Ah, Rockville Pike. Strip malls, regular malls and doctor offices of my youth. They say your days are numbered.
Sunday’s Washington Post outlined a major plan for new walkable communities along this prominent Montgomery County corridor. For those of you that have never made it out to Rockville Pike, let me tell you what you are missing: everything. For roughly four miles, this cluttered commercial strips offers you Old Navy, Sports Authority, Toys “R” Us, fabric stores, restaurants—-chain and independently owned—-from around the world, and car dealerships galore. Growing up in Bethesda, Rockville Pike was my own little piece of Anywhere, America. I have no idea if all of the aforementioned establishments still exist. But, I visited each of them at some point.
I’m not going to sugarcoat the situation. Rockville Pike is awful. But, it’s the kind of awful you get used to, and ignore. Clearly, the road inspired one person, who—-I kid you not—-wrote a book about it. Ah, well, change is coming. I am ambivalent:
[Montgomery County planners] see the pike, Montgomery’s commercial spine, redesigned as a tree-lined, walkable, bikeable, lovable and magnificent road connecting a network of urban villages strung along each side. There would be neighborhood stores, restaurants, housing and offices — allowing residents to work, dine and shop within blocks of their high-rise apartments in an urban setting.
The villages would be built along four Metro stops — Shady Grove, Rockville, Twinbrook and White Flint — and to move between them, commuters would ditch their cars whenever possible and use buses, bikes or their own two feet.
Photo by M.V. Jantzen