling of the platform of the outdoor station, transitioning from the glazed terra cotta tile to precast concrete pavers.

It is an upgrade Metro announced they would be making to all outdoor stations following successful testing of the concrete tiles at the Takoma station in 2009.

The replacement of the hexagonal tiles, an iconic part of the Metrorail system, is being done both for cost and safety reasons. According to Metro, the terra cotta tiles were not particularly durable at the outdoor stations, with many cracking and falling apart. Additionally, the glazed tiles could become slippery when wet, a problem that is also addressed by the new concrete pavers.

According to a statement made in Metro's press release on this issue from June 2009 from David Couch, Metro’s Managing Director of Engineering and Capital Projects,  “These new tiles also provide a safer and durable walking surface and will significantly reduce the life-cycle repair costs to Metrorail station platforms.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Symphony Park nears completion: Georgetown, Back Bay, or...something else?

When it was announced in June of 2010, Symphony Park, the residential development from Streetscape Partners located at the southeast corner of Strathmore Ave and Rockville Pike, was described by Streetscape's Ron Kaplan as being inspired by Georgetown, Boston's Back Bay and other "sophisticated communities." (Side point: If you've been to Smith Point on a Saturday night, "sophistication" is not the word that springs immediately to mind, but no matter.) The development consists of turn-of-the-(19th) century-inspired townhomes built at the base of a hill sloping up towards the Strathmore Mansion and Performing Arts Center. In addition to the "bucolic environment," a hallmark of the development will be several acres of reforested land they are dubbing "Symphony Park Forest."

With the development nearing completion, I paid it a visit recently and took a quick stroll around. The takeaway form my brief visit was that if neighborhoods such as Georgetown and Back Bat were the inspirations, it would be a stretch to consider Symphony Park aspirational; realistically, it fails in practically every conceivable way.

Let's establish something here at the outset: the homes look pleasant, but they are the kind of pseudo-Victorian style townhomes that are all the rage at moment in developments such as this and nearby Park Potomac: attractive enough, but nothing people are mistaking for the true Victorian mansions that line boulevards like East Capitol Street. Also like Park Potomac, they are grossly at odds with the nearby ramblers and colonials that line Strathmore Avenue--or anything else, for that matter.

And that is, unfortunately, where the similarities to neighborhoods such as Georgetown end.

It's farcical to see neighborhoods such as Back Bay brought up as comparisons to this, if for no other reason than the fact that the overall layout of the community--from its completely suburban cul-de-sac-esque street grid, to the inward-focused positioning of the houses away from Rockville Pike, to its complete refusal to integrate with the otherwise lovely Strathmore grounds, or to make any effort whatsoever to mesh with its surroundings--smacks of so many thoughtless, meandering suburban planned communities.

Which may be the point, really. Symphony Park is but the latest in a seemingly endlessly regurgitated stream of suburban developments promising to bring current and future residents a taste of the city life right there in the suburbs. Enjoy the Georgetown urban lifestyle without any of the negative externalities of urban living, it purports to say. Except you can't separate one from the other. You can't have density and all of the positives it brings without also getting a little scruffy and dirty, bumping into some people on the sidewalk, and occasionally encountering difficulties finding a places to park your Benz. Cities are inherently imperfect creatures, which is part of the reason why they hold such appeal. By attempting to sell a development as "urban" while lacking the unpredictable, imperfect, non-uniform-yet-cohesive structure of urban environments is to miss the point completely.

I keep returning to the idea of "authenticity" when writing about these nouveau suburban developments; considering why we view a neighborhood like Georgetown, which is populated largely by chain retail stores and mediocre dining, as "authentic" while a place like Rockville Town Center is viewed as inauthentic and contrived despite holding many similar characteristics. Part of it is simply age, part of it is density, but part of it also is the idea of organic development that is itself a small part of a greater whole. Neighborhoods like Back Bay fit comfortably into place within the larger puzzles that are the cities they inhabit. Places like Symphony Park do not, and its design virtually guarantees that it never will.

It borders on patronizing that a developer such as Streetscape, who utilized the same architectural firm, Lessard Group, that designed the equally atrocious Park Potomac development, would think that a few "historically inspired" townhouses built around a completely disconnected street grid and far removed from any commercial activity of any kind would compare itself to some of the country's most well-known urban neighborhoods. But there you go.

So these million-dollar homes will go up, they will be sold, people will move in and park their cars in the two-car garages located in the backs of each unit, and they will receive the occasional compliment from people who will remark that their home vaguely reminds them of some century-old ornate mansion in a neighborhood like Capitol Hill or Park Slope, and the residents will grin and nod. But they'll wonder why their day-to-day lives don't quite feel like they imagined they would if they were living in Georgetown, even as they get in their cars and drive north up the street a few blocks to the CVS and White Flint Mall.

Meanwhile, Strathmore and Montgomery County will have missed out on a tremendous opportunity to begin piecing together some semblance of a dense, cohesive urban neighborhood along the Pike, electing instead to go with a developer who gives the middle finger to context and environemtn, and mistakes faux-Victorian inspiration for the creation of a legitimate urban environment.

It bears mentioning that comparisons to Georgetown are wrong in one other aspect as well. With its location on the Strathmore grounds, Symphony Park residents will have access to something Georgetown residents do not: a Metro station.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Rockville project highlights difficulties of urban developments in suburban areas

Yesterday, the Gazette reported that Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) announced at a news conference that construction is set to begin this year on a $100 million dollar mixed-use development at the corner of East Middle Street and Monroe St. in Rockville Town Center. The 3.2 acre parcel is currently used as a parking lot for the Regal Cinema across the street. The project will be developed by Virginia-based Duball Projects.


The project will act as an infill development in the burgeoning Town Center, which opened in 2007 and has seen a steady stream of residents and retailers move in--most recently Dawson's Market, the development's first grocery store. It will receive a $4.16 million conditional grant from Montgomery County's economic development fund, which includes nearly $1 million from the City of Rockville.

Rockville Town Center is the core development meant to transform central Rockville from a drab center of government offices and strip malls into a vibrant, dense, transit-oriented neighborhood. I wrote previously on whether or not Rockville's Town Center, and others like it, can reasonably be called "urban". As this project demonstrates, density and proximity to transportation, while helpful, are not by themselves the sole indication of a project's "urban-ness." Take, for instance, the 1100 parking spaces that the project will bring.

The number of parking spaces included in the project dwarfs the number of parking spaces included in similar-sized developments in DC and other urban areas. Consider, for instance, that the mammoth City Center DC project, which will fill a lot more than three times the size of this proposed development, will offer only 1,550 parking spaces. For a development that is dense, walkable and only a few blocks away from the Metro, it's easy to castigate this project as doing too little to discourage parking and encourage the use of transit. But, in my judgment that would ignore the realities of the environment Rockville Town Center, and other similar suburban town center developments, finds itself in.

The truth is, centrally located though it may be, and although it is within easy walking distance to a Metro station, the majority of people still drive to the Town Center. Why? Well, several reasons actually, and they highlight the struggle to "urbanize" overwhelmingly suburban locales.

For one, it's just easier. Suburban towns and neighborhoods such as Rockville have been car-dependent for decades, and the overwhelming amount of infrastructure in place supports that. From major arterial roads like Rockville Pike and Gude Drive, to poorly maintained sidewalks and the near complete lack of bike lanes, the car remains king. And it would be foolish for developers to ignore that.

Second, being within close proximity to a Metro station is not in itself a sufficient driver of non-vehicular-based visits from people outside of the neighborhood. Forget Metro's spotty and unreliable service, bus and other alternative transit services remain lacking as well. The frequency of bus service along Rockville Pike, coupled with the traffic congestion of the Pike, makes bus commuting difficult and unreliable. For those with a car, driving is frequently far and away the best option.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, there is not yet a sufficiently high enough population within reasonable walking distance to the Town Center project for a developer to have confidence in being successful without providing accommodations for people to come from outside the immediate vicinity. This is a crucial point, and, by my thinking, strikes at the very heart of why people assail "town center"-type developments to be sterile, contrived islands of faux-urbanity amongst a sea of suburban sprawl. As I argued in my previous post on this, town centers feel contrived because they stand out so significantly from what's around them. With no cohesive urban fabric to blend into--no dense environs in immediate proximity, no commensurate population of residents, workers and visitors--town centers can feel cut off from what else is around them.

Thus, for projects such as Rockville Town Center to be successful, it must have infrastructure in place--including sufficient parking to meet anticipated demand--to reasonably attract people from outside of the immediate area.

The solutions to this quandary aren't immediate, but are doable. Some intermediate steps could be taken, such as focusing on improvements to non-Metrorail transit services, constructing and maintaining bike lanes and other cycling infrastructure, and taking steps to decreasing the pedestrian hostility evident along much of the Pike and other thoroughfares. But most solutions will be longer in coming than even those.

Make no mistake: I come down firmly on the side of those who believe that these town center-type developments present an enticing and desirable picture of what suburban living could come to entail. There just needs to be a thoughtful approach to them and other developments so that, gradually, entire areas are transformed. For instance, a neighborhood such as Mount Pleasant in DC was once a sleepy streetcar suburb, not the bustling urban neighborhood many think of today. The same could be said of many urban neighborhoods, both in DC and elsewhere.

As neighborhoods and regions develop, so do the character of those neighborhoods. And, with the right plans and growth model, perhaps at some point in the future we'll look back at a time when a project this size and in this location necessitated the inclusion of 1100 parking spaces. I hope so. Until then, it's hard to fault a developer for designing to the existing environment.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mid-Pike exodus continues: CVS, World Market moving out; zombies come in

It may seem strange to those living in DC, where a CVS can be found seemingly on every other block, that one might miss a CVS when it closes, but head north along the Pike and they get to be a bit farther apart from each other. Which is why I'm selfishly annoyed that the one CVS that is within walking distance to our home is packing up and relocating after next Friday, October 12.

CVS is moving to a strip mall a block south of the White Flint Metro station, across from White Flint Mall. The move is part of the ongoing exodus of shops out of the Mid-Pike Plaza shopping center, which is being redeveloped into a massive mixed-use project known as Pike & Rose.

World Market is set to follow suit, and will soon abandon its Mid-Pike home for a new one in the Federal Plaza shopping center a few blocks up the Pike.

No word on when the last tenants will move out (an event not likely to occur until well into 2013), although I can proudly report that the Urban Haunted House and its "70 zombies in 37,000 square feet of mock offices, laboratories, contamination pods and a morgue" is, um, alive and well. See, this is the kind of stuff you only see in the suburbs...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Foggy North FlintVille

Snapped this photo of a foggy Mid-Pike Plaza this morning on my way to the Metro. The fog gives the shrinking strip mall and even more apocalyptic feel than usual.

Note the barely visible cranes at work in the background on the Pike & Rose development, which is slowly taking over the Mid-Pike lot. Phase One of the project, focusing on the southwest corner of the 24 acre lot, is set to open in 2014, and will include an iPic Theater. When complete, Pike & Rose will feature more than 1 million sf of office space, 430,000 sf of retail, and a whopping 1.7 million sf of residential space.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Montgomery County proposing changes to RideOn/Metrobus routes

Montgomery County is proposing changes to six RideOn bus routes and the elimination of one Metrobus route. According to the notice distributed by the County, the changes are "to serve areas that have been recently developed and to eliminate sections of routes that are under performing."

The routes that are proposed to be impacted include the following:

Route 38
The route will be restructured to split at White Flint Station, creating two separate routes. Route 38 East will serve a new area in Connecticut Estates. Route 38 West will serve a new residential and business development, Park Potomac. The two routes will share the same end location at White Flint Station.

Route 47
Will serve a new residential and business development, Park Potomac.

Route 52
Route will be restructured to add more frequency, serve a new subdivision in Olney, but eliminate service along Headwaters Drive and reduce service on Olney Sandy Spring Road (MD108) between Prince Phillip Drive and Georgia Avenue.

Route 53
Will be restructured to improve on time performance and serve the ICC Park and Ride Lot. Eliminates service in the reverse direction of the rush hour from Olney to Shady Grove Metro

Route 58
Serves a new medical facility, Kaiser Permanente, along Watkins Mill Road. Provides improved connections with other Ride On routes.

Route 98
Extend the route to Kingsview Park and Ride Lot from Germantown Transit Center via Cinnamon Woods community during the peak hour and the SoccerPlex on weekends. Serves new Father Hurley Blvd extended. Adds new midday and Sunday service. Eliminates Seabreeze Court and service on Wisteria.

Route Z2 – Saturday
Will be discontinued. This service with low ridership duplicates existing service on Metrobus C8 and Z8

Comments to the proposed changes must be received no later than Monday, October 1. Comments can be sent to:

Division of Transit Services
Ride On Public Forum
101 Monroe Street, 5th floor
Rockville, Maryland 20850
(240) 777-5801 (fax)
Email: mcdot.rideonpublicforums@montgomerycountymd.gov

For more information, click here.

Treeless in Rockville: Dawson's Market gets off to a rough start

Yesterday, Dawson's Market celebrated its grand opening at Rockville Town Center. The long-awaited grocery store, the first under the "Dawson's" brand to be opened by Richmond, VA-based Ellwood Thompsons, prides itself on, according to its website, "a commitment to local and organic foods." That commitment is, according to Dawson's, "an extension of who we are and how we live. As a whole, we’re made up of people constantly searching for the best local products, tending to our gardens, recycling, composting, advocating, volunteering, riding our bikes, sampling chocolates and spirits, playing outdoors, and well…having fun."


That concern for the environment does not, apparently, extend to being kind to trees that might be blocking its sign. That, apparently, is no fun at all.

Rockville Patch reported earlier this week of the uproar created when Federal Realty Trust, which owns and operates the commercial parts  of the Town Center development, acquiesced to a request from Dawson's to remove four trees along N. Washington Street that were apparently blocking views of one of Dawson's signs. The trees lined a sidewalk that ran alongside a parking lot directly behind the store. (Patch has before and after photos of the street.)

Putting aside the illegality of the tree-cutting (The Gazette notes that the request to approve the removal of the trees had not been approved by the City, but questions remain as to whether verbal approval had been given), the disconnect between FRT's actions, Dawson's public statements, and the attempt to brand the Town Center as a pedestrian-focused "urban environment" are striking.

Simply put, cutting down trees in order to create an unobstructed view of a parking lot is not how environmentally focused businesses behave, and it's not the actions of a entity seeking to create a neighborhood that is truly pedestrian-friendly. Rather, it's a throwback to the suburban developments of yore that featured seas of parking lots and only token greenery, and thus created rather unwelcoming pedestrian environments.

Arboreal missteps notwithstanding, the opening of Dawson's constitutes the filling of a major hole in the Rockville Town Center commercial make-up: a grocery store. The store will provide 15,000 square feet of local and organic produce, meats, cheeses, prepared foods and baked goods.

Dawson's Facebook page has a number of photos of the store and its grand opening celebration from yesterday. Here's hoping their "commitment to the community" becomes a bit more focused as the store becomes more ingrained in the Rockville community.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Welcome to North Flintville

Hello, Montgomery County! Or, at least, our little slice of it. Welcome to North FlintVille, a new home on the Interwebs for all things North Bethesda/White Flint/Rockville.

Some of you may know me and my wife from our previous lives as the bloggers behind 14th & You, which covered the trappings of life in DC's Logan Circle neighborhood and which we maintained for approximately four years. When we moved up to Montgomery County just over a year ago, I decided to take a hiatus from blogging. Both because I was just getting worn out, and because I wasn't certain whether I would want to take the time and effort to launch a new blog on our new neighborhood. I wasn't really certain whether I would "connect" with our new home in a way that would make me care enough to hop onto the the computer a couple of times a week and share my thoughts about it. And for awhile, that's how things went.

But slowly, I began to start paying a bit closer attention to where we lived. I noticed things that I liked, and things that I thought could be better. I noticed lots of change going on as well: not just the new mega-developments springing up like dandelions around the White Flint Metro station, but the day-to-day stuff as well. The new restaurant that opens up, the established chain that shuts down, the new sidewalk in front of the Metro station (yay!) and the continued lack of a bike path of any kind along Rockville Pike (not yay). It began with a few off-hand comments to Mrs. North FlintVille, morphed into a couple of stray posts on our old internet home, and now has come to the creation of a new internet home where we can share news and pontifications about our corner of suburbia.

To the extent that we can, we'll aim to share news and information about our neighborhood: what's coming, what's going, what's good, what's bad. But also, from time to time, just some general thoughts about life in the 20852. I hope that we'll get a chance to connect with and meet the same kind of people--neighbors, friends, business owners, local officials--whom we were able to meet via our old blog. And I hope that some of our DC friends will check in from time to time on life beyond the District border. You'll find that we are, all in all, a pretty welcoming bunch.

Finally, I also want to draw your attention to our blog roll on the right side of the page, which includes links to some other MoCo-focused blogs that you might find interesting. Hopefully, we'll be able to add a bit to the conversation.

For questions, comments, ideas or suggestions, please feel free to leave us comments, or shoot us a note at northflintville@gmail.com. Here's looking forward to some fun times ahead.

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