The authors (Diane Cameron and Danila Sheveiko) are inspired by the vision of late planner Marion Clark, who died on Thanksgiving Day in 2008. Marion envisioned downtown Wheaton as a desirable destination that is green, beautiful, and ecologically functional. The new Planning Commission headquarters will be the flagship for downtown Wheaton, but its currently-proposed design concept – a large glass building with a paved plaza – fails to embody this green vision.
We therefore request that this project be sent back to the drawing boards-- and that a new design be drawn up and vetted with the public.
Action: Wednesday, Dec. 11th, 2013, 7:00 pm, Wheaton H.S. Cafeteria: Attend and speak out for a vibrant and green downtown Wheaton including the new Planning Dept. HQ: PUBLIC_MEETING_WHEATON_REDEV_PROJ
The Montgomery County Park & Planning Commission headquarters, and its adjacent public plaza, are proposed for downtown Wheaton to replace Parking Lot 13 and the Mid-County Regional Services Center across Reedie Drive. The future success of downtown Wheaton will be heavily influenced by the design of this project. To echo what others have noted: The Montgomery County Park & Planning Commission headquarters needs to be convivial, green, and beautiful. So far, what we can see from the concept plans falls far short of these objectives. Though there are aspects we support, the overall project does not appear to be using Environmental Site Design (ESD) to the Maximum Extent Practicable -- nor would it make downtown Wheaton into the green urbanist destination it aspires to be.
This rendering shows no major green roof or green walls. The currently-proposed design of the “town square” for this project would contain a performance space ringed with trees; otherwise, this plaza is largely non-vegetated. There is no large shade tree grove, or daylighted natural stream, offering a respite from blistering summer heat. While this design has some engaging qualities, it's mainly a featureless glass-and-steel box presiding over a paved expanse.
This project if redesigned, is an opportunity for Montgomery County to embody deep green urban design in downtown Wheaton, and to restore the Wheaton Branch of Upper Sligo Creek- Anacostia. And, it would enable Planning Commission to lead by example -- to push developers to achieve greater use of functional green, including tree groves; naturally-vegetated and daylighted streams; large green roofs; and green walls.
The core principles of the Wheaton Sector Plan are: Diversity; Connectivity; Design; and Environment. The Environment Principle of the Wheaton Sector Plan states that the built environment will contribute to the restoration of Wheaton Branch of Sligo Creek and Silver Creek tributary of Rock Creek. The Planning headquarters needs to embody these principles.
The Wheaton Sector Plan includes these environmental design directives:
“Minimize and mitigate impervious surfaces by:
•using Environmental Site Design to reduce runoff from all impervious surfaces, including roofs, terraces, and paving
•building new streets and retrofitting existing roads as green streets, with urban stormwater management facilities in the right-of-way
•protecting existing remnant streams.”
These directives connect to Montgomery’s stormwater permit, which requires use of Environmental Site Design “to the maximum extent practicable.” To embody these mandates, Park & Planning should showcase full use of green roofs, tree groves, green walls, and rain gardens at their Wheaton headquarters.
Just as important, Wheaton needs an iconic building – a landmark that reflects the Urban District’s vibrant small businesses and honors the area’s diversity
Take for example the Acros building in Fukuoka, Japan:
(Photo Credit: eugenefong.wordpress.com, image transposed for display purposes)
A similar structure would be a perfect fit on Lot 13, as vegetation would thrive with the southern exposure. The green pyramid concept is iconic and would serve as a symbol of Wheaton’s diversity, with a town square at its base for a natural community focal point.
For inspiration, we turned to the green urbanist vision proposed for downtown Wheaton by the late Environmental Planner Marion Clark, who was a Planner Coordinator in the Montgomery County Planning Department, and a former President of the Potomac Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
As noted by ASLA, Marion was instrumental in bringing pedestrian-oriented green urbanism to master plans. She gave us a verdant vision for Downtown Wheaton, Wheaton cbd presentation Marion Clark M-NCPPC 2008, inspired by her travels to Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver. (Thanks to Planner Mary Dolan for permission to share Marion’s images.)
(Green Roof on Chicago’s City Hall. Photo credit: Marion Clark, M-NCPPC).
(Above: Green Wall, Vancouver, B.C: Photo Credit: Marion Clark, M-NCPPC)
(Below: Daylighted and restored stream, Toronto, Canada: Photo Credit: Marion Clark, M-NCPPC)
New York City has also lately begun to embody its own green urbanist vision, with projects such as the Bosque at Lincoln Center – which features Deep Root Silva Cells that hold greater soil volumes for larger shade trees. (See a short video of the Bosque's installation.)
(Above: The Bosque at Lincoln Center, New York City: Photo Credit: Diane Cameron, ANS)
The Wheaton Sector Plan’s principles, combined with the environmental protection and restoration mission of MNCPPC, and Montgomery's stormwater permit, all point the way to a green urbanist future for downtown Wheaton. The vision of Marion Clark for the Wheaton CBD is of a desirable destination based on functional green design. The current design concept for the Planning Commission headquarters fails to embody these principles and Marion's vision.
We therefore request that this project be sent back to the drawing boards-- and that a new design fully embodying ESD and ecological restoration principles be drawn up and vetted with the public.