At last week's monthly meeting of the Montgomery County Planning Board, MoCo planners unveiled an ambitious updated sector plan intended to spur redevelopment of the area surrounding the Glenmont metro station.
The previous plan, from 1997, envisioned a transit-oriented center surrounded by stable family-oriented neighborhoods, but the new plan seeks to seriously increase density by encouraging commercial development. The first major target of this strategy is the Glenmont Shopping Center, a 196,000 s.f. Sixties-era strip mall at Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road that, according to presenters, many in the community describe as "an eyesore." There hasn't been large-scale construction there for over a decade, a stretch of inactivity presenters ascribed to the patchwork ownership situation. At present, there are fifteen properties under thirteen ownerships; presenter and Montgomery County Planning Department senior planner Michael Brown said that his office had surveyed the owners and that "nine or ten of them agreed they wanted something to happen," but that that's as much of a consensus as they could reach. (Later in the meeting, someone remarked that solving this divided ownership situation should be at the top of the "to do" list. After a moment of silence, everyone broke out into cynical easier-said-than-done laughter.)
The second major parcel is Privacy World, presently a 31-acre complex of 352 garden apartments. Brown said that there was a development proposal "in the pipeline" to convert Privacy World into a 1500-unit mixed-use complex with ninety thousand s.f. of retail space. "It's the only private project in the pipeline right now."
But there is a significant amount of public development, which is partly why planners think now is the time to push forward with a wholesale makeover for the area. The state is building a raised interchange at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road which will significantly ease traffic flow in the area, and there's also a 1200 space parking garage being constructed by WMATA along Georgia, as well as a new Fire Station 18 going in next door.
Planners also singled out a trio of Sixties- and Seventies-era housing complexes for particular scrutiny: Winexburg Manor, a 625-unit 33 acre parcel, Glenway Gardens, a 214-unit 15 acre parcel, and Glenmont Forest, a 482-unit, 33 acre parcel of three-story garden apartments. "Given their age and condition," says the report, "their redevelopment potential should be evaluated." The presentation also touched on Glenmont Greenway, a large greenspace set on top of the Glenmont metro station. Residents have long complained that the space is desolate and deserted, a charge acknowledged by planners. "The 1997 plan intended for adjacent townhomes to activate the space," said Brown. "But they never came."
Brown outlined a tentative schedule for the next steps: a series of "community visioning" workshops throughout February and March, presenting the board with draft recommendations in April, a public hearing in September, and a finished planning board draft at the end of the year. (Board members remarked on this "aggressive scheduling," which provoked another round of rueful laughter.)
Though some board members urged Brown's office to consider ways of making the area more pedestrian and bike friendly, and warned of the "active discussion" he was sure to get from the community in response to the proposed changes, the scope of work sector plan was approved by the board unanimously. The first community visioning workshop is February 4th.
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