ROCKVILLE, Md., April 11, 2012—The Montgomery County Council on April 10 unanimously gave tentative approval to the Wheaton Redevelopment Program in the County’s Fiscal Years 2013-18 Capital Budget. The program will guide revitalization of Wheaton’s downtown area, with more than $66.1 million committed to create a civic core in the heart of downtown Wheaton.
Council President Roger Berliner, Vice President Nancy Navarro and Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Marc Elrich, Valerie Ervin, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, Craig Rice and Hans Riemer voted to support a proposal that differed in some key areas from the plan proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett. The Council will formally approve the plan when it approves the six-year Capital Improvements Program in late May.
One significant part of the plan will be the County’s commitment to build a 150,000 square foot headquarters building for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) and large town square—with ample green space—on what is known as Parking Lot 13 near Triangle Lane. The site currently includes approximately 150 to 160 parking spaces. It is estimated that a new government office building will bring more than 400 employees to downtown Wheaton each day. The project will not only include employee parking, but also will include public parking to replace the spaces lost on Parking Lot 13.
Over the next two years, the County will conduct a series of studies to prepare for redevelopment and begin designing the government-owned building and the town square. The plan also includes funding to study and begin planning construction of a platform above the WMATA (Metro) bus bay site at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road.
The Wheaton Redevelopment Program was established in 2000, with the goal of encouraging private reinvestment through targeted, complementary public investment.
“As the Councilmember representing Wheaton, it is my priority to see significant revitalization that attracts more people to the area and helps existing small businesses,” said Councilmember Navarro, who represents Council District 4. “This action by the Council—to invest more than $66 million in Wheaton over the next six years—will put us on a path toward accomplishing our full vision of Wheaton redevelopment.”
Councilmember Navarro said the County has listened carefully to residents and business owners during the planning process for downtown Wheaton.
“One of the biggest concerns I've heard from small business owners is about the availability of parking during construction,” she said. “The County will explore all of the possible options related to parking and develop a comprehensive plan to address this issue before construction begins.”
Revitalization of the central business district is only one element of my comprehensive approach for Wheaton's revitalization. Earlier this year, the Council tentatively approved accelerating construction of the future new Wheaton library and recreation center. The Council also decided to maintain the modernization schedules of Wheaton and Edison high schools after the County Executive recommended those projects be delayed.
“The Council’s action affirms its long-standing commitment to Wheaton’s revitalization,” said Council President Berliner. “The plan is solid, real and will increase the appeal of Wheaton on many levels, including the development of a long-desired town square.”
Counclmember Riemer said: "Wheaton revitalization is just getting started. We need to expand into a truly comprehensive strategy embracing all tools that the County can bring to bear. Now is the time to craft a long term and sustained program for Wheaton."
Councilmember Leventhal said the adopted plan addresses many key aspects needed for a successful redevelopment of downtown Wheaton.
“I am bullish on Wheaton’s future,” said Councilmember Leventhal. “With this investment in a new M-NCPPC headquarters, along with the Council’s decisions to accelerate construction of the new Wheaton Library and Recreation Center and renovation of Wheaton-Edison High School, Wheaton has done very well in this capital budget. The private sector is already responding to County government’s interest in revitalizing Wheaton, as the Safeway project and Costco are well underway and the Lowe Building has applied for a new development project. I am confident that a successful effort involving both local government and the private sector will continue in the coming years.”
Councilmember Floreen, who chairs the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, said: “This plan gets Wheaton moving. It provides a new employment presence, green space and a long-term commitment to doing what it takes to make Wheaton shine.”
# # # #