Residents Speak Up at Wheaton Redevelopment Meeting (Video)
The difference between a town square and a plaza was up to debate Wednesday as dozens of residents attended a meeting at Wheaton High School where developers gave an update on the plans for redeveloping Wheaton Triangle.While many citizens in the crowd were happy with a newly added interactive waterspout design, others disagreed that the current plan presented by representatives from Stonebridge Carras/Bozzuto Development, the selected developer for the project, represented the “Town Square” that they hoped would help to revitalize Wheaton.
“In my view, and I am not an urban planner or architect, the most successful cities and towns are those which have places all in the same general area where people work and live and entertain themselves,” said Wheaton resident Bruce Shulman.
“This plan only meets two of those. It’s a place where people work and it’s a place where people live. This is truly not a town square. It’s a plaza. It will be sterile after dark,” Shulman said.
But the those behind the project disagreed, saying that they’re working towards a balance that would both attract crowds and bring new retailers to an area in need of redevelopment.
“We think it’s a town square, we designed it as a town square and hopefully it will be a town square,” said Al Roshdieh Deputy Director for Montgomery County Department of Transportation. “We designed the location to be active at night so the idea is not just putting in an office building that closes at 5 p.m.”
The redevelopment program includes plans for an outdoor entertainment area, retail space, residential units, and the 12-story Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning office building. As clarified after a question by a resident during the meeting, there will not be any non-governmental office space available for lease.
High performance facades and a vegetated green roof, among other elements, will help the plans to reach “Leed Gold Certified level,” according to developers.
At the first two community meetings on the project, residents spoke out against the exterior design for the building and developers from Stonebridge Carras made it clear at the third meeting that they were trying something different.
“When you say that you really hate the building and it’s a glass box like a downtown building, we’ve heard you and we’ll show you what it’s not going to look like,” said Douglas Firstenberg, a founding principle of Stonebridge real estate development firm.
The new design is “sleeker” and is designed to “look more like Wheaton,” Firstenberg said.
Some residents in attendance said that while the design is better, it’s still not quite what they were looking for.
“It’s obviously not quite there yet with the change,” said Elizabeth Chaisson, a Wheaton resident and urban planner during the meeting. “I’m sure we can find some better exteriors for this building. I’m not sure that fiber cement board is it yet.”
If approved, construction is slated to start in 2016 and open to the public in spring of 2018.
More information on the project can be found on the County’s website here.