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Wheaton Redevelopment vs. Bethesda Metro South Entrance

Is this competition for real? What do you think?

Which is more urgently needed, the Wheaton Redevelopment or the Bethesda Metro South entrance? 

The two projects seem to be competing for attention (and millions) in the Montgomery County Capital Improvements Program. Or is this a false dichotomy? As many people have pointed out, all projects compete in the CIP budget for a limited amount of county funds.

Still, these projects appear to be linked in many minds this past month. 

Adam Fogel, Council Vice President Nancy Navarro’s chief of staff, that the Bethesda South Metro entrance construction project was competing directly with the Wheaton Redevelopment Program in the CIP.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett recommended $41 million for Wheaton Redevelopment in the CIP, and Navarro, whose area of representation includes Wheaton, circulated a memo to fellow councilmembers earlier this month, pledging her support for the redevelopment.

David Dise, director of the Department of General Services, that “it will be difficult to do both the Purple Line and Wheaton Redevelopment at the same time.”

Reporting by the Washington Examiner indicates that the Bethesda Metro funds may trump Wheaton Redevelopment for at least two Montgomery Councy Council members:

Two council members told Leggett "they would much prefer funding Bethesda and not fund the Wheaton project," the county executive said, though he would not say which council members.

A Montgomery County Council transportation committee voted earlier this month , even though Leggett recommended delaying. 

"Now is the time to move forward in Wheaton," Leggett told the Examiner. "I am committed to fully funding the South Bethesda entrance and moving forward on the Purple Line at the appropriate time."

“I think it’s premature to put the Wheaton redevelopment program against the Purple Line,” Councilmember Hans Riemer told the Gazette last week. “The Purple Line is a regional priority. It’s not important just to Bethesda or Silver Spring. It’s important to Wheaton, Rockville, Prince George’s County, the state of Maryland.”

Bethesda blogger Robert Dyer is on the side of the Metro entrance, for various reasons:

Clearly, if one has $42 million burning a hole in their pocket, a small portion of that could be used to provide more police resources, keep existing shopping and residential centers in good shape, and make highway and infrastructure improvements.

With pressing needs addressed, Wheaton is doing just fine. Visit sometime, and you'll find that - by golly - they do have good restaurants. Some of the best chicken can be ordered in Wheaton, and many critics have said the best dim sum is at Wheaton Plaza's Hollywood East Cafe.

Change will come to Wheaton, but let the market bring it, parcel by parcel. Developer profit in Wheaton is not an urgent concern of 99.9% of people there or countywide. What is urgent, is that we have a failing Metro entrance here in Bethesda.

Cavan Wilk, writing on the blog Greater Greater Washington, argues that the county should fund both projects by cutting down on the money spent for highway construction.

All the county has to do is defer some of the $359 million in new highways in the 6-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP). That $359 million is all for new capacity, over and above the necessary cost of maintaining the county's existing roads and bridges. (...)

Why does the County Executive claim that it doesn't have enough money for the Bethesda Metro, a necessary step for the Purple Line in the part of the county that generates the most tax revenue, and Wheaton, a prime spot for new mixed-use growth and an already-thriving community right on top of another Metro station, but can spend money on new roads in car-dependent areas which may grow in the future?

Who do you agree with? Or do you have a completely different opinion? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

TaL March 02, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Chip, while I agree with you in part, it would be nice if every other business was not a wire transfer shop, if there was a white table cloth eating option other than Christianas (which I love but some diversity eh), and if there was a hotel closer than rockville or DTSS amongst other complaints.
Commentous March 02, 2012 at 02:11 PM
When I see the statements of Hans Riemer and Bethesda Blogger, I question whether they and others in the County care about business and home owners in Wheaton. Mr. Riemer: How will a Purple Line help Wheaton when it won't even come close? It will come close to your constituents' area, of course. Also, I assume your district of Silver Spring (or is it "Silver Sprung"?) got County dollars for redevelopment. As for the blogger, he doesn't come here much now. He thinks crime is the only major problem in Wheaton; otherwise, with a few bucks, "Wheaton is doing just fine. Visit sometime ... the best chicken can be ordered in Wheaton, and many critics have said the best dim sum is at Wheaton Plaza's Hollywood East Cafe." We do have great restaurants (including Mr. Lazo's Los Chorros), but overall diversity in businesses is fading. Along with businesses mentioned by Mr. Lazo in his comment, gone are Barry's Magic Shop, Royal Mile, Sabang, Asian Foods market, Kosher Pastry Oven, the bike shop, Barnaby's, & Silver Stars gymnastics. "For Lease" signs are everywhere, and that helps nobody, businesses and homeowners alike. The County can act or passively let Wheaton become either (1) a for-lease/check-cashing/low-to-moderate-income center or (2) a homogenized box store center. Without any action, either result will harm small businesses and the character of Wheaton overall. Finally, what's Bethesda's "failing Metro entrance"? Couldn't a few million solve that problem?
Lane March 02, 2012 at 03:27 PM
It is a bit difficult for me to understand why this is even considered a competition. First of all the purple line is several years from even breaking ground. Is a new Bethesda metro entrance going to be built years ahead of it realizing its full potential (capacity)? If redevelopment funds were to be inserted in Wheaton, benefits would occur instantly – literally. Property values would increase before breaking ground, increasing county tax revenue. This will be a catalyst to future development in the area bringing in more tax payers and increasing property values simultaneously. Developing in Wheaton is an investment that will return tremendous value for the county. I’m not sure what type of return a renovated Bethesda metro entrance will generate. As for the Bethesda blogger comment and the “pro metro entrance” folks out there, I’m a bit perplexed as a majority of the downtown Bethesda/Chevy Chase population is against the purple line as it will bring “negative results”. You would think they would be for Wheaton redevelopment as it could cause delays to the purple line construction. If the county does not take the opportunity now to revitalize Wheaton, they can expect a mass exodus of those that have been waiting so long for this to happen. In result, lower property values, lack of community, and something that resembles the town in Clockwork Orange (i.e. Pentagon/Crystal City sans the cheap Costco beer and wine).
Commentous March 02, 2012 at 08:09 PM
DJ Lane wrote: If the county does not take the opportunity now to revitalize Wheaton, they can expect a mass exodus of those that have been waiting so long for this to happen. In result, lower property values, lack of community, and something that resembles the town in Clockwork Orange (i.e. Pentagon/Crystal City sans the cheap Costco beer and wine). My concern is that the County Council may realize this would be the outcome and really doesn't mind.
Henriot St. Gerard March 02, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Wheaton doesnt need to lose any of its appeal and unique character under redevelopment. This fear of driving out all the current business that reside in the area is way overblown. Wheaton cannot stay in its current structure. I found the Bethesda bloggers post absurd because it is easy for him to say Wheaton is "ok" when Bethesda has experienced its own revitilization and redevelopment over the years. And the Council is very capable of accepting both the Bethesda and Wheaton Redevelopment project. If this isnt about a pick one project over another scenario, there should be no issue then to support the redevelopment project. If its a problem about the project itself (the design, structure, or otherwise), I have read very little on that subject so I again go back to asking out loud why the delay? This isnt complicated to me. Wheaton is past due redevelopment and there are plans and projects ready to go. If the Council doesnt support this project, the community will lose a tremendous opportunity to have something positive happen in terms of economic opportunity to Wheaton.

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