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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

DO go back to Rock-vi-ille . . .

Kaid Benfield

Posted December 12, 2008 in Green Enterprise, Living Sustainably

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Every time I hear R.E.M.'s catchy hit single from the 1980s, "Don't Go Back to Rockville," the visual images that crop up could hardly be worse.  The song refers to Rockville, Maryland, along with Tysons Corner one of the DC area's most notorious bastions of sprawl, especially along its main drag, Rockville Pike.  The word "godawful" springs to mind:

      Rockville Pike (by: William Selman, creative commons license)  signs at one of the Pike's interection (by: M.V. Jantzen, creative commons license) 

      a parking lot on Rockville Pike (by: Isaac Kohane, creative commons license)  the Pike (by: beyonddc.com)

But, though I can hardly believe it, my image is soon to be out of date.  Rockville is changing for the better, with some terrific new examples of transit-oriented development.  First, our LEED for Neighborhood Development program (now in its pilot phase) just awarded a gold certification to the plan for Twinbrook Station, the first area project to be certified.  The development will be located on a Metrorail station right along the Pike.  Look at the before and after images (cited recently also by my colleague Rob Perks, who lives nearby and is delighted at the news): 

  Twinbrook Station, now and as planned

The image on the left is the current entrance to the Twinbrook Metro station.  On the right is what the spot will look like in a couple of years.  Here are some more:

    Twinbrook Station (by: WDG Architecture)

  Twinbrook Station housing (by: JBG)

Congratulations to JBG Development on the award.  A joint development with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Twinbrook Station will transform 26 acres of under-utilized, asphalt-surfaced commuter parking lots Twinbrook Station site plan (by: WDG Architecture)into 1,595 multifamily residential units, 220,000 square feet of street front retail space, and acres of public open space with multiple parks and courtyards.  JBG's press release summarizes the project's additional smart and green features nicely:

  • "A commitment to green construction and technology, with 80 percent of the buildings at Twinbrook Station seeking LEED [building, in addition to neighborhood] certification;
  • The reduction of vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions through a diverse mix of uses, and co-location with a Metro and public transportation hub served by 1,028 Metro and bus trips daily;
  • Green operations, cleaning, organic landscaping and maintenance programs for all buildings;
  • The conservation of energy, water, and other natural resources by employing comprehensive waste management and recycling programs and by reducing water use by 30 percent."

And something I really like is that, just as we had hoped with LEED-ND projects, JBG is now educating the public with a section of its web site devoted to the project's smart growth benefits.

But, wait, there's more.  Just up the Pike from Twinbrook is Rockville Town Square, already partially built, two blocks from another major Metro station.  Take a look:

           Rockville Town Square (by: RockvilleTownSquare.com)  Rockville Town Square (by: Dan Cunningham, creative commons license) 

  right this way to the sqare, library, & arts center (by: shashiBellamkonda, creative commons)  Rockville Town Square sidewalk August 2008 (by: Jay Divinagracia, creative commons)

Rockville Town Square won a Charter Award earlier this year from the Congress for the New Urbanism (one of NRDC's partners in LEED-ND and many other things), which states:

"Located in the heart of Rockville Maryland, a close-in [note: I wouldn't say so, myself, but I suppose it's all relative] suburb of Washington, DC, the project reflects the transformation of 12.5 acres of aging strip retail into a vibrant mixed-use setting and community focal point. The development followed a comprehensive and carefully deliberated master planning phase and adhered to strict design guidelines, which has proven highly successful with residents in the region. The project is an integral component of a broader vision for redevelopment in the city, which addresses nearly 500 acres of land."

  Rockville Town Square (by: RockvilleTownSquare.com)  Rockville Town Square (by: RockvilleTownSquare.com)

Town Square buildings in the snow (by: Jay Divinagracia, creative commons)

The project was designed by WDG Architecture, with master planning from the city of Rockville, and is being built by Federal Realty Investment Trust and quite a few additional development partners.  Here's more from CNU:

"The city owned approximately 4.5 acres of the site and collaborated with the private-sector landowner of the remaining property to create an energetic new core for the community. Satellite view (by: Dan Cunningham, creative commons license)The city also wanted to address a shortage of multifamily housing and the lack of an appealing town center environment . . .

"The decision to accommodate both the county library and the arts and innovation center on the site served as inspiration to develop an inviting surrounding neighborhood that embraced these civic functions with a pedestrian-friendly environment and host of community amenities and services. The public-private process was enhanced by a commitment by all stakeholders, including the residential and retail developers and design team, to follow a strict set of design guidelines."

Compared to what the Rockville Pike corridor has been for so long, this is awesome.  Bravo.

 

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Comments

Rob PerksDec 12 2008 10:37 AM

Great use of R.E.M., Kaid. As proud Rockville residents, I can't tell you how many people sing me that lyric. Good thing it's a great -- if inaccurate -- song.

Lee EPADec 15 2008 02:39 PM

Kaid,
Great post. Don't forget King Farm, a Traditional Neighborhood Development in the City of Rockville that won a CNU Charter Award in early 2000. It is located next to the Shady Grove Metro Station, not unlike a streetcar suburb of old. http://www.tortigallas.com/project.asp?p=50180
As a six year resident of Rockville, let me add some context to the song. Michael Stipe is asking his girlfriend to stay with him, and not to go back to Rockville. It is not R.E.M.'s PSA against living in Rockville. Happy Holidays.

Kaid @ NRDCDec 15 2008 07:24 PM

Actually, if my information is right, it's Mike Mills's girlfriend, not Stipes's. ;) But close enough.

Thanks for reading and commenting, Lee. I tend to think of KIng Farm as Gaithersburg, rather than Rockville; but you're absolutely right - it's really north Rockville, and another excellent project. Have a great holiday!

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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