Wheaton Redevelopment In The News

Gosh, we skip town for a few days and look what happens. Amber Parcher hits another four-article grand slam on today’s Gazette front page, and some good stuff too. Of course the big news is the MoCo council opposing the Costco gas station fast-track scheme, and I’m down with that. I’m not opposed to the Costco — in fact I think I lean slightly in favor, but it’s a complicated issue — and I’m not even necessarily opposed to Costco gas, though I won’t wait in line for it. But I am in favor of environmental review, and I am skeptical anytime someone insists that fast-tracking is crucial to a project. Often they’re just hoping to get something shady done before people can stop it.  Not always, but often. So I’m glad the council is applying some brakes, here.

But I thought the more interesting articles were on redevelopment, particularly the long one about Greenhill Capital and some of its Wheaton tenants (or ex-tenants). It gave multiple parties many inches of copy to support their positions; it could have been a hatchet job on Greenhill but wasn’t. I recommend the whole thing, and just have a couple of comments here. One, Wheaton commercial asking rents are almost certainly too high right now, especially on Georgia (that’s why so many storefronts are vacant), but probably won’t be too high in the future (though we don’t know how far in the future), and since contracts lock in multiple years, you have to find a happy medium. In any case, Eddie Velasquez and DeJaBel got caught in that particular squeeze.

Two, those Georgia/University storefronts might be prime spots someday, but they’re not there yet, and may never be unless more office space goes up in Wheaton’s core. Some people in the other, related Gazette article mention more housing is needed, and that’s true, but more housing is already on the way right at the Metro, and surely there will be more in the core eventually. But what is really needed — a problem not yet solved and barely addressed as far as I can tell — is office space, to bring lots of people to the core of Wheaton (not the mall — Costco doesn’t qualify) during the day so they can eat lunch here and shop during and after work (and hopefully take public transportation home in many cases) and provide additional tax base. Who will be Wheaton’s Discovery Channel? Disappointing that didn’t come up in the article.

And three, I can’t figure out quite what’s up with the Hollywood East situation. According to the article, it was the original Price Avenue location where the rent trouble started; I had assumed it was all about the second University location and that they had always planned on cutting the original location loose once they were set up “On the Boulevard.” Unlike the DeJaBel situation, the Hollywood East situation seems less fact-intensive and more he-said she-said. Hard to say for sure. Anyway, like they say, read the whole thing(s).

Also, it sounds like the MoCo council’s big Costco hearing that was set for April 20 has been postponed until May 20 (in the Werner Council Building, 7th Floor, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville) — so says the Gazette, although the nascent WUDAC blog has not yet updated the date. Let’s go, Natalie!

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Dave for noting the recent DCmud post on the Safeway@WheatonMetro project.


5 responses to “Wheaton Redevelopment In The News

  1. Planning consultant/D.C. blogger Richard Layman frequently points out that office workers don’t support a lot of retail space – generally about 2 square feet of retail or 5 of restaurant per office worker. That’s about 200-500 workers for a coffee shop like DeJaBel.

    Downtown Silver Spring was a job center for decades before the revitalization really took hold. Only a handful of office buildings have gone up in the past five years – it’s been mostly apartments and condos. So while it’s definitely important for Wheaton to have a larger office base, don’t underestimate the significance of more housing in the CBD. It’s residents, not workers, who will be patronizing those shops on evenings and weekends.

    And given that all of Wheaton isn’t very dense now and will continue to be so (no one’s gonna knock down all the little ramblers around the CBD), it’ll also be very dependent on people coming from throughout MoCo and the region. It needs to become regionally relevant so that someone from Gaithersburg or Bethesda or Olney would come there.

    Wheaton’s spectacular dining scene (and the spectacular blogs who write about it) is a good first step. Now the question is how we can make a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon out of a single good meal. Solve that and you’ll get all the visitors you need.

  2. Thanks Dan, interesting info and I’m willing to concede the point. Although I still think a major office tenant, in addition to providing some level of retail shopping support, would also help Wheaton’s image substantially around the region, making more people okay with the idea that spending an evening out in Wheaton is kinda cool.

  3. dave in wheaton

    As you say in point number 2- residential development is on the way in the CBD. DCMud had this post about the Safeway site on tuesday. How is there no mention of this project in that Gazette redevelopment story? Kind of a big omission, no?

    The Greenhill piece did a lot of original reporting. Kudos to the Gazette for that article.

  4. Thanks Dave, good catch and thanks for the link, I think several things were left out of the various stories. On the other hand, I’m pleased the Gazette devoted so much space to these issues, even if they missed a few things, and I agree, the Greenhill story was particularly excellent.

  5. Thoroughly delighted with the postponement of the Costco review as they’d be really daft to skip the environmental review. It certainly shouldnt be taken for granted. I too lean towards Costco, probably more than lean 🙂 I’d love to see what this area could become and that’s probably a good start (unless it causes Giant and Target to leave!)

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