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Wheaton Redevelopment Update 2011

February 2011

At the last WRAC meeting B.F. Saul attended and reported working on components of the concept plan including ideas for blocking e.g. what could go where. Phase 1 will be the bus bay area. Community outreach is ongoing. B.F. Saul has a relationship with Cornell University’s Capstone Program and is allowing students to submit idea.

Wheaton Sector Plan – had 5th and 6th work sessions and one more is planned for February 24 to tie up loose ends and revisit/wrap up discussion on the CR Zone. Tentative timeline includes adoption the sector plan in 2012.
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March 2011

B.F. Saul is continuing the concept planning process, going back and forth with what they can get. Residential plans are being impacted by parking limitations. Office, hotel and retail still in the plan – only residential is in question. B.F. Saul is still trying to get more information on the Parking Lot 13 part of the project. Also asking what the Wheaton community will support.

BB&T Bank project approved by County Council on March 1. Community still voicing concerns about the CR Zone, that the CR Zone will nullify current plans and protections. Construction not scheduled to start in the next few years.

Costco Warehouse construction may start in about 1 year.

Washington Property Co – hosting a public meeting March 21 at 7 pm about development plans for the First Baptist Church of Wheaton property. Patriot Realty purchased the Safeway property. Construction beginning this summer is possible.

Avalon Bay – work on the property is stopping and the property (most of the block on Bueridge Avenue with the BB&T Bank at top of hill) is being put on the market after much starting and stopping in the last 5 years.

Wheaton Sector Plan – Planning Board had its last Sector Plan work session on Feb. 17, where modifications to the CR Zone were discussed. Approval by the Planning Board for transmittal to County Council anticipated for March 17. Formal submission to Council anticipated on April 15 at which point Council will begin its review process.
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August 2011

B.F. Saul Co. – The County and WMATA, assisted by Jones, Lang, LaSalle, a global real estate services firm, continue to analyze B.F. Saul Co.’s proforma statements for the Wheaton’s New Downtown Concept Plan. The County will be proceeding with additional engineering to better determine the project’s likely costs. This information is necessary before a General Development Agreement can be executed. Two draft concept images, previously shared with WRAC, were posted on the Wheaton’s New Downtown website. The purpose of the images was to illustrate the placement of structures, their function (office, retail, etc.) and their relative scale.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – At the July WRAC meeting, Councilmember Marc Elrich presented a case for the implementation for Bus Rapid Transit in Montgomery County, citing positive environmental impacts and increasing mobility. From a cost perspective, implementing BRT would be substantially less expensive and less disruptive than light or heavy rail systems. As envisioned, BRT would operate on 120-150 miles of dedicated paths built in the County’s existing roadway network. If the aesthetics, functionality, and affordability of BRT are properly addressed, Mr. Elrich believes that BRT is capable of creating a shift in many County residents’ perceptions of public transit, from a needs based to a choice-based system of transportation.

Capital Improvements Program (CIP) – Preparations have begun for the next capital improvement budget cycle. The CIP is prepared biannually in even-numbered fiscal years and covers a 6-year span. The Wheaton Redevelopment CIP will focus on moving the Public-Private concept proposed for Parking Lot 13 and the WMATA Bus bays forward.

Ennalls-Price Roadway Connection – To both facilitate the Wheaton’s New Downtown development, and to implement the proposed Sector Plan grid connection between Ennalls Avenue and Price Avenue, DGS contracted with the engineering firm of Loiederman Soltesz Associate to undertake initial engineering to assure the feasibility of this roadway. Despite grade challenges, this road connection is feasible.

Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 11-01 – Introduced at the June 13, County Council session, this ZTA addresses potential impacts of the Commercial-Residential Zone on transitional areas, focusing on levels of density, height restriction and permitted uses. The Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee (PHED) is assessing this legislation. That assessment may address possible alternatives methods for crediting public amenities. After the Councils August recess, PHED work sessions on the ZTA will continue in September.

Wheaton Sector Plan/Design Guidelines – On July 19, the County Council held a public hearing for the Wheaton Sector Plan. The majority of speakers spoke in support of the Plans overall goals, highlighting revitalization of the downtown core through transit-oriented, mixed-use development. Areas of concern included proposed zoning for transitional neighborhoods, watershed preservation and improvement, and accessory apartments. The Council’s Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee (PHED) will begin work sessions on the Plan in September.

Mid-County Regional Services Center – Natalie Cantor retired from service as the Director of the Mid-County Regional Services Center on June 30, 2011. Roylene Roberts has been appointed Acting Director. Ms Roberts is the Chief of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ Revitalization Division. The County Executive has recommended Ana Lopez van Balen for appointment as the new Director for Mid County. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the County Council. Ms. Lopez van Balen served as Executive Director of Community Bridges, a leadership and empowerment organizations for low-income girls.

Westfield Wheaton Mall – announced that it is in the process of obtaining permits for construction of the Costco facility. Westfield anticipates Costco opening in late summer 2012. Sears Outlet Store has opened in the former Office Depot location. Panera Bread opened in the Mall on July 15 and Elevation Burger is expected to open soon as well. Westfield also announced that H & M will open a 2-level store in the Mall in November 2011. The Special Exception Hearing for the Costco Fueling Station, scheduled for September 22, 2011, has been postponed by the applicant.

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