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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Imagine Grosvenor

I have often heard the question as to why Montgomery County's western Red Line has not enjoyed the vibrant urbanism or Arlington's Orange Line. There are several reasons for this, of course. The Red Line's stations are much further apart and further from the downtown core. MD-355 does not have the supporting road network that Wilson Boulevard enjoys. MD-355 also has several obstacles to maintaining urban continuity, such as the Georgetown Preparatory School campus, The Naval Medical Center, Rock Creek Park, and the Beltway.

But the constant comparisons between the two areas have perhaps driven Montgomery County to try to live up to the Orange Line. The White Flint plan has been taking effect in recent months, complimenting the 2007 completion of Rockville Town Square. But these two developments are islandscompared to the continuous row of urbanism in Arlington. It will be difficult to fill in the gaps, as the Red Line's stations are further apart, but it can be done.

Which brings me to Grosvenor, at the southern end or Rockville Pike. It is an important station, as it is the western terminus for half of the Red Line's rush hour trains, and thus recieves more service than any station to the north. It serves Strathmore Hall, MoCo's prominent center for the performing arts. But don't expect to get dinner nearby the idyllic odieum, there is nowhere to eat in walking distance. In fact, apart from some town houses, some apartments that would make LeCorbusier hot and bothered, and a couple of huge private school campuses, there isn't much near Grosvenor station. There is, however, ample space.

The Georgetown Prep campus (one of the oldest in America) is a solid obstacle against integrating TOD around Grosvenor to the planned urban fabric of White Flint, but it could grow them much closer together, and make Grosvenor a bit more of a desination stop. Surface parking replaced with parking garages, a more continuous street grid, and a couple bistros near Strathmore Hall might make this possible. It could also make the Metro station more accessible to the nearby Garret Park community. As it stands, several nearby amenities in walking distance are inacessible to pedestrians because of the overt suburban design of the area. not the least of these amenities are the two high schools practically touching the station.

Here is what I imagine for a road network that would support this sort of development in Grosvenor:

View Larger Map

Unfortunately, I presume that the station's location at a major interstate junction (I-270 and I-495) would be expected to have enormous parking requirements. Given the affluence of the area, however, I wonder if this parking could be consolidated into garages so that a walkable development could emerge. I also fear that this would be nearly impossible to accomplish without the destruction of a lot of housing stock, primarily because of the wasteful land use of the existing developments, which are laid out with the towers-in-the-park mindset. Unfortunately, the "park" in towers in the park is usually automobile parking.

Grosvenor will probably never see anything quite this urban, but hopefully someone will invest in the ample dead space, taking advantage of the Metro station and performing arts center. Perhaps a high end restaurant could become the hot reservation on performance night. Until then, Grosvenor will just be a questionably placed station at the junction of Rockville Pike, the 270 Spur, and the Beltway, not a destination station.


Cavan said...

well said. This station will have to be looked at after doing suburban-to-urban retrofits on White Flint, Twinbrook, and Shady Grove.

Perhaps you could make a fantasy street grid for Glenmont?

This post was great and will be unmothballed at some point, probably when we're both grandparents/old bachelors.

Joey said...

I think the Grosvenor transition may be more akin to Tysons than Arlington.

As you suggest, a new overlay of streets would really help. If the county can plat them out, though, without actually building them all immediately, the redevelopment can happen over time.

As existing projects come down, the connections can be built and the uses on each new block transitioned.