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February WRAC Meeting Focuses on Wheaton's New Downtown

The Wheaton Redevelopment plans are in "steep competition with a number of other projects," the director of the county's Department of General Services told the Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee on Feb. 15.

 

The Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee (WRAC) welcomed two guests to its Feb. 15 meeting to discuss the on-going preparation for Wheaton’s impending redevelopment, ranging from high-level project overviews to more granular aspects of working with individual businesses in Wheaton.

Montgomery County Department of General Services Director David Dise provided an update on where redevelopment funding stood in discussion among county councilmembers, and which aspects of the project county funding would cover. Ana Lopez van Balen, the director of the Mid-County Regional Services Center, shared her recent work with small businesses in Wheaton and an update on plans for a small business program in conjunction with General Services.

Van Balen energized and engaged the committee with her opening statement that “as I am talking to people in Wheaton, my main talking point is this project of Wheaton Redevelopment is not a done deal, and we need your support.”

Dise supported her statement, explaining that “it will be difficult to do both the Purple Line and Wheaton Redevelopment at the same time.” He characterized the proposed $90 million elevator/tunnel access to the Purple Line project in Bethesda as a demonstration of the county’s support of the project, as they seek state and federal funds.

Van Balen also shared that Councilmember Nancy Navarro is “doing what she can,” including sending a letter of support to other councilmembers for County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposal, and the introduction of Bill 6-12. The bill would establish a program to assist small businesses affected by redevelopment projects in the county. Van Balen and Pete McGinnity, who manages the Wheaton Redevelopment Program, discussed a forthcoming multi-lingual (English/Spanish/Vietnamese/Chinese) survey that will assess the true needs and concerns of small businesses in Wheaton, as they prepare a small business support program.

Dise echoed Van Balen’s assessment of the state of Wheaton Redevelopment, stating “while we have a definitive plan, this project [Wheaton redevelopment] is in steep competition with a number of other projects.”

The General Services director broke down the projected $41 million county contribution to the project, which would include Phase 1’s temporary relocation of bus operations, the construction of the bus bay platform, site utilities and planning, design, engineering and other staff costs. Dise also unveiled a new set of renderings of each of the four phases of redevelopment construction (see PDF in Photos section to the right).

Discussion between the committee and Dise centered around how the Wheaton community can best demonstrate support for the redevelopment project to the county council. Dise shared his opinion that the “Coalition [for the Fair Redevelopment of Wheaton] has done a great job of representing that group's interests [to the council]." WRAC members went on to discuss how to bring together the support of developers, community and civic groups, and businesses in advance of the Feb. 28 County Council meeting, will focus on the Wheaton Redevelopment Project's place in the Capital Improvement Program. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Kathleen Michels February 19, 2012 at 07:04 PM
The elevators were not said in competition with Wheaton redevelopment just a short month ago. Now all of a sudden they want to give the 40 million instead to fund (JUST PART!) of the Bethesda metro elevators. WHY IS THAT EVEN A TRADE-OFF? Find other funds for the elevators. Over the past decade and more when something good is supposed to happen for Wheaton, the growing urban heart of montgomery County, the money is taken away and given to private interests or other parts of the county while the good that was to happen (rafferty athletic center, library/recreaton center renovation most recently) does not happen. A vibrant new urban core in Wheaton will benefit the whole county. Strong urban cores have circles of beneficial effects that go beyond the mere physical location. Again as Nancy Floreen stated in a candidates forum is Wheaton to instead be treated as the county's stepchild ?

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