Saturday, July 29, 2017

East Rockville Summer News

Though ERCA is not having any meetings during this summer, several different things are going on in the neighborhood during the summer months. Though delayed, the South Stonestreet Avenue road diet is currently underway, and when I passed by this morning the new sidewalk on the western side of the street, adjacent to Rockville Station, was visible and seemed to be nearly completed. Construction on the promised bike lane on the northbound side of the street, however, did not seem to have begun. In the Southlawn area, an asphalt crushing facility is being planned for a site on Old Dover Road, which, according to an extremely comprehensive review of the project by Suzan Pitman, the civic association president, does not seem like it will have a tremendous impact, whether environmental, noise-related, or traffic-related, on East Rockville or Lincoln Park. Finally, as part of a project that I am working on through an organization called LearnServe International, I am looking to widen the scope of involvement in the civic association by encouraging East Rockville residents to go to at least two different neighbors this summer and informing them about ERCA and what the organization does. If possible, it would be best if their email addresses could be collected in order to add them to the ERCA email list to help them become aware of what is going on in their neighborhood.

Monday, May 8, 2017

East Rockville Civic Association Meeting Tomorrow

The May East Rockville Civic Association meeting will take place at the Croydon Park Pump House tomorrow night, starting at 7:30 PM, with plant swapping beginning at 7:15 PM. This month's topic will be on the East Rockville neighborhood plan and the citywide Rockville 2040 plan with Andrea Gilles as the guest speaker. Because Andrea is also a major figure in the Stonestreet Corridor Study, if you did not get a chance to come out to last Tuesday's meeting on this study, tonight would probably be a good time to ask any questions you have. I encourage all of you who live in East Rockville to come out to the meeting tonight, and, if you are a voting member of the association or would like to become one, don't forget to pay your 2017 dues!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Stonestreet Corridor Kickoff Meeting

Last Tuesday, I attended the first of many Stonestreet Corridor planning meetings. This corridor has seen numerous plans adopted or proposed for its redevelopment, and the City of Rockville is trying once again to create a comprehensive plan to guide development in the area based on the current feelings of community members, the 2004 East Rockville Neighborhood Plan and the 2007 Lincoln Park Neighborhood Plan, and the results of the 2006 Stonestreet Avenue Redevelopment Implementation Plan, which was not adopted. Although the meeting was on a Tuesday at 7:00 PM, a large crowd came out to offer their input, and the Lincoln Park Community Center's gym space was full of residents and businessowners who wanted their opinions heard.
The northern portion of the Stonestreet Avenue corridor. Image Credit: Rockville Nights
After a short presentation on the background of the corridor, each table worked with a map and sticky notes, as well as a city-designated moderator, to discuss what they wanted to see in the corridor and what they liked about the corridor today. At my table, people felt very differently about what they wanted from the corridor, but there was a general consensus on several things"
  • The existing surface parking lot in front of Rockville Metrorail Station should be redeveloped into mixed-use apartment buildings of about 3-5 stories in height.
  • Existing residential areas to the east of Stonestreet should not be redeveloped and should maintain their existing character. (Personally, I disagree, and feel that areas within a block or two of Stonestreet should be made into a transition zone where developers would be allowed to build duplexes or two/four flats along with new homes, though new development of any sort would have to meet strict standards, such as a minimum setback requirement and a visual impact requirement).
  • Something should be changed in the industrial areas in the central part of the corridor. Some felt that this change should come in the form of complete redevlopment, replacing existing buildings with lower-density mixed-use buildings, while others felt this change should come in the form of rebuilding existing industrial areas to better front the street to improve the pedestrian environment, and historic buildings such as the Lincoln High School should be reopened as landmarks.
  • Pedestrian and cyclist experiences along Stonestreet should be improved through the addition of more amenities for these groups.
Regardless of your opinion on what should happen to Stonestreet, getting this opinion heard is paramount. The City will conduct a few more input meetings to collect information to formulate a plan for the corridor, and your voice is needed to create a better Stonestreet! For information on meeting times and other developments in the corridor, visit this page to sign up for email updates, or contact Andrea Gilles at 240-314-8273 (

Friday, April 14, 2017

What We Can Learn from Chicago

I spent a weekend in Chicago recently, and in many ways East Rockville could learn a lot from the way the city is planned.
  • The city is built on a grid, which creates a very positive environment for walking and transit.
  • Large swaths of the city, though they have fairly low population density, are able to support thriving business districts and scattered apartment buildings which blend into the fabric of smaller, dense homes quite well, even as they are demolished and rebuilt periodically.
    These newer condominium buildings (foreground), coupled with older apartments (background), provide a nice mix of housing stock in the West Ridge area.

    Less than a block away, turn of the century single-family homes sit next to 1930s Chicago-style bungalows.

    And, about one block further, the Western Avenue business district provides residents with restaurants, convenience stores, florists, and even a hardware store.
  • This is something many East Rockvillians fear (I assume that this is due to a thought that this will result in the entire neighborhood's housing stock becoming dense multifamily), but, with strict development guidelines as are present in Chicago, a more dense East Rockville which still prioritizes the neighborhood's single family character is possible.
  • Each neighborhood has a very distinct identity, which is created through neighborhood banners, murals, signs, and other place making elements. To get people to identify their residence as "East Rockville" and feel an even stronger sense of connection with the neighborhood, something similar could be useful.
    The Uptown neighborhood's Argyle Street is home to a large number of Southeast Asian businesses and residents, and uses murals and signs to help exhibit its unique identity to visitors. (image credits: Landscape Architecture Magazine)
  • Additionally, neighborhoods are unafraid to sway from the status quo, and try something new to confront a problem the area faces. For example, the above-mentioned Argyle Street in Uptown, due to its large number of pedestrians and relatively narrow sidewalks, has recently implemented a "shared street" project, raising the street level to that of the surrounding sidewalks and installing planters in a way that slows down car traffic.

    When I visited on a fairly busy Saturday night, everything seemed to be functioning smoothly and cars were moving fairly slowly. A street design like this could be useful for a redesigned North Stonestreet Avenue, or for Park Road.
  • Finally, the city's use of alleys is something that East Rockville should strive to emulate. Our neighborhood has some now, and the city owns the right-of-way for many more which could be resurrected. In Chicago, these alleys serve to divert extremely local traffic off of local streets, contain many garages and other car-dependent uses, and are a place for trash to be put out on collection days. If strictly enforced in East Rockville, streets with alleys could become much more pedestrian friendly and aesthetically pleasing quite quickly.
    The alley here serves as an informal parking lot for neighborhood cars, as well as a place to put out trash for residents of West Ridge on Chicago's Far North Side.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

East Rockville Surveys

Suzan Pitman, President of ERCA, has created two surveys to gauge citizen opinion about the future of housing and transportation in East Rockville, and I encourage those who live and work in the neighborhood to take them! Additionally, tonight's meeting is cancelled on account of the snow. The housing survey can be found here, and the transportation one here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

East Rockville Housing Meeting

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting to discuss the future of housing in East Rockville, and the possible directions that the neighborhood could take to either add people or remain in its current state. Overall, most present seemed very much willing to grow as a neighborhood, although there were several opinions on the manner in which this could be done. Hosted by David Levy and Ann Wallas, different types of housing discussed for addition to the neighborhood included Accessory Dwelling Units (ACDs), duplexes, fourplexes, townhouses, courtyard housing, small multiplexes, and live/work units.
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An example of an ACD, with the unit on the right and the main residence on the left. These saw most support at the meeting, however under current codes are difficult to do. Image Credit:
Although ACDs did see widespread support, thanks to existing city codes they are hard to create, and, because they would have to be created by residents on their own initiative, may not be built and would therefore not actually have much support. Most people felt that these would work well in Burgundy Knolls, England's Second Addition, Harriet Park, and Rockville Park. Additionally, there was limit support for duplexes and fourplexes, especially in the Croydon Park and England's Second Addition areas, with concern about historic preservation being present in the Rockville Park. Additionally, live/work units saw support for the Stonestreet corridor, as did small multiplexes. Courtyard housing saw niche support as well, which, if the city takes these findings into consideration, would mean that East Rockville would, though in a limited manner, add some density to its borders and allow for housing to stay affordable and the neighborhood to grow.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Meet Rockville's New City Manager

On Tuesday, February 14th, a "meet and greet" with the city's new manager, Rob DiSpirito, at the Croydon Park Pump House at 401 South Horners Lane from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. If you have any questions about the city's current plans, or about his work experience and what he plans for the city, drop by!