Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills, two neighborhoods north of Silver Spring, are closed off from each other by I-495. A new entrance to the Forest Glen Metro station could bridge the two communities, sparking economic revitalization for both.
Located on roughly 18 acres along Georgia Ave between I-495 and 16th Street, Montgomery Hills is an older commercial district that has been plagued by traffic issues and limited commercial and office development.
Forest Glen, divided by Georgia Avenue, is a quiet neighborhood that boasts a Metro stop, a 443- bed regional hospital, Army base, and national museum. It’s currently the focus of redevelopment efforts by WMATA, namely the possibility of converting an eight-acre surface parking lot into a mixed-use development with an emphasis on supporting the local Holy Cross Hospital.
Montgomery County recently decided to consolidate these two neighborhoods’ master plans, which has been accompanied by a stronger emphasis on pedestrian access and urban design that promotes redevelopment.
The county intends to complete the master plan consolidation by 2018 and to potentially complete development by 2020.
Connecting the neighborhoods via Metro
A new southern entrance at the Forest Glen Metro station would make Montgomery Hills less isolated and more appealing to developers.
Although no formal studies have been done on the viability of such a metro entrance,speaking off the record, Montgomery County staff have said it was possible to add an entrance on the southern side. On that side, Georgia Avenue directly lines up with the end of the Forest Glen platform.
WMATA already owns property where the Forest Glen Metro power station sits, right next to a historic shopping center. The site is big enough to add a southern entrance to the Metro station.
WMATA’s land on the Montgomery Hills side of the Forest Glen Metro station. Base image from Google Maps.
Right now, Metro users who want to go from the Forest Glen station to the other side of I-495 have to use the Georgia Avenue Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge’s height and exposure to the elements can make it cumbersome to use while a second Forest Glen station entrance could connect the neighborhoods in a way that the Georgia Avenue Pedestrian Bridge cannot.
WMATA could build a southern Forest Glen Metro entrance here. In this image, north is to the left. Base image from Google Maps.
Interestingly, Montgomery Hill’s own development history can be a lesson on how new projects can account for what the community needs.
As Silver Spring began to grow in the 1910s and 1920s, corner grocery stores started to appear in suburban areas where these kind of developments were isolated as commercial structures in mostly residential neighborhoods. Communities such as Chevy Chase deliberately banned commercial development, deeming it “unfitting” of prestigious residential neighborhoods.
Montgomery Hills in 1987. Base image from Google Maps.
Montgomery Hills, though, was a place where a few forward-minded developers recognized that such shopping centers were inevitable, and took it upon themselves to design and build a block of stores in areas designated for commercial use.
Montgomery Hills today. Base image from Google Maps.
Even though the Montgomery Hills Shopping Center was rejected as historic property in 1987, the Tudor revival styled area remains one of the largest operating shopping centers in the county which has retained its original architectural features.
Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills are plagued by traffic and congestion. A new Forest Glen Metro entrance could breathe life into this once-thriving neighborhood shopping center and create a new urban oasis between downtown Silver Spring and Wheaton.
New Metro stations may be tough sells, but a new entrance at a station that already exists isn’t so inconceivable. If Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills develop as their soon-to-be-collective master plan suggests, the roughly 25-acre combined area could brand itself as a mini city. The hardest part is coming up with a name. Forest Glen Hills, anyone?