MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANNING DEPARTMENTTHE MARYLAND-NATIONAL CAPITAL PARK AND PLANNING COMMISSIONMCPBItem No.Date: 07/28/2016Rock Spring Master Plan: Briefing and Preliminary Staff RecommendationsAndrea Gilles, Planner Coordinator, Area 2 Division, [email protected], 301.495.4541Nancy Sturgeon, Master Planner Supervisor, Master Plan Team, Area 2 Division,[email protected], 301.495.1308Glenn Kreger, Chief, Area 2 Division, [email protected], 301.495.4653Completed: 07/21/2016DescriptionStaff will update the Planning Board on the Rock Spring Master Plan, including preliminaryrecommendations for land use and zoning; transportation and connectivity; sustainability;community facilities; and parks and open space.Staff Recommendation: DiscussionSummaryThe Rock Spring Master Plan began in June 2015 and the Planning Board approved the Scope ofWork on October 8, 2015. A community kick off meeting was held on September 1, 2015.Since that time, there have been seven additional community meetings as well as variousindividual and small group meetings. On May 26, 2016, Planning staff provided the Board witha briefing on the status of both the Rock Spring Master Plan and the White Flint 2 Sector Plan.Presentation of the Working Draft to the Planning Board is scheduled for September 15, 2016.1

INTRODUCTIONIn accordance with the work program established by the County Council, the PlanningDepartment initiated the Rock Spring Master Plan in June 2015, and the Planning Boardapproved the Scope of Work on October 8, 2015. At the Semi-Annual meeting on April 5, 2016,the Council aligned the schedules for the Rock Spring Master Plan and the White Flint 2 SectorPlan so that they are essentially concurrent. The plans are geographically close to one another(less than two miles apart; see Map 1) and the issues in the two areas are similar. Communitymembers in both plan areas expressed a desire that the Planning Department take a holisticview of potential development impacts, particularly regarding schools. Both plans are withinthe Walter Johnson cluster.Map 1: Rock Spring and White Flint 2 Study Areas2

The boundaries for the Master Plan are I-270 to the north, Old Georgetown Road to the east,Democracy Boulevard to the south, and Westlake Drive to the west (see Map 2). Rock Spring hasdirect access to the I-270 spur via Democracy Boulevard and I-270 via Rockledge Boulevard. Thearea also has access from Democracy Boulevard and Old Georgetown Road. Roads through theMaster Plan area include Rock Spring Drive, Fernwood Road, and Westlake Terrace.Map 2: Rock Spring Master Plan AreaThe majority of the proposed Rock Spring Master Plan area was included in the 1992 NorthBethesda/Garrett Park Master Plan (the 1992 Plan). The 1992 Plan covered a large geographyand focused on the areas around the Twinbrook, White Flint and Grosvenor-StrathmoreMetrorail stations, as well as the office park at Rock Spring. Communities that were previouslypart of the 1992 Plan are now the subject of separate, smaller area plans, including the 2009Twinbrook Sector Plan, the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, and the plans currently underway forRock Spring and White Flint 2. The portion of the Rock Spring Master Plan west of the I-270Spur was part of the 2002 Potomac Subregion Master Plan (the 2002 Plan).PLAN FRAMEWORKThe Rock Spring Master Plan builds on the goals and objectives of the 1992 NorthBethesda/Garrett Park Master Plan. The 1992 Plan describes Rock Spring Park as “one of theEast Coast’s premier office parks” with a campus-style setting, green lawns, and lushlandscaping that attracts tenants who wish to “enhance their corporate image.” At the sametime, the Sector Plan notes that the office park consists of somewhat homogeneous, unrelated3

sets of buildings centered on sites with no particular relationship with each other and nounifying urban design features other than generous landscaping. Several goals from the 1992Plan continue to be relevant today, including: Add residential and retail uses. Preserve publicly accessible open space. Provide pedestrian and bicycle paths linking the open space with other areas in theoffice park, with public facilities and with adjacent residential neighborhoods. Integrate transitway stations and right-of-way into future development (page 94).In addition, the 1992 Plan recommended the North Bethesda Transitway to link the MetrorailRed Line with Montgomery Mall via Old Georgetown Road and Rock Spring Drive. TheTransitway is included in the approved 2013 Countywide Transit Corridors Functional MasterPlan (CTCFMP), which outlines alternative routes to either the Grosvenor or White FlintMetrorail stations.The 2002 Potomac Subregion Master Plan had few detailed recommendations for thecommercial areas west of I-270 in the Rock Spring Master Plan. However, it did supportrecommendations to connect the area to the Metrorail Red Line by way of the North BethesdaTransitway and recommended a “multi-modal transit center at the western terminus of theplanned North Bethesda Transitway near Montgomery Mall” (page 129 of the 2002 Plan).The 1993 General Plan Refinement includes the Rock Spring Plan areas east of the I-270 Spurwithin the Urban Ring and the areas west of the I-270 Spur as part of the SuburbanCommunities (see Map 3). The Rock Spring Plan will address the following challenges identifiedby the General Plan Refinement, including:Within the Urban Ring: Accommodating selective additional development and redevelopment; Emphasizing development, including housing, in appropriate transit station areas; Expanding transportation options, while accommodating pedestrian needs; Enhancing park and recreation linkages (page 25 of the General Plan).Within the Suburban Communities: Enhancing park and recreation linkages; Increasing transportation options and efficiency; Providing compact, geographically contained centers.BACKGROUND AND CONTEXTThe central portion of the Rock Spring Master Plan is a conventional suburban, auto-orientedoffice park, with the majority of office buildings built in the 1980s and 1990s. The office parkhas a large percentage of Class A space (87 percent, compared to 50 percent Countywide) andmuch of it has been consistently renovated and upgraded. Office buildings in Rock Spring aresubstantially larger than other areas; on average, they are twice the size of office buildingselsewhere in the County. Major tenants include Marriott International, Lockheed MartinCorporation, IBM, Host Hotels and Resorts, and the National Institutes of Health. Several4

buildings contain mostly medical offices. The area’s office buildings include insurance, realestate, and financial companies. Rock Spring Park is part of the North Bethesda/Potomac officesubmarket. It accounts for 48 percent of the office inventory in North Bethesda and 7 percentof office space Countywide. The current office vacancy rate in Rock Spring is 22.3 percent,higher than the Countywide vacancy rate of 15 percent. Rock Spring’s office vacancy rate hasremained above 19 percent since 2009.Map 3: Rock Spring Master Plan ContextMarriott International, which occupies about 800,000 square feet at their headquarters in RockSpring, has expressed that it is contemplating relocation to a more urban location with goodaccess to transit; the planned relocation would boost the office park’s vacancy rate to 39percent, if there are no other changes. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases(NIAID) vacated approximately 160,000 square feet of leased office space in Rock Spring for anew headquarters in Twinbrook. IBM has reduced its Rock Spring footprint from 168,000square feet to 59,000 square feet. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) currently leases over700,000 square feet in several locations in Rock Spring. Lockheed Martin has 275,000 squarefeet of space in a secured and gated site on Rockledge Drive.An Office Market Assessment Report, prepared for the Planning Department by Partners forEconomic Solutions (PES) and released in June 2015, states (on page 1): “The Washington, DCmetro region is currently experiencing unprecedented challenges in its officemarket Montgomery County is suffering along with the rest of the region, performing better5

than other jurisdictions on some indicators and worse on others. The region and county haveexperienced recession-driven office market downturns for decades. What is different this timeis a major realignment as tenants reduce their office space even as they expand theirworkforce. That trend will impact local and regional office markets for many years into thefuture.” Some of the trends impacting the County’s office market include: an increase intelecommuting; federal budget cuts and shrinking workspace footprints; regional competitionfrom the District of Columbia and Tysons; and changes in preferences as prospective tenantsseek transit-served and amenity rich locations.Once considered a premier office location, Rock Spring has been particularly hard hit by thesecurrent trends. Single-use business parks without direct access to transit, like Rock Spring, arestruggling with the highest office vacancies. However, there is indication that Rock Spring maybe better positioned than other areas when it comes to recovery and repurposing. As noted onpage 2 of the 2016 Adaptive Reuse Study prepared for the Planning Department by Bolan SmartAssociates: “Location, value pricing, and parking convenience, are still marketable. The RockSpring location is highly viable, convenient to a broad base of employees served by a regionalroad network near a range of retail and lodging amenities, and most of the non-special purposebuildings have substantial continued economic life.”With its location adjacent to I-270 and near I-495, Rock Spring is well served by roadways thatprovide regional access to the area. Two major infrastructure projects greatly improvedvehicular access to and around Rock Spring: the interchange at the I-270 spur and RockledgeBoulevard and the Westlake Terrace bridge over I-270. Multiple existing bus routes and shuttlesrun throughout the area and the Grosvenor Metrorail Station is approximately 2.5 miles fromthe center of the office park. The 2013 Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Planincluded the North Bethesda Transitway and its four proposed stations within the Rock SpringMaster Plan area. Furthermore, the office park is surrounded by well established, in demandneighborhoods and is anchored by high performing retail centers which draw from both thesurrounding communities and the region.The retail clusters that bookend the office park draw a consistent stream of consumers to theRock Spring area from the region as well as from the surrounding community andneighborhoods. Westfield Montgomery Mall and the commercial areas north of WestlakeTerrace and west of I-270 are regional draws to the area. The Mall opened in 1968 andunderwent a significant renovation in 2014, which included ArcLight Cinemas, gourmetrestaurants, and a dining terrace. To the east, along Old Georgetown Road, the WildwoodShopping Center, built in 1958, and Georgetown Square, built in 1973, are busy communityand neighborhood-serving centers.While attention has been focused on the changing office market, and there is generalagreement that to remain competitive a greater mix of well-connected uses needs to beintroduced within the Plan area, school capacity in the Walter Johnson School Cluster must alsobe addressed. The Subdivision Staging Policy indicates that the Walter Johnson Cluster is closeto a moratorium for all school levels. Additional residential development and the pace of its6

delivery will impact the Walter Johnson cluster, as well as the adjacent DowncountyConsortium secondary schools. This Plan assesses the impact of proposed development in theRock Spring area to determine whether additional facilities are needed.DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITYSeveral properties in the Rock Spring Master Plan area have been developed, renovated, orhave been approved and are in the pipeline waiting development (see Image 1) since the 1992North Bethesda/Garrett Park Master Plan. The first residential use was introduced into thePlan area in 2004. The Berkshires of Rock Spring, a 386-unit multi-family residential building(formerly known as Avalon Bay) was completed on the northern portion of the Davis-Camalierproperty along I-270. The Berkshires is part of a larger approved pipeline project for the entireDavis tract that was originally approved by the Planning Board in 1999. The proposed, multiphase project for the Davis parcel, the only vacant site in the Plan area, has been amendedseveral times and the approved development includes nearly 1 million square feet of offices,retail, a hotel, as well as over 800 additional dwelling units in high-rise and mid-rise residentialbuildings. Once built, the Rock Spring Centre, north of Georgetown Square, will bolster thepresence and identity of this area and will be a catalyst to draw additional activity into theoffice park.As noted on page 66 of the PES report: “Property owners and developers are beginning torethink and redesign conventional office parks to accommodate a mix of uses.” In the heart ofthe Rock Spring office park, residential builder EYA is currently constructing a 168-unittownhouse development on the northwest corner of Fernwood Road and Rock Spring Drive,across from Marriott’s headquarters. Montgomery Row is being constructed on a sitepreviously planned for another office building, indicating that the market is starting to respondto change by introducing residential use into a heretofore single-use office park. A 340-unitmulti-family high-rise residential building with ground floor commercial space has beenapproved on a parcel on the north side of Westlake Terrace across from Westfield MontgomeryMall at the site currently occupied by Ourisman Ford. The fourth pipeline project is a 58-unitmulti-family building approved on the southern portion of the property where the Aubinoeoffice building is currently located and north of the Wildwood Shopping Center.7

Image 1: Rock Spring Approved Pipeline ProjectsWestfield Montgomery Mall has undergone significant renovations, including a new food court,movie theatres, and the Cheesecake Factory (relocated from White Flint Mall). A new transitcenter at Montgomery Mall, at the northeast corner near Westlake Terrace and the bridge overI-270, had its grand opening on May 1, 2016. Additional redevelopment may be contemplatedby the mall’s owners in the future, but at this time, plans have not been submitted to thePlanning Department.OUTREACHA community kick-off meeting was held on September 1, 2015 at Walter Johnson High School(WJHS) to launch the planning and public engagement process. Since that time, seven livelycommunity meetings have been held, in addition to individual and small group meetings withcivic associations, Parent Teacher Associations, and property owners. All of the followingmeetings were held at WJHS, with the exception of the June 6 meeting at Luxmanor Elementary: September 17, 2015: Schools October 28, 2015: Pipeline Projects December 14, 2015: Placemaking February 25, 2016: Parks and Transportation May 23, 2016: Plan Concepts, Land Use Scenarios, and Transportation Modeling June 6, 2016: Schools Follow-up July 18, 2016: Preliminary Recommendations8

VISION: ROCK SPRING DISTRICTThe image of Rock Spring Park as a mixed-use Urban Village was introduced by the 1992 NorthBethesda/Garret Park Master Plan. The 1992 Plan also emphasized the potential of focusing RockSpring Drive/Fernwood Road/Westlake Drive as a unifying “axis” or central spine for the district.Although the office market is currently struggling and the single-use suburban office campus has lostsome appeal, Rock Spring still has many positive attributes, and the vision from the 1992 Planremains relevant. Rock Spring’s office buildings are valuable and the commercial centers that anchorthe east and west boundaries are thriving. Furthermore, the area is centrally located, with primeaccess to major highways and relative proximity to the Grosvenor and White Flint Metro stations.The residential neighborhoods that surround the Plan area are well established and highly desirable.The 1992 Plan set the stage for Rock Spring’s future by encouraging “the gradual evolution of theentire area from Wildwood Shopping Center to the Westlake housing area into a single district.”Twenty-five years later, Rock Spring is just beginning to evolve from being yesterday’s cluster ofdisparate uses into tomorrow’s holistic, cohesive community. The recent emergence of newresidential development within the office park further signals the readiness of the area forrepositioning as a well-integrated, amenity-rich district for existing employers and future residents.The approved pipeline projects have the potential to create a more connected, walkable, mixed-useplace. New development and redevelopment should focus activity nodes along the central spinethat connect the retail clusters that bookend the Plan area. The Master Plan seeks to build upon thegoals of past plans and leverage the inherent strengths of the Rock Spring area through a measured,form-based approach by: Establishing a redevelopment framework that provides greater amenity options and mixes ofuses for companies and their employees, as well as residents, both in the short and long term. Elevating the North Bethesda Transitway to a high-priority transit corridor. Concentrating new activity, both public and private, along the central spine to:- establish a greater sense of place and an identity for the Rock Spring area- reduce the real and perceived distances between the east and west sides of the planarea by unifying activity nodes along the spine- provide areas of interest for future residents and commercial employees.- encourage a safe and inviting pedestrian and bicycle street environment on bothsides of the spine, and in particular around future transitway stops. Enhancing connectivity between the Rock Spring Plan area and surrounding residentialneighborhoods, adjacent parks, and nearby community facilities. Creating linkages between existing trails and green spaces, and establishing new open spacesthrough redevelopment.LAND USES, ZONING, AND DESIGNArea DescriptionsBased on established development patterns and the existing road network, the Plan area isorganized into three cluster areas that present different challenges and opportunities forgrowth and improvement (see Image 2). Today, these areas are generally isolated from one9

another and do not yet work together to establish a unified Rock Spring community. The areasare: Rock Spring East/Village Center, which includes the properties east of Rockledge Driveand Rockledge Boulevard; Rock Spring Central/Mixed Use Business Campus, which includes the office park; and Rock Spring West/Mixed Use Regional Marketplace, which includes the commercialcluster west of I-270 and north and south of Westlake Terrace.The following design guidance and zoning recommendations seek to strengthen the viability ofexisting uses within these areas and provide opportunities for complementary newdevelopment to contribute to the reshaping of a well-integrated Rock Spring District.Design FrameworkThe 1992 Master Plan described the future Rock Spring Park as a “large, high quality, mixed-useUrban Village,” and placed emphasis on the Rock Spring Drive Fernwood Road Westlake Terrace“axis as the main visual organizing element” (page 135-136). More recently, two separate UrbanLand Institute (ULI) studies (2013 and 2016) supported and elaborated on this idea, confirming thatthe recommendation of the 1992 Plan remains relevant. Building on this, the central “axis” or“spine” concept provides the foundation for this Plan’s design discussion about