Maybe go back to Rockville after all...
June 10, 2013 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Montgomery County MD, a wealthy, sprawling suburban county outside of Washington DC - its blandess famously mocked by REM's ("Don't Go Back to Rockville.) - is moving towards adopting some of the most progressive and potentially transformational approaches to suburban/urban planning in the US. Driving the change is a concern that young, creative millenials are no longer interested in moving out to the suburbs.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy (84 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
No matter how much lipstick they put on that pig, I'm not moving to friggin' Rockville, thanks.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:55 AM on June 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Don't go back to Rockville.

(uhh, I just saw that the OP already made this joke. Nothing to see here. Move along.)
posted by eriko at 7:57 AM on June 10, 2013


I'm all for progressive approaches to urban planning, so I'm not going to suggest this seriously, but I did wonder if they should just wait for young, creative millenials to get old and boring. Young, creative Generation X wasn't interested in moving out to the suburbs either, but my Facebook feed shows that time changed a lot of them.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:57 AM on June 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


urban amenities that connect people: food trucks, cafes, outdoor movies.

These are not urban amenities that connect people. These are: Wider sidewalks, skinnier roads, pedestrian-first planning, better parking schemes (a la Shoup), good park planning to create shared public spaces with privacy gradients. But creating these things in the suburbs is only mimicing the city. There is a city nearby, with all the attendant network effects that come with size and density, the connections and reconnections that drive urban life.

The mixed-use stuff is a good move forward, but the Urban Agriculture stuff really looks like trend-jumping.

Why yes, I'm halfway through The Death And Life Of Great American Cities, why do you ask?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:58 AM on June 10, 2013 [27 favorites]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: If the pig you are referring to is White Flint Mall, they aren't putting lipstick on it. They are tearing it down. The old Bloomingdale's wing is already gone. As your own link shows, the plans for that acreage include apartment and office towers, ground floor retail and a school. You might still hate it and it might not work, but the plan is vastly different from what's there now.
posted by Longtime Listener at 8:02 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


my Facebook feed shows that time changed a lot of them.

s/time/kids/

Seriously -- though I do know one couple who is raising a child who is still in the city. However, the others, when they get pregnant, suddenly, the suburbs call.

It happened to my parents, but not until Child #4 rolled around. Getting a place large enough for a family of six in a dense city is both hard and expensive.
posted by eriko at 8:02 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, definitely, and to be clear, I don't think that's a bad thing. I think the fact that it might feel like people aren't moving to the suburbs as earlier as they used to do so is because they aren't having kids as early as they used to do so. But again, this is all anecdata.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:05 AM on June 10, 2013


A lot of this has to do with the economy, though, doesn't it? I mean, if you can't find work and can't afford a house or a car, how are you going to live out in the suburbs where there's no walkability, no public transit, and nothing to do unless you drive somewhere else?

I think if there was money in the younger generation this "young flight" that they're witnessing wouldn't be happening to the extent that it is. Many of the young professionals at my office (granted, not "creative" types but they do have steady employment with benefits) have completely bought in to the suburban lifestyle and live out in the boondocks of New Hampshire like most of the older people here. They want the big house on lots of land and the fancy car to drive their hour+ commute each way.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:08 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The difficulty with retrospective urban planning to develop this stuff is that there's a certain tough chicken-or-the-egg thing going on. And yes, it's good to build this stuff, but it doesn't guarantee that people will want to move there, or use the built environment the way that developers plan.

There's also the very real possibility that things will look clean, sterile, and new in a very un-urban sort of way. After all, one of the hallmarks of good urbanism is the wonderful chaos of a long history, the diversity of streetscape, and the real personality of cities that gets developed through centuries - not through master plans.

That said: good on them for trying, and I hope it works.
posted by entropone at 8:08 AM on June 10, 2013


Oh, I'm quite aware of what the White Flint redevelopment entails, it's still going to be a craphole. Just a craphole with overpriced styrofoam apartments interspersed among the chain retail. (AKA: Mixed-use development with high-end retail).

Also, I should add, they are doing nothing to address Rockville Pike. If they were to start there rather than just tearing down the mall and plopping this formula box down it might change things. See also PG Plaza.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:10 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It sounds like they're really just doing the whole New Urbanist thing that's been the trend for the last 20 years, and people are throwing the "milennial" thing around to sell it for some reason (including some of its government supporters). But, looking at some of the codes that are changing, like the parking ratio mentioned in the article, the code was really due for an overhaul anyway - 25 spaces per 1000 square feet is insane enough that I wonder if it's misreported. The maximum parking ratio for any restaurant pretty much anywhere in my sprawly suburban city is 25. In urban areas, the ratio goes down to 2 or so.

Also, this is just scare-mongering:
County planners have “basically ramrodded this thing,” he said. “It’s a particular ideological image of the county. They want to turn it into a city.” Rather than contain suburban sprawl, Elrich contends that the new code would facilitate it by allowing increased density on commercial land.
So the guy basically admits he doesn't understand how codes work. If you allow denser development on commercial land, it doesn't follow that sprawl happens because you can easily regulate development on surrounding areas at the same time, which is exactly what they're doing here.
posted by LionIndex at 8:10 AM on June 10, 2013


Seriously -- though I do know one couple who is raising a child who is still in the city. However, the others, when they get pregnant, suddenly, the suburbs call.

Interesting, eriko-- am seeing it work differently here in DC. Most folks I know are staying put in the city with kids, tho a few went out to the suburbs before getting cranking on reproduction.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:12 AM on June 10, 2013


Glad to see that bike parking is on there as a priority. I was at NIH in the late 90s and if you wanted a spot on the bike rack you had to get to work by 8am. I used to walk just so I didn't have to get up early.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:12 AM on June 10, 2013


I am also highly amused with people staunchly opposed to things say crazy things that make zero sense:

Rather than contain suburban sprawl, Elrich contends that the new code would facilitate it by allowing increased density on commercial land.

Facilitating sprawl by increasing density! Riddle me this, huh.
posted by entropone at 8:14 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some stats about Montgomery County

1. It ranks number 1 in the United States of residents over 25 years of age who hold post-graduate degrees.

2. The population is 971,777 , greater than Washington DC (632,323)

3. As of 2008, it is the 8th richest in the United States, by media household income.1 - however it didn't make the 2013 list.
posted by stbalbach at 8:14 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Montgomery County I recall is not completely homogenized; there were already a couple of urban-feeling walkable areas, like downtown Bethesda, with its absurd concentration of restaurants... But what I recall of Rockville is basically strip malls. Strip malls as far as the eye can see. I've been gone over 20 years, but when I visit the area, that part does not appear to have changed much.
posted by fikri at 8:16 AM on June 10, 2013


N.b. REM didn't know anything about Rockville when they wrote that song; one of them was just trying to convince a UGA student to spend the summer in Athens with him.
posted by samofidelis at 8:18 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I worked* in downtown Rockville for a little while, in the little "new urbanism" development by the Metro, which is basically how I'm imagining the White Flint thing will be. It was nice and it worked decently well, although it was too small to put much of a dent in the surrounding sprawl. Sure, it was cookie cutter apartments and chain restaurants, but a lot of people like that stuff, and I can imagine plenty of people living in a community like that.

Is it as vibrant and functional as an actual city neighborhood? No, but it's a lot better than the rest of Montgomery County from that stand point. That stretch out Rockville Pike is awful from Bethesda out, terrible density, terrible traffic, hell, the strip malls don't even seem that nice as strip malls go.

*A huge caveat here that I worked there and lived in the actual city, but I can imagine someone who wanted to eat at the Gordon Biersch on a regular basis living there.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:20 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Montgomery’s quest for hipness began with Lilly Qi, Leggett’s manager for special projects, and her college-age son, Andrew, a Richard Montgomery High School graduate who is now a junior at Tufts University in Boston. She doubts that Andrew will return permanently after graduation.

It's going to be a little difficult luring people back to your boring, out of touch, suburbs when they've spent the last few years only a bus or subway ride away from places like Harvard Square. Everything they're proposing--larger sidewalks, more public spaces, etc--is a net positive, but I wonder if they're in for a very disappointing and lengthy growth period because it will take a while to catch on, if it ever does. As the man of twists and turns pointed out upthread, places with all of these things and then some already exist.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:20 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ya the increased density leading to increased sprawl bit had me wondering if I was using the same definitions as Elrich.
posted by Mitheral at 8:23 AM on June 10, 2013


Mitheral, yeah, I think that Elrich is confused about the stuff:space ratios of "density" and "sprawl."
posted by entropone at 8:26 AM on June 10, 2013


“What will become of the hens when they are no longer ‘productive’?” asked Ed Terry of Kensington. “Will they become someone else’s problem . . . or will we be talking about amateur backyard slaughtering too?”
Mmmm, organic free range roast chicken. It's not like loping the head off a chicken requires any kind of super specialized equipment.
posted by Mitheral at 8:27 AM on June 10, 2013


Planning! Yes! Cities! We can make them better!

These are not urban amenities that connect people. These are: Wider sidewalks, skinnier roads, pedestrian-first planning, better parking schemes (a la Shoup), good park planning to create shared public spaces with privacy gradients.

But you also need the housing density next to (or above!) commercial areas to make walkability make sense. It's great if you have a walkable downtown, but if you have to drive there to walk around, you have already lost. If people can't walk to their destinations, you need parking, and parking kills walkability. Like LionIndex noted, parking ratios often force businesses to dedicate a lot of land to paved, dead space. Perhaps you can ring your downtown with parking, or build some big parking structures on the edges, but neither are great solutions to the fact that people don't live where they "hang out."

There is a city nearby, with all the attendant network effects that come with size and density, the connections and reconnections that drive urban life.

This is really the bigger issue. Look at San Jose: more populous than San Francisco (984,000 vs 825,863), but it's a fraction as "lively." Part of this is due to the density, but San Francisco is the hub, where San Jose is a feeder city.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:28 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's hard to de-link education and urban planning.

The Overachievers was written about incredibly driven students in a pressure cooker, highly-ranked public school, and it was set in Montgomery County. (It could just as easily have been set in neighboring Fairfax or Loudoun).

If you asked the typical suburban parent why they put up with the agonizing commute and traffic jams up the wazoo...it's for public schools. Most can't afford to live in the city and send their kids to private schools, and they can't imagine sending their kids to DC public schools.

Until our inner-city public schools are fixed, creative young millennials who don't make private-school money are forced to choose between the urban lifestyle they want and a good public school district when the kids come. This leaves the inner suburbs best positioned to snatch up young millenial families since the terrifying commutes of the outer suburbs don't appeal to them anymore.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:29 AM on June 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Seriously -- though I do know one couple who is raising a child who is still in the city. However, the others, when they get pregnant, suddenly, the suburbs call.

Interesting, eriko-- am seeing it work differently here in DC. Most folks I know are staying put in the city with kids, tho a few went out to the suburbs before getting cranking on reproduction.


According to recent studies you're about a generation behind. Gen Xers and now Yers are moving INTO the cities.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:30 AM on June 10, 2013


Ya the increased density leading to increased sprawl bit had me wondering if I was using the same definitions as Elrich.
Mitheral, yeah, I think that Elrich is confused about the stuff:space ratios of "density" and "sprawl."


My read of that was that allowing increased density in some sort of urban core will cause sprawl to happen somewhere else, because urban cores just cause sprawl or something. But, like I said, you can also regulate that development in other areas to prevent sprawl, so there's really no issue.
posted by LionIndex at 8:30 AM on June 10, 2013


Perhaps instead of trying to be a "little city," Rockville should become a strong town. Via Streetfacts: Roads Are A Money-Losing Proposition.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:31 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interesting, eriko-- am seeing it work differently here in DC. Most folks I know are staying put in the city with kids

Just curious-- how old are their kids? Are they still in day care/lower elementary school levels? It's been my impression that there are increases in some areas in enrollment in DC public schools for elementary and maybe middle school, but that generally newcomers to the city are still moving out to the suburbs for high school or switching to private school. It would be great if that were changing.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:31 AM on June 10, 2013


I used to explain the walkability of where I lived in England by pointing out that I lived closer to 2 different grocery stores than anyone could possibly live to the Loblaws superstore I used to shop at in Ottawa because of the parking lot and roads. And I lived on a semi-secluded street in a suburb of Birmingham not in the city.
posted by srboisvert at 8:33 AM on June 10, 2013


I grew up in Montgomery County, and even if I could afford it (I really, really can't) I'm never going back. I currently live in Mount Rainer, about as close to the DC border as it's possible to get, and I'm so much happier with my cost of living and access to transit.
posted by nonasuch at 8:41 AM on June 10, 2013


Here's some tips:

1) don't put a stoplight every 5 feet. For fuck's sake.

2)
posted by hellojed at 8:43 AM on June 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


As a DC-area "creative young person", I can tell you the only reason to go to Rockville is the proliferation of delicious, well-made, cheap Chinese food. Joe's Noodle, Bob's Noodle 66, East Dumpling House, A&J's, Sichuan Pavilion, Michael's - all of them vastly exceed the quality of Chinese food you can get anywhere else in the DC area. It is Chinatown for the region. There's also great Peruvian and Korean around there.

Other than that, well, under no circumstances will I move to Rockville.
posted by quadrilaterals at 8:44 AM on June 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I spent a week in a motel in Rockville while a friend of mine colored her film at Colorlab. We were sans car, so it was kind of tricky to get around. Zelda Fitzgerald is buried there, so that's something. There also was a pretty decent pool hall IIRC.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:52 AM on June 10, 2013


According to recent studies you're about a generation behind. Gen Xers and now Yers are moving INTO the cities.

Define "city" for this case. Anectodotally, I know people-with-families in those demographic groups who live in the city, but they moved from high-density apartment areas into gentrifying neighborhoods with older, smaller single family homes. They still moved out, just not as far.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 8:53 AM on June 10, 2013


As a DC-area "creative young person", I can tell you the only reason to go to Rockville is the proliferation of delicious, well-made, cheap Chinese food. Joe's Noodle, Bob's Noodle 66, East Dumpling House, A&J's, Sichuan Pavilion, Michael's - all of them vastly exceed the quality of Chinese food you can get anywhere else in the DC area.

Seconded, but let me shout out for the former big box store cum dim sum extravorgasma that is the ONLY reason to traverse Rockville and not keep going to the world beyond. You may ask yourself, "is it really safe or healthy to make a dim sum place the size of a Kmart with dozens of carts circling around delivering piles of rich, sweet and greasy deliciousness to your table?" Well, Gaithersburg's New Fortune gives you the opportunity to try what only MoCo's unzoned suburban sprawl combined with a large immigrant influx can deliver!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:55 AM on June 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


they moved from high-density apartment areas into gentrifying neighborhoods with older, smaller single family homes.

AKA

The wiki's examples stink, particularly the DC one as many of these developed within the District itself, the "gentrifying neighborhoods" with houses as opposed to condos and apartments you speak of are these as well as some edge suburbs just outside the line like Mt. Rainier mentioned above.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:56 AM on June 10, 2013


After several years of suburban hell ze misses and I have decided that it's time to go back to the gritty embrace of a city. But so far the options we've explored all come down to the same BS discussion about school districts. I don't want to even have to think about this. If your urban public schools suck so bad that I can't even live in the city proper then I'm not moving there, full stop. I can't possibly be the only parent who's sick of suburban nothingness. A phony-baloney town square like the wreck they installed in San Jose isn't even close to enough to lure me in. If you want real city life you have to let go a little bit. Preplanned outdoor malls posing as town centers is the opposite of a real city experience, and no one "creative" will be fooled.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:03 AM on June 10, 2013


I'm going to Rockville tonight, because they have a seriously awesome climbing gym there. I do this commute a few times a week, and it's somehow still less soul-sucking than any ride to Virginia is. (That said, I wish that the MARC Brunswick line had better and off-peak service, because it's so much better than riding the Metro for an hour. DC's commuter railroads are criminally-underused)

If you want to read about urban planning in Montgomery County, or the "millennial perspective" on (near) suburbia , I highly recommend reading Dan Reed's blog, Just Up the Pike, or the pieces that he writes for Greater Greater Washington. He does quite a bit of great local reporting, and has more than a few thoughtful opinion pieces. He's also one of the only activists/journalists who seems to understand and care about youth issues, and frequently writes about the experience of growing up in the suburbs. You'd be hard-pressed to find a guy who cares more about Montgomery County than Dan does.

Streetcar suburbs are going to play an important role in the future of our urban fabric, and Montgomery County appears to be at a crossroads where it can either embrace this future, or leave it behind. The county definitely appears to be leaning in the right direction, but they naysayers have a strong and persistent voice.
posted by schmod at 9:03 AM on June 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


If your urban public schools suck so bad that I can't even live in the city proper then I'm not moving there, full stop. I can't possibly be the only parent who's sick of suburban nothingness. A phony-baloney town square like the wreck

This is kind of a catch-22. Everyone with money moves out to suburbs when they have kids. Schools are de-emphaized. People with kids won't move into cites because of the schools. Repeat.

There are parents fighting this -- Nettelhorst in Chicago leaps to mind -- by supplementing the school with their own time and money. But, fundamentally, that's the key to the problem. Give schools enough dedicated people and enough money, and they can excel.

If you don't, they don't -- and, of course, the parents are absolutely critical to making it all work.
posted by eriko at 9:15 AM on June 10, 2013


Maybe young folks are deterred by the Super-Mutant encampment at Germantown police station and the Deathclaws infesting Olney.
posted by WPW at 9:20 AM on June 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


I hear that DC schools are bad. In fact, someone was just telling me this at the Frager's ribbon-cutting on Sunday. 'Interesting,' I thought. But I don't have kids and don't know anything about DC schools.

However, Friday nights down at the Yards Park there are about 2,354 children under the age of 4 wandering around with their parents amid the sea of picnic blankets. They aren't all riding the Metro in for the free show. They're locals, mostly.

This is smack in the middle of a neighborhood in DC that - I'm told 7-10 years ago - was a great place to get shot, stabbed or lapdanced. (I know, I know...go with me on this...)

There are TONS of families in DC proper, and if the schools really do suck, then are they just saying, "fuck it, my kid will go to a shitty school" or are there alternatives here that I'm not aware of?
posted by Thistledown at 9:36 AM on June 10, 2013


Rockville is technically part of my stomping ground, in part because my brother's family's been living there for the last year, but mostly because it's just this sprawling leviathan in my postage stamp-sized home state with what Paolo Soleri referred to as two-dimensional gigantism. Rockville Pike is a testament to how to do a busy suburban shopping district as wrong as you can possibly make it, to the point that Paul Fussell notably described the worst stretch of it as the worst bit of road in the country, and I've been stuck on it in high traffic with a burning Fiat that I had to urinate on in stock-still stopped up lanes because I was out of diet grape Shasta that day (hey, it's cheaper than fire extinguishers and the Fiat was a frequent flambé). It's ugly, it's cloggy, the stores vary from prissy ponceymarkets for the fancy white folk to excellent dirty restaurants run by recent immigrants, and man, there's some sort of driver skill suppressing radio waves that get beamed out at random intervals, usually coinciding with the times when I'm heading for my brother's apartment on a motorcycle.

They've got Kentlands as a neighbor, and more new urbanism of the Duany-Plater-Zyberk flavor in Bethesda Row, and I applaud any attempts to fix it, but it's really hard for a local to grasp how anyone would do anything new in the county without just tearing out more green space and building more roads and more business parks and more more more. Hell, Montgomery County's pet road, 270, managed to completely obliterate Frederick, Maryland, in less than a decade.

My views are tempered by my non-reproductive status, of course, as, with my sister-in-law working at NIH, my brother often opines that they'd just as soon live in DC and have a proper urban experience if not for their kiddo, who is going to a great school that's just a three minute walk from their insanely expensive apartment on the less hip side of Rockville.

There's great stuff in Rockville, not least of which is the North end of Beach Drive, which gives you a gorgeous bike route directly into DC, but I'll have to take their word for it about managing to ever fix what's very, very wrong with the place.
posted by sonascope at 9:37 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reading the first article.. wait, people actually think Rockville is some kind of factory town?
posted by smoothvirus at 9:41 AM on June 10, 2013


New York City has a partial solution to the schools problem: a K-12 system of selective gifted and talented schools and dedicated classrooms in general schools. It develops gaps for some at middle school, and it is politically vulnerable, serving neither the super-rich nor the government union / government dependent nexus, but if it works for you, it works. If you're not a sports family and your first kid gets in when he's four, you might as well stay in the city.
posted by MattD at 9:42 AM on June 10, 2013


There are TONS of families in DC proper, and if the schools really do suck, then are they just saying, "fuck it, my kid will go to a shitty school" or are there alternatives here that I'm not aware of?

Yes, Charter Schools
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:42 AM on June 10, 2013


DCPS has more than a few fairly decent schools at the elementary level, and Wilson HS is arguably on par with a bunch of the schools in the 'burbs. Of course, Wilson also happens to be in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the DC area.

There's a hope that this will eventually translate to stronger Middle/High schools, as the new influx of students filters its way upward throughout the system, but the schools are going to continue to struggle as long as they're packed with students who are living in grinding poverty. There is no panacea for fixing DCPS, because doing so will require us to solve the poverty problem first.

DCPS will never succeed until the DC area figures out how to deal with poverty on a regional level, rather than shipping all of the poor people to DC. It's a heartbreaking problem that nobody wants to solve, exacerbated by decades of institutional racism. In many ways, DCPS sits at the nexus of all of the failures of America's social welfare system.
posted by schmod at 10:01 AM on June 10, 2013


Maybe go back to Rockville after all...

Well, maybe when the Metro purple line gets built.
posted by Nomyte at 10:28 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Montgomery County announced it's plan today to add 50 stations as part of the ever-expanding Capital Bikeshare system. To my eye, they look too clustered and too scattered to really produce good coverage, but I have no idea what's going on down on the ground there, so I could be totally wrong. Luckily, they're movable so if some locations don't work out, they can try elsewhere.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:33 AM on June 10, 2013


eriko: "Seriously -- though I do know one couple who is raising a child who is still in the city. However, the others, when they get pregnant, suddenly, the suburbs call. It happened to my parents, but not until Child #4 rolled around. Getting a place large enough for a family of six in a dense city is both hard and expensive."

We have stayed in the city (my kids are 4 and 2) so far. We've looked for houses in a less-dense part of the city (where the houses are bigger) but I just can't quite bear the thought of leaving behind my little-bitty house in a dense urban neighborhood (I even have an unusually deep backyard, due to a quirk of utility variances!). But it is strange to realize that in the house I'm in, with two bedrooms and NO DAMN STORAGE, we're basically packed in as full as we can get, and we'd theoretically have to decide between "beloved house in beloved neighborhood or third child." Only twice in five years has a larger house in my neighborhood come on the market, and the houses here aren't expensive, but the big ones get snapped up overnight because families want to stay in this neighborhood but the houses are so small.

We have a lot of friends who've stayed in the city with kids, and a lot who are committed to it strongly. But it feels like an arrow to the heart every time someone tells me, apologetically, that they're going to move out to the suburbs for the schools. It's become a thing people don't talk about in mixed company: If you're going to move to the suburbs, you inform your close friends privately and with apologies and then don't tell anyone else until it's a done deal, and then nobody ever speaks of it again. You certainly don't admit to it at parties. It's sort-of funny how it's become the Great Unspeakable.

I'm not anti-suburbia (I grew up in one that was very walkable, and there are some very nice little 'burbs around here with old downtowns and things), but I'm pro-city, and pro-MY-city.

As for schools -- charter schools, magnet schools, selective enrollment schools (usually gifted programs, sometimes arts programs). Individual elementary schools even in failing urban systems can be quite strong because elementaries are so closely tied to neighborhoods, so it's easy to create a middle-class enclave large enough to dominate an elementary school and keep it high-achieving. Some families plan on public school through 8th grade and then Catholic high school, saving a lot of tuition. Other families wait to see if their first child gets in to a selective public high school and move if they don't. It depends on the system and the options available.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:47 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you have a larger than average lot for the area could you add on a bedroom? Adding even a 12x16 room is generally cheaper than moving when you factor in the commission you need to pay to sell your house and all the other moving expenses.
posted by Mitheral at 10:51 AM on June 10, 2013


rather than shipping all of the poor people to DC Prince George's County!

Little edit there...
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:00 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just curious-- how old are their kids?

Good question & point, jetlagaddict-- the folks I know have young kids. I don't think anyone's even old enough for kindergarten yet. Be interesting to see how moving decisions, & perceived school quality, change over time.
posted by ibmcginty at 11:39 AM on June 10, 2013


Home sweet home! I grew up in Montgomery County, in Potomac, which is kind of like Rockville, only even less urban.

You know what? It was great.

Nothing to do? There was lots to do, because lots of people lived there, and what you do when you're a kid is hang out with other kids. And go to the library, if you're a bookish kid like I was. Really good libraries in Montgomery County.

No public transit? Not true at all. I don't think I knew anybody who was more than a 10-minute walk from a Ride-On stop, and once you get on the Ride-On, you can go straight to the Metro.

Strip malls? Yep, there were lots of strip malls. Some of them were great. The local deli where I learned about pastrami and Space Invaders was in my home shopping center, Cabin John Mall. So was Jerry's Sub Shop. Jerry's Sub Shop is a chain, but so what? The other night I dreamed about Jerry's Sub Shop. What looks like a fake place to some people is a real place to those of us who call it home.

I don't live there anymore, but lots of my friends who grow up there still do. For most people, t's not a weird or horrible or depressing or soul-killing place to live.
posted by escabeche at 11:51 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you're going to move to the suburbs, you inform your close friends privately and with apologies and then don't tell anyone else until it's a done deal, and then nobody ever speaks of it again.

Around here, it's more that nobody ever speaks to you again: not because of any particular animosity, but because you simply aren't around anymore. Once people move to the suburbs, they basically just disappear, and we have no idea what they are all doing out there. We certainly aren't going to go out there to find out.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:02 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Escabeche. Potomac would be an amazing place to live. The median list price for a house in Potomac in the last 90 days is $1,299,950! I don't doubt that a few $10M houses are skewing the average but I think you can pretty safely say that its a nice place.
posted by fontophilic at 12:16 PM on June 10, 2013


I grew up in Montgomery County, in Potomac

Lucky you, but the only thing Potomac and Rockville have in common is that they're both in MoCo. Like the rest of the DC Vortex (especially hellholes like Gaithersburg, Manassas, and Hoodbridge), Rockville is one of those places that no one wants to live in but do because it's all they can afford, Potomac on the other hand...
posted by playertobenamedlater at 12:31 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm in DC and a few years away from getting serious about having kids. I've been interested and heartened to see that friends in DC who are a few years older and have children haven't yet fled to the suburbs. My impression is that there are several good public elementary schools, fewer good public middle schools, and a small handful of good public high schools. But it's undeniable that schools in DC, in general, are improving. It may be comparable to how Afghanistan is experiencing a bump in economic development - 1% growth is incalculably better than, we didn't have an economy 10 years ago - but they are definitely improving.

I'm hoping that by the time my husband and I start getting serious about having a family, the generation of children in DCPS and their parents will have fought for better high schools and we might not need to flee to the suburbs. If not, there are plenty of suburbs nearby to choose from.
posted by kat518 at 12:32 PM on June 10, 2013


If not, there are plenty of suburbs nearby to choose from.

Assuming you can afford them with the YOY price increases.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 12:33 PM on June 10, 2013


Potomac, which is kind of like Rockville, only even less urban.

Yeah, in the way Ravinia is kind of like Northbrook or Toluca Lake is kind of like Glendale.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:35 PM on June 10, 2013


No public transit? Not true at all. I don't think I knew anybody who was more than a 10-minute walk from a Ride-On stop

I went to school in Bethesda and had close friends in Potomac and they were substantially further from a Ride-On stop than this. It's also an additional 30 minutes or so to Bethesda's metro, and then from there to the city, and of course their parents were terrified of the Metro at night, so...but yeah, the libraries are fantastic. (And I'm pretty sure I took baby gymnastic classes in the Cabin John Mall? Small world!) It's pretty different from Rockville though, especially given the development along Rockville Pike recently.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:37 PM on June 10, 2013


Most of the people I know who have young kids and live in DC have kids who are too young to be attending school. As those kids get closer to school-age, many of these folks start to talk about moving outside the city. This is not true for everyone I know in this situation, but I'd say it's the norm.

I grew up in DC, and I know that I moved to Montgomery County specifically for the schools.
posted by OmieWise at 12:40 PM on June 10, 2013


suburbs where there's no walkability, no public transit, and nothing to do unless you drive somewhere else

I don't think this quite describes Montgomery County. Montgomery County is relatively well-served by public transit, with Ride-On and the Metro. When we lived in Bethesda, my then high school-age brother used to ride his bike into Georgetown pretty regularly. On the other hand, some parts of Gaithersburg were stereotypical soul-crushing suburbia.

I actually lived in Rockville and liked living there. I admit it can seem pretty bad if you don't live there and are driving in from somewhere else to hit up one of the strip malls. As a resident, you figure out the patterns of traffic and adjust your routines to avoid the worst times, and in my case develop a Zen attitude towards Rockville Pike during rush hour and weekends. What I liked was the organic diversity of the place, as I said in a previous comment: "It was somewhere I could get my eyebrows done at the Persian salon, go to a Hair Cuttery with a Korean stylist, and pick up a soy sauce chicken from the Chinese grocery on the way home. And the restaurants! Korean-style Chinese with handmade noodles, Northern Chinese, Taiwanese, Peruvian chicken, Japanese ramen ... "
posted by needled at 12:45 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh. This thread. Instead of commenting I considered softly weeping to myself.

I'm a "young creative professional" living in DC. I'm newlywed and thinking about kids in the 3 to 5 year game plan. Lucky to not have much debt, and feeling a bit squeezed by our apartment in Columbia Heights. Looking to buy is starting to make sense. We both work near Bethesda. Rates are low and if we can get a 3.5% we would save tens of thousands of dolars over the life of a mortgage.

Our thought process has been something along these lines: Meanwhile my parents are freaking out at the prospect of having any future grandbabies be educated by DCPS, charter otherwise. I know some people who have kids in charter schools and they work really hard to make those schools successful. But at some point, especially with our jobs in the suburbs, are we just making our lives harder by living in the city?

So we've had a dark dirty secret which we hide from our friends. We hit up open houses on Sundays in Silver Spring, Takoma, Bethesda-adjacent (Bethesda proper being too expensive). We even went to Kensington. Once.

For a whole lot of reasons Rockville actually seems to be a sweet spot of lots of factors for us. The major factor being the availability of not-falling-apart houses in the under $500k (preferably WAY under) range. And when I say not-falling-apart I feel I need to emphasize that I have really really low standards. The craziest thing is that Rockville would possibly allow us to have a non-car commute, fulfilling the principle urbanite dream by betraying it by moving to the suburbs.

Older co-workers all live in Gaithersburg and beyond, up the 270 corridor. My previous aspiration was staying inside the beltway but that was pretty quickly busted. We've drawn the line at Rockville. This far and no further.

We confessed our thoughts to a friend who did grow up in Rockville. She said we could move to Rockville because we hadn't live there before, thus wouldn't be "going back to Rockville". Or we will rent for forever. There is really no step in between the two.
posted by fontophilic at 12:57 PM on June 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Also, I should add, they are doing nothing to address Rockville Pike. If they were to start there rather than just tearing down the mall and plopping this formula box down it might change things. See also PG Plaza."

I kinda disagree on this point, they are taking an EXTREMELY long view on changing Rockville Pike, and it will be a really slow change given how long they allowed that sore to fester.* They are building artery / feeder roads parallel to the pike itself (which are essential to managing some of the local traffic flow because the Pike is still a major funnel to other suburbs), upping zoning and development projects right next to Metro Stations (of which White Flint, the Town Center, are just small pieces). We'll see how much it can change.

And as Fontophillic's comment shows, the future of MoCo's development HAS to be Rockville Pike, because *that's where the Metro is.* The planners know this.


* Compare the transit oriented development of Northern Virginia to Maryland. Maryland Metro stations are just drop-offs from far off suburban areas, whereas Metro Stations in Virgina have been the spatial base of VA's economy (as well as magnets for young people, its urban-lite, but still!) over the last 30 years. It's so bizarre. It's like NoVa got all the awesome visionary planners directing their transit-based metro planning (see also Tysons, we're gonna build a transit based city), and put a bunch of monkeys with sharpies directing their road system. I wish someone on the inside could explain what happened there.
posted by stratastar at 1:35 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe my view is skewed because I grew up in the parts of PG county featured on The Wire or because I lived in Charles county for a while, but I really enjoy living in Montgomery county. Traffic on Rockville Pike pales in comparison to the 5/301 corridor through Waldorf. There's lots of county buses and Metro buses that run all day and weekends too, plus there's the Red line for getting downtown. In southern PG and Charles county, neighborhoods are lucky if they get one Metro bus to show up for weekday morning and evening commutes and the closest Metro rail is a half hour drive away.

The shopping and restaurant choices are much better. Southern PG county routinely gets skipped for development so going out to a nice restaurant means driving into DC or VA. Schools are so much better. I went to a good public school in PG county (this was many years ago) but now that my kid is going through public school in Montgomery county, I see what a world of difference there is between the two. The class sizes are very similar (both crowded), but Montgomery county teachers and curriculum prepare the students much better for college.

Also, I'm totally getting miniature goats and ditching the lawn mower.
posted by hoppytoad at 1:42 PM on June 10, 2013


Mitheral: "If you have a larger than average lot for the area could you add on a bedroom?"

We've gone round and round about it. Housing is comparatively cheap where I am (flyover country), so we go around about moving vs. building on vs. gutting and rearranging the not-so-efficiently-arranged interior, with all these ancillary questions of commutes and neighborhoods and schools ...

If I had unlimited money I think I'd gut the first floor and have it rearranged for more modern living, while incidentally getting a third bedroom out of it. But I don't think that's a cost you could ever come close to recouping when you sold later. Also if I had unlimited money I don't suppose I'd have to worry about commutes. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:54 PM on June 10, 2013


This should be a thread about how to navigate the DC school system for my two month old daughter so I don't have to move to Montgomery County.

The key to DC is that it has its own very cute and very transit-accessible internal suburbs: Takoma, Brightwood, Brookland, and Michigan Park. The only reason to go further out to Maryland is for the schools or so you'll have a vote.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:21 PM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know an educational advocate I can hook you up with. She lives in Takoma DC, so you might get uncomfortable driving from whatever inner city 'hood you live in to talk with her, but she's got a ton of experience getting kids well-educated in DC.
posted by OmieWise at 5:38 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll just leave this here:

Proposed New “255-unit, five-story residential structure” for Takoma Metro Site
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:05 PM on June 10, 2013


It's like NoVa got all the awesome visionary planners directing their transit-based metro planning (see also Tysons, we're gonna build a transit based city), and put a bunch of monkeys with sharpies directing their road system. I wish someone on the inside could explain what happened there.

Oh, you did not grow up in the same NoVA that I did. I grew up in Fairfax County. Let me tell you a tale of two counties: Fairfax and Arlington.

Arlington:
I say a straight up thug town called Arlington

Fairfax:
We've got bulgogi and bulgogi and bulgogi...


Tysons Corner in Fairfax County is the huge sprawling disaster it is today thanks to some incredible lack of planning in the 1960s. For those of you not familiar with the area, imagine the largest mall you can think of. Build it, and then put another one across the street. Surround it with thousands of offices with parking lots and jammed-up arterial roads you can't walk across. It's one of the largest edge city developments on all of Planet Earth, and it took Fairfax County a half century to finally put rail in.

The history of rail transit in Washington isn't about trains, it's about whether local governments seized the opportunity to use trains to shape the city. Arlington County, Virginia did this, while Fairfax County did not. Fifty years later the effects are obvious: Arlington is built around a thriving urban core, and Fairfax is finally playing catch-up.

As detailed in the highly-recommended The Great Society Subway, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors were coming to grips with explosive, exponential growth. They chose to place the Metrorail Orange Line in the existing right of way inside of Interstate 66, sending it to Vienna instead of Tysons, which was going to be one of the largest edge city developments in the world.

It would take them fifty years to finally put rail out to Tysons, but by now the task is more difficult. It is much easier to shape development when little is there, but the entire area is built out. Instead of threading rail transit through corridors they could develop, they chose to instead use existing right of way to save cost. The result?

Metro in Fairfax County is in gashes that cut through communities instead of being a part of them. They did the same thing to the Blue Line following existing rail rights of way which extends to Springfield, an area at the confluence of the Beltway and 95 that is criminally underdeveloped as a core of urbanity (though the wheels of redevelopment are finally turning there). Franconia-Springfield Station could be surrounded by so much more. Instead, there's swampland, a mall they're finally knocking over, and a CIA blacksite that's blocking the FBI from building there.

When Fairfax did finish the Orange Line to Vienna, it took decades before dense development around the station could be approved. The first generation of Fairfax residents had a large proportion of white-flighters who fought density tooth and nail. The Board of Supervisors relented and didn't manage to rezone areas mixed-use until the last decade or so.

Arlington County insisted on an Orange Line alignment under Wilson Boulevard instead of in the middle of an interstate highway and focused high-density development around the stations. Today, the Orange Line is a victim of its own success, drowning in rush hour crowds, asphyxiating under the crush of latte-sipping yuppies headed to their white-collar jobs in DC.

The end result is that in Fairfax, Metro is an absolutely essential commuter tool, whisking residents to jobs and back. But well-executed development relies on transit for work and play. That's what you need for a good quality of life. Arlington caught on to that formula early on.

The housing market in DC is fucked. It's just fucked to high hell. People who want and need an urban lifestyle can't afford it, and in order to live in a good school district they have to compromise with a less-expensive, more transit-poor neighborhood. I was fortunate enough to have a handful of (slow, infrequently running) buses that took me to and from the Metro so I could have the run of the town before I got my driver's license, which in the suburbs is the only true means of adolescent liberation. We lived in the suburbs, but 13 year old me had the city at my disposal because of public transit and parents who, having seen real live helicopters back in the home country, trusted that they didn't need to helicopter me. Many in the suburbs aren't so lucky.

It should not be a privilege to have dependable, convenient transit. People live in the suburbs because it's what they can afford. Rents in the District (or the inner suburbs like Arlington) are too damn high, and forget about buying property in there. The cities are revitalizing and the outer suburbs are suffering, as suburbanites in Manassas or Woodbridge are stuck to their cars with no way out.

Fairfax County, as far as I can tell, is finally going in the right direction. The outer suburbs like Prince William and Loudoun should fear their day of reckoning, since their positioning right now is not very good so long as gas prices remain where they are.

Like I said upthread, parents will do virtually anything short of self-immolation to get their children into a good public school district, and Montgomery and Fairfax have reputations for being the best. But if you don't have the money to move into rich areas with huge houses like Langley, you might try to find a transit-friendly neighborhood. Good luck scraping that money together! So it leaves a place like Springfield, Centreville, or Rockville for middle-class families putting their feet on the ground. Metro shouldn't be a privilege.

At least in Virginia, counties have consolidated districts, which helps keep the less-affluent areas inside affluent counties afloat. If McLean, Clifton and the other one-percenter areas could break off and form their own school districts, sucking out the property tax base with them, other Fairfax County schools would teeter on the edge of collapse.

So again, it all comes down to schools. Since school funding and control is so local, it lives and dies by the tax base, which keeps rich kids in good districts and poor kids out. A federal takeover could theoretically redistribute funds, but it would be politically untenable for reasons too numerous to count.

As a yuppie, more or less, who isn't terribly into lattes (call me when Starbucks catches on to Vietnamese iced coffee), it probably won't be long before I'm back working in DC given what I do. If I can afford it I hope to live in a walkable, urban neighborhood. But who knows...in a few years I might need solid gold bars to get an apartment.

Same as it ever was for the working stiff.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:36 PM on June 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Perhaps I sounded a bit too negative, though. One thing the DC suburbs have over downtown, even, is ethnic diversity, a situation reversed from other cities. Immigrant communities largely skipped the District and went straight out to the 'burbs. You want ethnic food of culture X? It's out there and you can find it.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:41 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks to schmod for pointing out that GreaterGreaterWashington and Just Up the Pike are the best ongoing sources of information about urbanization for the DC area and Silver Spring/Takoma, respectively. JUTP does cover Bethesda issues sometimes, but it isn't his central focus. BethesdaNow does a good job of reporting (in contrast to the generally useless Patch site), but without much analysis or opinion.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 6:06 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Our thought process has been something along these lines:
Lets fix up a tiny old rowhouse in Columbia Heights or Mt. Pleasant!
Oh a "knockdown" rowhouse is $650k?
Lets get a condo! Huh, whats a condo fee?
You mean I pay the condo association $900+ a month on top of my mortgage?! and it doesn't include utilities?!
Well maybe we could get tiny bungalow if we move to Takoma: the Acceptable Suburb™


You know, there's a hell of a lot more to DC and surrounds than just Columbia Heights, Mt. Pleasant, and Takoma. Perhaps you should broaden your search East and West rather than North and South.

This should be a thread about how to navigate the DC school system for my two month old daughter so I don't have to move to Montgomery County.

Apply to the out-of-boundary publics and charters early and to as many of the good ones as humanly possible. One will hit. You might have to go private for a Pre-k 3 program (or Bridges) for a year until you can get into a school with a Pre-k 4 program. It's stressfull, but not as bad as people make it out to be.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:28 AM on June 11, 2013


Worth noting: WMATA finally put its foot down, and will not be considering any future suburban extensions, once the Silver Line is completed. In the meantime, there are various LRT projects of varying merit being considered around the region, and there's a glimmer of hope that MoCo could build a BRT system that doesn't suck. RideON is already fairly good as far as suburban bus services go.

IMO, DC's best chance of cramming more people into the city would be to put a Metro line underneath the entire length of Rhode Island Ave.

Hollywood Upstairs Medical College: "One thing the DC suburbs have over downtown, even, is ethnic diversity, a situation reversed from other cities. Immigrant communities largely skipped the District and went straight out to the 'burbs. You want ethnic food of culture X? It's out there and you can find it."

And, yes. This is an awesome thing that the region should carefully embrace. One thing that Arlington and MoCo have going for them is a ton of ethnic diversity, and a strong local business community.

Yes, there are way too many strip malls, but they do seem to contain lots of interesting and local businesses. This (substantially) lowers the soul-crushingness of these cities.

Fairfax is slowly coming around, but still has the wrong mentality (Virginia lurrrves building roads, and Arlington is the only jurisdiction that has the willpower (and legal staff) to continually fight the state government's attempts to pave over their entire county). Fortunately, Fairfax is still in a better position than Loudoun or PG.

A lot of PG's problems get blamed on poverty, which is unfair, because the county's not remotely as poor as people think it is, and its government is blindingly incompetent and corrupt.
posted by schmod at 6:59 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


One thing the DC suburbs have over downtown, even, is ethnic diversity, a situation reversed from other cities. Immigrant communities largely skipped the District and went straight out to the 'burbs. You want ethnic food of culture X? It's out there and you can find it.

This is only partially true. You CAN find several varieties of ethnic food in the burbs, you can also find it in downtown. It's also not true of certain groups, for example you aren't going to find the best Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurants in the suburbs, the best West African food is still in town (or Langley Park, MD), and you don't leave the District for Salvadoran food (except again to Langley Park). Wealthier, more recent immigrant groups that came to the area in the rough days of the 80's and 90's hit the suburbs, thus the mass of Korean stores and restaurants in Annandale, VA or the dim sum of MoCo.

A note on Langley Park - it is the true sticky goo on the bottom of the proverbial melting pot with sari stores sandwiched between African groceries, Pho restaurants, and Peruvian chicken joints. It's really something else and worth a trip for folks looking for ethnic dives or some vegetable you haven't tasted since you were in Peace Corps!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:11 AM on June 11, 2013


Apply to the out-of-boundary publics and charters early and to as many of the good ones as humanly possible. One will hit. You might have to go private for a Pre-k 3 program (or Bridges) for a year until you can get into a school with a Pre-k 4 program. It's stressful, but not as bad as people make it out to be.

How early is early? Is this going to be like the endless applications, waiting lists, and lotteries for a goddamned day care slot? (We had to apply a year in advance of actual need, and lots of folks report waiting two or three years for their first choice!)
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:53 AM on June 11, 2013


Perhaps I sounded a bit too negative, though.

Not at all. The DC housing market is completely and utterly fucked and it's only going to get worse. I'm counting down the days until I no longer have to deal with this place and the stories of friends buttering up people to sell them their 1,200 sq ft townhouses in Trinidad for $650K.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 8:00 AM on June 11, 2013


The DC housing market is a little weird, but it's not fucked. You'd have to be an idiot to pay that much for a house in Trinidad, for instance. Frankly, the problem is mostly racism preventing whites from considering the large suburban areas east of Rock Creek Park, and the eastern quadrants in general. So the city as a whole is in the middle of a gentrification squeeze, right now. Plenty of cheaper housing in the areas I identified above.

If anyone wants help finding a great place to raise a family in DC, I can give you the benefit of three years of anxiously scanning Zillow and retroactively learning all the ins and outs of the housing market here to assure myself we didn't make a bad move in 2010. For instance, I predict that Fort Totten is gonna be big in a few years.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:12 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


How early is early? Is this going to be like the endless applications, waiting lists, and lotteries for a goddamned day care slot?

Not day-care, preschool, and it's not eve the preschool you're applying to, it's the elementary and secondary school(s) they feed into. There's a date that the applications open, usually in the fall (for example Two Rivers is in November), you send it in then (and by then I mean the day it opens). The lottery date is the same time for all, in March, you get the results (you can even attend in person if you like), figure out which is going to work best for you and choose. With Charters it's easier to get into a new school, but you also run the risk of them not making their Charter. Of course it's a lottery so you might not get any, particularly if you apply late and don't plan ahead, but applying early and to many gives you better odds of getting into good schools and most people get in to somewhere workable and as long as it's not a language immersion school you're trying to get into, you can always keep trying.

And one more thing - once you're in with kid #1 then the siblings ride the coattails!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:15 AM on June 11, 2013


Anotherpanacea speaks the truth regarding the DC housing market. I spent two years living in a house owned by one of my roommates in Congress Heights, just south of Anacostia on the far east side of the river. He got if for 221K, which is quite low by DC-proper standards. Place was in very good repair, two and a half blocks from the metro, four bedrooms, backyard big enough for a huge garden (seriously, that photo's missing at least two of the raised beds), four block walk to a real grocery store. (No small feat, considering that much of east-of-the-river DC is a food desert.) The trade-off, though, was few other amenities or 'fun' things within walking distance, poor schools, (didn't come up so much in our case, as none of us were considering kids soon), and the endless work of convincing other people to leave their Columbia Heights/Petworth bubble and make the trek my way, which oftentimes involved calling them out on their racism.

My landlord liked to make the argument that so many people complaining about how they 'can't afford' to live in DC could likely buy a house out our way, and use the money they spent not driving in from the Virginia or Maryland boonies every day to send their kids to private school. But segregation in DC proper runs deep, and the stigma around living in the eastern part of the city, especially east of the Anacostia, is still very much there.

As for Rockville/other pre-fab new urban developments in Montgomery County, I wonder if the White Flint redevelopers are also looking to King Farm as an example. If nothing else, I hope King Farm teaches the value of actually building your new urban community in close to the metro station that serves it; crossing the vast parking lot at Shady Grove Station immediately followed by Rockville Pike is a freaking nightmare.
posted by ActionPopulated at 2:20 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Over the past year alone, prices in most of DC's "cheap because people are racist" neighborhoods have shot through the roof. I live in one, and I'm going to be priced out of it when my rental turns into a condo later this year.

DC's only remaining affordable neighborhoods either have exceptionally poor transit access, or are located east of the Anacostia River (and even those are fairly pricey, considering that those neighborhoods are seriously lacking in basic amenities, eg. grocery stores).
posted by schmod at 2:56 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to give a shoutout to my mother, who along with many others in Arlingtonians for a Better County waged a decades long campaign to take back county politics from the old racist Southern Democrat machine, allowing for that excellent and foresighted urban planning to take place. There was a lot of love and a lot of work that went into making Arlington the civilized and diverse place it is.

All hail the People's Republic of Arlington :)
posted by tavella at 4:47 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


They did the same thing to the Blue Line following existing rail rights of way which extends to Springfield, an area at the confluence of the Beltway and 95 that is criminally underdeveloped as a core of urbanity (though the wheels of redevelopment are finally turning there). Franconia-Springfield Station could be surrounded by so much more. Instead, there's swampland, a mall they're finally knocking over, and a CIA blacksite that's blocking the FBI from building there.

This is actually my neighborhood. Things are changing, especially since NGA moved into their new HQ on the other side of I-95.

- a new 13 story office building went up on the other side of the tracks from the Metro station, and there are plans to build three more and a new hotel at the same site.

- there is a free shuttle bus service from the new office park to the Metro (and now I don't have to pay to park, yay me!)

- as noted the blighted and gang-overrun Springfield Mall is finally being redeveloped

- Wegmans is going in down the road at the intersection of Beulah and Telegraph

It's building up fast down here. They need to work on the walkability of the neighborhood though. I can walk to the grocery store or other amenities but there aren't enough pedestrian crossings and people get a little road ragey about pedestrians having the right of way. They also need to stop arguing and rebuild the Laurel Grove Church which has been sitting as a burned out hole in ground for almost a decade now.
posted by smoothvirus at 2:23 PM on June 12, 2013


For the record, Rockville Pike is not the same thing as Rockville.
posted by 0 at 10:31 AM on June 13, 2013


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