Forest Glen, a neighborhood north of Silver Spring, has a lot going for it, including a Metro stop, a future Purple Line station, and a major hospital. But it’s limited because it doesn’t have much retail. Residents are amidst a grassroots campaign to change that.

The parking lot and bus loop at the Forest Glen Metro take up an awful lot of space. A lot of residents want to use it for retail. Photo by Dan Reed.

Despite the great things it does have, Forest Glen is very much a retail desert, largely separated from nearby shopping options in Montgomery Hills by the Beltway. The next closest commercial areas are in downtown Silver Spring and Wheaton, far outside of a comfortable walking distance from those living north of the Beltway and south of Dennis Avenue.

The area surrounding the Forest Glen Metro Station, with the half-mile radius shaded in blue. Drawn by Sean Emerson using Google Earth.

Forest Glen has space that’s begging for a new use

At Forest Glen’s Metro station just north of the Beltway, there’s currently an eight-acre surface parking lot. The Metro stop also has an unnecessarily large bus loop that’s only used by Ride On routes 7 and 8. The 7 only runs on weekdays at rush hour and the 8 is only every half hour most of the week. When WMATA planned the station, the agency planned for busses from the much busier Y and Q lines to turn into the loop, but they never have. As of now, it’s a whole lot of space that doesn’t get much use.

The Forest Glen bus bays, which are only served by Ride On routes 7 and 8. Photo by Sean Emerson.

There’s a lot of potential in building over all that pavement. The surrounding area is full of established single family homes, but along Georgia Avenue, Forest Glen’s main street, there are a number of apartment and town house complexes.

Residents know what could be, and they’re making it happen

Recognizing the lack of retail options and the seeing the current use of Metro’s property as a parking lot and an unnecessarily large bus loop as a problem, local residents hosted a charrette style meeting in late August to field ideas for development options on the Metro parking lot. About 40 people attended.

Community members discussing the Forest Glen Metro parking lot at August’s charrette. Photo by Partap Verma.

Attendees provided proposals for buildings that resemble National Park Seminary, a local landmark, and organizers created 3-D models of the community’s vision.

Rendering of potential development on the parking lot in the style of the National Park Seminary. Drawing by Sean Emerson.

Another view of potential development. Drawing by Sean Emerson.

A development concept. Image by Bell Architects.

Partap consolidated preliminary thoughts and designs into a document called the Forest Glen Redevelopment Report. The plan is to send the report to WMATA and Montgomery County, which is revising its master plan next year.

Organizers also sent out an online survey to the community at large— over 240 people— to better capture residents’ feelings about potential development at the Metro stop.

While some might have predicted a quiet urban community to be resistant to new growth, an overwhelming number of Forest Glen residents say they want a walkable community with retail options at the Forest Glen Metro Station. Most said they would walk to any new retail at the Metro station, with a coffee shop, grocery store, and restaurant being the most desired options for the site.

Lots of Forest Glen residents are excited about potential development in the area. Here are a few more survey results:

Survey respondents’ preferred retail options at the Metro parking lot. Image from Partap Verma.

Modes of travel by which survey respondents said they would access any new retail at the Metro lot. Image from Partap Verma.

How survey respondents feel about proposed retail at the Metro lot. Image from Partap Verma.

Sean Emerson is a lifelong resident of the Four Corners area of Silver Spring, where he blogs about his community at Around The Corners. He became interested in planning and transportation issues after reading Just Up the Pike and Greater Greater Washington. He has served on the board of Action Committee for Transit since 2016. His views expressed here are his alone.

Partap Singh Verma is an attorney and a Silver Spring native. He writes his own blog, Finding Forest Glen, and lives in Forest Glen, Maryland with his family.