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Meeting Notes: Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee

The committee received updates on redevelopment in downtown Wheaton and the selection of an architect for the Wheaton Library and recreation center project.

The Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee discussed the Wheaton Library project, redevelopment on Parking Lot 13, and Wheaton’s small businesses at its Nov. 28 meeting at the Mid-County Regional Services Center.

Wheaton Library

Greg Ossont, deputy director of the Department of General Services for Montgomery County, presented an update on the progress of the Wheaton Library and Recreation Center project, which would combine the two facilities on Georgia Avenue into new building.

Ossont told the advisory committee that the county has decided to use Grimm + Parker, an architecture firm with offices in Calverton, MD, and McClean, VA. Grimm + Parker is already under contract with the county.

Redevelopment advisory committee members expressed displeasure that the county did not seek more community input when selecting the firm and voted to send a letter of concern to the county executive.

No specific project contract has yet been signed with Grimm + Parker.

Small Business Survey and Redevelopment in Lot 13

Peter McGinnity of the county's Wheaton Redevelopment Program presented results from a survey of small businesses in Wheaton. He told WRAC that after a similar survey in 2005, the county offered programs and resources to support the small businesses, but there was low participation.

The 2012 survey shows that overall attitudes toward redevelopment have not changed that much. What has changed, McGinnity said, is a sense of urgency, now that the county council has approved construction of an office building on top of a central parking lot used by customers of many of the small businesses in the heart of Wheaton.

Ash Kosiewicz, lead organizer for the Coalition for the Fair Redevelopment of Wheaton, asked the advisory committee to write a letter of support for Wheaton’s small businesses. The Coalition wants the county to pledge to protect small businesses through the redevelopment process, in part by funding the Small Business Assistance Program established in April by Bill 6-12

The office building will be shared by the Department of General Services and the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission. Both agencies must negotiate a memorandum of understanding for the county council before plans can proceed. The DGS and M-NCCPC must also determine how much square footage they need in the building. Oudens Knoop Knoop + Sachs Architects is advising them during this first phase of developing programs of requirement.

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WRAC, an advisory committee to the county executive, meets the third Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m in the Mid-County Regional Services Center at 2424 Reedie Drive in Wheaton. (Note: The committee would have met on Nov. 21, according to its regular schedule, but the meeting was rescheduled to Nov. 28 due to the Thanksgiving holiday.)

[Editor's Note: Grimm + Parker Architects was misspelled in an earlier version of this article. We regret the error.]

AntonFisher December 03, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Thanks Esther! were there any discussions related to Westfield and Costco?
Anne Goodwin December 03, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Maybe I'm missing something, but I love Wheaton as it is! The library is accessible and has plenty of parking, plus a great selection of materials and a book store. The Wheaton Triangle has been a favorite shopping destination for over 30 years; the variety of small shops is a delight. Marchone's is a treasure. Parking is not a problem. I am concerned that new building would displace current businesses by raising rents to unaffordable levels.
Kathleen Michels December 03, 2012 at 04:12 PM
wheaton is an urban downtown.and cannot thrive as a suiurban strip mall. Land is precious. Parking should go under buildings. Wheaton has no space for civic and community events and gatherings. Businsses, especially restauramts have been dying because of the lack of daytime foot traffic. We need civic and office uses and space.
Kathleen Michels December 03, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Also we are an.arts and entertainment district but have no spaces for arts and entertainment! We need to incorporate arts and entertainment and civic spaces into the redevelopment. The proposed childrens international museum/ discoveey center would be perfect for wheaton
Randall Spadoni December 03, 2012 at 05:36 PM
We love Wheaton, too, but that doesn't mean that we can't continue to improve it. We would love to see a more walkable, vibrant downtown that attracts families in the evenings and weekends and still maintains some of the best restaurants and small business (like Marchone's). I agree with parking under buildings---parking lot 13 means easy access for small business but is otherwise a major dead spot in the center of a town that is bursting with residential development. Kathleen, it the "proposed children's international museum" something that is actually being discussed for Wheaton? Or is that just a new idea that could be pursued?
Icedcoffee December 04, 2012 at 12:34 AM
I would like to know more about the children's museum too. There are so many public and private schools in the area (and of course families) that this would be a wonderful addition to Wheaton if it was done well. I still dream about an independent coffee shop too (I still miss Dejabel).
Randall Spadoni December 05, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Esther, can you update us on whatever happened with the Wheaton Revitalization Implementation Working Group proposed by Navarro and Reimer? Did it die or is it still being discussed? Regardless of whether we have one or two groups advising Wheaton's redevelopment, I hope the group(s) can provide strong partnership and accountability for the county's continued attention on redeveloping Wheaton. If Navarro's new group doesn't come about, I hope WRAC can build a stronger relationship with the county council.
Adam Fogel December 05, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Thanks for the question. The resolution that would have created the Working Group was not voted on by the Council. (http://wheaton-md.patch.com/articles/navarro-riemer-delay-vote-for-wheaton-working-group). However, the Wheaton Public Safety Working Group has been formed since then and has met already to discuss a variety of issues that the Implementation Group would have taken up. You can read more here: http://wheaton-md.patch.com/articles/perception-of-increased-crime-in-wheaton-to-be-addressed At the Council, the relevant committees (Planning, Housing, & Economic Development, Health & Human Services, Education) will continue monitoring the progress of the Capital Improvements Projects that Council President Navarro has championed (Wheaton Redevelopment Program, Wheaton Library & Recreation Center, Wheaton/Edison HS Modernization). Our office will continue engaging with WRAC, as well as the Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board (MCCAB) and the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee (WUDAC), to keep their members apprised of all discussions at the Council. We will also continue monitoring the work of the Executive Branch to make sure these projects stay on schedule. Council President Navarro is and continues to be committed to Wheaton's revitalization. Adding these important projects to the capital budget is only the beginning. Thanks again for your question. Sincerely, Adam Fogel Chief of Staff Office of Council President Nancy Navarro
AntonFisher December 05, 2012 at 09:13 PM
".....will continue monitoring the progress of the Capital Improvements Projects that Council President Navarro has championed." Seriously, the capital project that Navarro CHAMPIONED?!!! "Our office will continue engaging with WRAC, as well as the Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board (MCCAB) and the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee (WUDAC), ...." Again, SERIOUSLY!???? Navarro championed the council to throw all of the work from WUDAC and WRAC in favor of her plans for Wheaton Redevelopment. What are you talking about here, stop blowing smoke.
ED December 05, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Even though some people don't agree with "how" the redevelopment of downtown Wheaton will occur, it will still occur. The County Council could have just as easily said no to the BF Saul project for fiscal reasons and not come up with any other development proposal. I think Council President Navarro and the rest of the Council should be commended for keeping the Wheaton High School/Edison Center renovation on track and for supporting both the Wheaton Library/Rec Center project and the redevelopment of downtown Wheaton.
Commentous December 05, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Rather than rehash everything that happened, though "how" was a big part of the issue, the substance affected and effected by the "how" was a big issue too. If open meetings had been held, people might have chosen nothing over the planned government building (with employees who drive to work regularly instead of taking Metro). Or maybe not. We'll never know because the Council decided what was best for Wheaton without trying to get input from a broad range of Wheaton residents. I hope that the Council actually does know better than the people who live here, which is what they clearly believe.
Donna R. Savage December 06, 2012 at 03:19 AM
There is so much wonderful potential for Wheaton, in addition to what already exists here. A vibrant, walkable community is a laudable goal. And yet it is possible that a 16-pump Costco mega gas station, pumping 8 times as much gas in a year as the average gas station in our area, could be located LESS THAN 3/10ths OF A MILE from the Wheaton Metro platform!!! We've all heard of "smart growth." This proposal is "stupid growth"! Check out www.stopcostcogas.org -- The Stop Costco Gas Coalition. -- Donna R. Savage
TaL December 06, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Oh my GOD! A gas station near a Metro station! Like the 2 gas stations next to Glenmont Metro, or the three within a block of the Silver Spring metro or the one around the corner from the Takoma metro or the lovely air next to the NY Ave metro and the gas station around the corner from Union Station? What ever will we do now.... Never mind that the Metro platform is *underground* and the air intakes are on the East side off Reedie, so Im not sure at all what your point is
AntonFisher December 06, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Two of the three gas stations near Glenmont Metro closed; the Free State at Georgia and Layhill and the other one at Georgia and Randolph. Now, there is only one gas station in Glenmont and that is more than enough.
Interrobang December 06, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Why is one gas station more than enough? Competition is good!
ED December 06, 2012 at 02:15 PM
According to the State, Smartgrowth is supposed to reduce “automobile dependency” and increase “access to transit, walking, and bicycling“. Montgomery County has greatly increased density and reduced parking in Metro areas with the explanation that this is the policy of Smartgrowth. To me, it makes no sense and counteracts the policy to allow a car magnet in the form of a mega-gas station in a Smartgrowth area. It is one thing to have a couple of small, pre-existing gas stations in a Smartgrowth area, it is another to allow more - especially mega-gas stations.
AntonFisher December 06, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Chester C. - Competetion is good, but to have gas stations on top of a metro station is an oxymoron, let alone more than one.

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