Re-Imagining the FG Metro – Adding a Montgomery Hills Entrance

Last week FFG reported on MoCo’s decision to merge the Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills Master Plans as MoCo envisions economic revitalization for both areas. But what if this Master Plan included a 2nd Forest Glen Metro entrance on the southern side of Georgia Avenue at Montgomery Hills? According to MoCo – there is space at the end of the metro platform for a such a tunnel extension.

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WMATA already owns land right next to the historic shopping center where the current FG Metro’s power station resides (pictured below).

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If FG and Montgomery Hills develop as the Master Plan suggests, the roughly 25-acre combined area could be rebranded as a mini-city. Could a second FG metro entrance connect the two areas in a way that the Georgia Ave Pedestrian Bridge developers could ever imagine? Although there are plenty of DC stations that have multiple entrances such as Dupont Circle or U-Street, there are also a few suburban stations that have multiple entrances such as the White Flint Metro Station in Rockville (pictured below).

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The Georgia Ave Pedestrian Bridge is useful for crossing over I-495 by foot – but its design, elevation and exposure to the elements often make it cumbersome to use. A southern Georgia Avenue metro entrance could prove to be more useful than the currently underutilized pedestrian bridge.

Even though the Montgomery Hills Shopping Center was deemed as a non-historic property in 1987, the tudor revival styled area is one of the largest operating shopping centers in MoCo that has retained its original architectural features. As Silver Spring began to grow in the 1910s and 1920s, corner grocery stores began to appear in suburban areas where these kind of developments were isolated as commercial structures in mostly residential neighborhoods. Communities such as Chevy Chase deliberately banned commercial development as they were unfitting to the prestigious nature of its residential neighborhoods. Recognizing that such shopping facilities were inevitable, a few forward-minded developers took it upon themselves to design and build a block of stores in areas deemed for commercial use (pictured below a 1987 photograph of Montgomery Hills).

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Today:

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Plagued by traffic and congestion, a new FG metro entrance could breathe life into this once thriving neighborhood shopping center and create a new urban oasis nestled between downtown Silver Spring and Wheaton. If the new FG/Montgomery Hills consolidated Master Plan materializes along with new transit friendly mix-used development, Silver Spring could add another revitalized neighborhood with a rich history to its list.

Now the hard part is coming up with a name –  FG Hills anyone?

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Forest Glen & Montgomery Hills Master Plan Revamp – Part 1

BREAKING NEWS – the Forest Glen & Montgomery Hills Master Plan Revamp – redeveloping a community nestled between DTSS and Wheaton – A TWO PART Series.

FFG was recently notified of a brand new plan to consolidate the Forest Glen Master Plan with the Montgomery Hills Commercial District! In this week’s edition, FFG will report on this new project and the implications for this consolidation as the Forest Glen Metro Parking lot redevelopment continues and as Gov. Hogan makes a decision on the proposed  (Purple Line Stop) near the Forest Glen Annex

Part 1 – Montgomery Hills
By integrating the Montgomery Hills Commercial District with the Forest Glen Master Plan, the consolidation could create a sense of community between the two areas currently divided by Georgia Ave and the  Beltway Pedestrian Bridge.

Although this isn’t the first time Georgia Ave has been considered for redevelopment, it is interesting that MoCo is consolidating both of these projects given how their respective plans could drastically change the area.
Located on roughly 18 acres along Georgia Ave between I-495 and 16th Street, Montgomery Hills is an older commercial district that has been plagued with many traffic issues and limited commercial/office development. Major retailers include the CVS, Staples and the Sniders Superfoods Market – a grocery store that caters to its local customer base. Other smaller businesses such as Woodside Deli and Goldberg’s New York Bagels have a large local and dedicated fan base and are likely to benefit from such a revamp. Additionally, given the large amount of surface parking lot space, it is foreseeable that any new developer could utilize this area as a mixed use development or bring more well known anchors with its proximity to the metro and Holy Cross hospital.
Although the Montgomery Hills Master Plan doesn’t address traffic issues per se (Maryland State Highway has jurisdiction over Georgia Ave), some of these changes could be a boon to revitalize this aged commercial area.

A few highlights from the redevelopment of Montgomery Hills include:

1) Relocating Utility lines underground (this is huge given what a eye sore some of these power lines can be).

2) Adding ornamental pedestrian lighting and street furnishings, and brick sidewalks (like some of the small    village centers you see in Bethesda).

3) Creating large medians with landscaping on Georgia Ave (this area is in great need of more greenery).

4) Extensive reconfiguring of parking lots with additional landscaping (ensuring better use of space).

5) Removal of billboards and coordinating awnings and signage (this will get rid of clutter currently plaguing the area)

6) Special crosswalk treatments (to promote better access from FG and surrounding neighborhoods).

7) A possible consolidation of the Montgomery Hills Car Wash with the Shell Gas Station (anyone who has spent much time on this stretch of Georgia Ave. knows how the traffic gets clogged because of the car wash!).

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Recognizing that this portion of Georgia Ave will always be busy (as a link to I-495 and 16th street), restructuring Montgomery Hills could connect communities like Forest Glen with Woodside Park and other neighborhoods.

With Montgomery County Council approval scheduled for February 2018, we could see a new Montgomery Hills/Forest Glen Consolidated area by 2020!

Exciting times for Forest Glen – stay tuned for Part 2 of this series next week covering the changes that will affect the Forest Glen Master Plan!

Throwback Thursday! May 7, 2015

Not much has changed from this 1990 Washington Post article covering the opening of the Forest Glen Metro. Today – opponents of the Purple Line have similar “NIMBY – Not in my backyard” views. Interesting tidbits – the discussion on whether the FG metro is the deepest in the world is amusing (we know this isn’t the case thanks to the advent of the Internet but it does appear to be the deepest in the U.S. from what I can see!). Also average home values in FG have gone up to around $450-500k from $190k in 1990!

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The Forest Glen Annex and the Purple Line

Governor Hogan is reportedly making his final decision this month on whether to support (and fund) the proposed Purple Line. As we await that decision, let’s take a moment to consider what kind of impact this project will have on the Forest Glen area.

The closest station to Forest Glen will be the Lyttonsville stop on the east side of the Lyttonsville Place Bridge. For most, this is a 15-20 min walk, and will effortlessly connect Forest Glen residents to the University of Maryland and Bethesda. The Purple Line will also connect the Army’s 138-acre Forest Glen Annex to the rest of the WMATA metro network.

Tucked away next to Rock Creek Park along Linden Lane and Brookville Road, the installation is home to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the Naval Medical Research Center. Both institutions are known for some of their recent HIV and Ebola research. Furthermore, a recently commissioned study by Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development estimates that the Forest Glen Annex generates upwards of $150 million of annual economic activity and supports nearly 1,500 jobs. A station near this installation would not only alleviate some of the installation’s traffic woes, but could also be a catalyst for other types of economic development and public-private partnerships which support the institutions’ research.

There are certainly plenty of vacant parking lots and empty warehouses around the Purple Line’s proposed Lyttonsville Place stop for this kind of development as well as other types of positive community development we tend to see supported by reliable rail transit centers.

Let your voice be heard today and click on the link below to send a supporting email to Gov. Hogan’s office!

Save the Purple Line!

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Contemplating the Georgia Avenue Tunnel

Have you ever tried crossing Georgia Ave from either side of Forest Glen Road? Well let’s just say it’s not the simplest of tasks. The Georgia Avenue/Forest Glen Road intersection is one of the most congested intersections in the County. Over 80,000 vehicles travel through the intersection daily, with a combined total of approximately 6,000 vehicles in the morning and evening peak hours. That being said, a proposal to create a tunnel below Georgia Ave has reached Governor Hogan’s desk and is awaiting funding. Additionally, Metro is soliciting proposals to develop the Forest Glen Metro Parking Lot

This will likely require developers to fund the pedestrian tunnel (which may cost as high as $ 17 million) and further access improvements that may include sidewalks, bike lanes and a dedicated left turning lane.
Call or email your State Delegate to let them know you want this project funded!

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Throwback Thursday! May 21, 2015

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(A photograph of the newly opened Forest Glen Metro stop on Nov 6, 1989 – Source: Washington Post)

On September 22, 1990, the Forest Glen Metro opened to the public with great anticipation with much curiosity on the high-speed elevators that drop customers to almost 200 feet. Many customers were rightly concerned about being stuck in the elevators during a power failure. Good to know WMATA has a back-up plan!

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(Source: Washington Post)