Monday, November 29, 2010

B.F. Saul posts summary of community feedback

B.F. Saul's website has posted a summary (PDF) of the feedback they heard from the community meeting held on November 17th.

It generally seems like a fairly detailed list, but I noticed they did gloss over a few points that people were trying to make.  Just from the groups I was in, I noticed that their summary doesn't list some of the requests to improve accessibility of sidewalks (i.e. avoid having light poles, parking meters, etc. become obstacles in the sidewalk).  They also don't really address the concerns that Chip Py (passionately!) spoke about regarding the rights of people in the town square to assemble, protest, take pictures, etc., without interference from security guards (i.e. the kind of issues that have been popping up in Silver Spring).

I was hoping that they would just scan in the sheets of paper used to write down everyone's suggestions rather than type up a summary.  Since they have decided to go with a summary, they should have a process in place for people to comment on B.F. Saul's version of the community feedback.  If you do feel that they have omitted or misrepresented something you heard at the meeting, I would recommend using their 'Contact Us' link on the website to voice your concerns.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Easy, Tasty Dinner from H-Mart

I was out and about in MoCo today taking care of some holiday shopping and when I headed home in the late afternoon, I started to brainstorm some easy dinner options.  After eating waaaay too much Thanksgiving food this weekend, I was in the mood for something different.  I decided to shop for dinner at H-Mart.  When I had a cookout at my house this summer, my boss, who is Korean, brought over some bulgogi from H-Mart that we threw on the grill.  It was awesome!  So, I decided to pick up some bulgogi today to make for dinner.

For those of you not familiar with bulgogi, it's very thinly sliced beef that is marinated in garlic, onion, scallions, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.  To find it in H-Mart, head to the left once you enter the store (towards the freezer section), and you'll see a refrigerated wall case with a 'Korean BBQ' sign hanging from the ceiling.  There are lots of plastic containers with all sorts of prepared foods.  I found the bulgogi in an open freezer case across the aisle from the wall case.  It was labelled 'Marinated Thin Slices of Beef Rib Eye' and was selling for $3.99/lb, which is pretty damn cheap considering that Woomi Garden charges over $20 for it.

I also picked up a few sides from the refrigerated case to have with it - stir fried black beans and seaweed.

When I got home, I started a pot of rice and chopped up some onion and a beautiful bell pepper that I got at H-Mart to saute with the meat (not necessary for bulgogi, but I wanted some veggies).  I added some sesame oil to a skillet, turned the burner up to high, then threw in the meat and veggies.  I sauteed them until the liquid evaporated and things started to brown.

Once the food in the skillet was done, I served it up with some rice and the sides I picked up (which I just served cold from the containers).  After about 15 minutes worth of work, I had an awesome dinner and enough leftovers for two lunches at work this week (my coworkers will be so jealous!).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Turkey Day, Wheaton!

I hope all of you out there have a wonderful Thanksgiving and safe travels if you're heading out of town.  I'm on up my way up to Pennsylvania to spend the weekend with family.  And for any of you still working on your menus, here is a link to a good 'ol fashioned stuffing recipe from the Joy of Cooking that I really like.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Recap of B.F. Saul Meeting

I just got back from the B.F. Saul meeting for community input on the Wheaton redevelopment project.  Overall, I came away from it with a good impression of both the redevelopment team and the Wheaton residents who participated in the meeting.  There was a great turnout - I would estimate about 125 people (but I reserve the right to be completely wrong on that).  After an initial intro, which included much patting on the back by county people and WMATA reps, the B.F. Saul team took the stage to give a brief presentation about their plans for public input on the process and they gave a recap of what past redevelopment meetings in Wheaton have shown residents are looking for.  I had to laugh at the chart they showed for what community groups they are getting input from.  The list included several local blogs, including Just Up the Pike, Good Eatin in Wheaton, and the Talk of Wheaton, but NO mention of Wheaton Calling.  Where's the love, B.F. Saul???

***Sidenote:  Mr. WC just reminded me that perhaps this omission was due to some not-so-kind words I had about the portfolio of work shown on B.F. Saul's website.  Fair enough!***

Anyways, after the initial intro, the audience broke into smaller groups at 8 different tables, which were centered around different themes for the revelopment:  Desired Land Uses and Small Business Impact, Streets & Sidewalks, Town Square & Open Space, and Overall Vision for Wheaton's New Downtown.  Each table had an architect (from Torti Galls) or developer rep(from B.F. Saul) acting as a facilitator and taking down suggestions from the residents on each topic.  After two 30-minute sessions, the development team pulled together common themes that they had heard and presented them to the group.  I was nicely surprised at how cohesive all of us residents were in what we asked for.  I came into this expecting much more of a strong NIMBY presence, but instead I found that people were passionately dedicated to preserving Wheaton's diversity and creating a lively, diverse town center that welcomes all residents and visitors to Wheaton.  The facilitators were also patient, taking down pretty much every suggestion and comment, even if they got a little wacky (my table jokingly asked for jugglers, to which the facilatator replies, "Okay!  We're putting jugglers on the list!").

The next steps in the process include B.F. Saul working out a deal on the land in question with the county and WMATA.  Once that is resolved, the team will work on putting together a concept plan of the project and will present it for further input from the community in March or April.  If you go to the project map on the team's website, the areas in red are the areas that B.F. Saul is currently working on purchasing from the county and WMATA.

Two members of the architectural team summarizing the input they heard from residents
 Here is an abridged summary of the input they heard from residents at the meeting (apparently scans of all the notes from the meeting will be posted to their website):

Desired Land Uses and Small Business Impact
-Avoid chain restaurants
-Provide retailers that benefit the community, i.e. a hardware store or pet shop
-Keep parking on the perimeter of the project
-Don't lose the unique small town feel of Wheaton
-Bring more office space and office workers to the downtown
-Facilitate loans for small business to improve their storefronts
-Attract more people to existing businesses
-Add a hotel to the downtown
-Leverage the anticipated crowds for Costco into opportunities for downtown Wheaton

Streets & Sidewalks
-Improve sight lines for drivers
-Tame (or even periodically close?) Reedie Drive
-Provide buffers between cars, pedestrians, and bikes
-Provide wider sidewalks with more plantings and trees
-Include flexible seating
-Improve access to the metro station
-Possibly partner with Brookside Gardens for plantings/streetscapes (I like this idea!)
-Design a signature lighting theme that includes banners, hanging flower baskets, etc.
-Improved bike lanes (how about any bike lanes?) and secure bike storage
-Less concrete, more green

Town Square
-Provide space for a farmers market and flea market; space should also work for the Taste of Wheaton and outdoor concerts
-Design a public space that welcomes all people
-Make sustainability a priority, especially stormwater management
-Better signage for metro entrances

Overall Vision
-More public art
-Pedestrian and bike access
-'Safety in Design' - through architectural design, lighting, and accessibility
-Celebrate Wheaton's diversity.  We don't want to be Bethesda, Silver Spring, or Rockville!

If it's not Scottish, it's crap

We have been hitting the Royal Mile pretty hard lately, but I can't seem to stop myself!  Their burger continues to be one of my all-time favorites, and with cooler weather moving in, my craving for comfort food and beer keeps getting stronger.  The other night when we stopped by, we were treated to a 'kilted' gentleman standing in front of the restaurant playing bagpipes.  I immediately started envisioning bagpiper faceoffs ("We have a piper down!") with the Limerick Pub across the street once that opens.

As usual, the burger I got (with mushrooms and swiss cheese) was fantastic - flavorful meat that was nice and juicy, plus a big side of delicous fries.  They were out of a few of the beers that I initially tried to order, but I still enjoyed the Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout that I finally ended up getting.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Your chance to weigh in on Wheaton's redevelopment

Tomorrow evening (Wednesday the 17th), B.F. Saul, the developer selected by the county to develop the 'triangle' of land between Viers Mill and Georgia, is holding a community workshop to get input on what Wheaton residents want to see happen in this area.  This is a very important meeting for us Wheaton residents to really make our voices heard.

Based on my experiences with these types of meetings so far, there's always a very strong showing by long-time Wheaton residents, many of whom have pretty strong NIMBY leanings.  I'd like to see a more balanced cross-section of our community at these meetings, both homeowners and renters.  I've heard stories of developers avoiding Wheaton in the past for redevelopment efforts simply because they got the impression that residents really don't want anything to change.  While it's perfectly understandable that some residents don't want any redevelopment to happen in Wheaton, I know that there are also alot of other residents out there who are in support of it.

The meeting is on Wednesday, the 17th (tomorrow), from 7pm to 9pm at the Crossway Community Center in Kensington (guess there aren't any large meeting spaces in downtown Wheaton?).  The address is 3015 Upton Drive, Kensington.  It sounds like they're going to have break-out sessions on different topics, so it will be more of a workshop than a public meeting, which I think is a good thing.  The county has a press release with a few more details.  B.F. Saul has also started a website to keep the community updated on the project of their redevelopment effort.  This looks like a good place to go for updates on community meetings.  Hope to see lots of residents at the meeting tomorrow!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Matamoros? Eh. Matamaybe...

And with that cheesy blog title, I bring you my review of a dinner that me and Mr. WC had at Matamoros the other night.  This was our first visit to the restaurant, and it's been on our list to try for a while.  We ate there on a Tuesday and were the only people in the restaurant for most of our meal.  We shared two pupusas for an appetizer.  While they were a little burned here and there, I thought they were both alright.  The fillings didn't really have enough flavor to them, though, so I mostly ended up tasting the sauce and cabbage we had with them more than the pupusas themselves.

Ordering entrees was a little frustrating since they were out of the first two fish dishes we were interested in trying.  We ended up sharing two dishes - the plato durango, which includes a chicken enchilada, a beef taco (hard shell), and a chicken tamal with rice and beans; and the huachinango en cilantro, which was pan-fried red snapper with cilantro based sauce and grilled zucchini. 

None of the items in the plato durango really stood out for me.  Both chicken dishes were fairly bland, but I thought that the beef taco was decent.  I liked the red snapper slightly better, but still, it just seemed a little bland to me.

While our meal at Matamoros wasn't horrible, it wasn't great either.  I would definitely rank Sergio's ahead of Matamoros in terms of meal quality and for the variety of dishes offered on the menu.  I'm also still a fan of Irene's for the pupusas, but I need to get back over there for a review because it's been a while.

Any readers out there have any other recommendations for Tex-Mex/Salvadoran/etc food in Wheaton?  Perhaps a visit to a certain food truck is in order.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Safeway is on the way

Good news for all of you who have been waiting for-ev-er for the new Safeway project to get underway.  On October 28th, the planning board gave their final approval for the project to move forward.  Click here for the Gazette article, which includes an artist's rendering of the project.  Courtesy of Eatin' In Wheaton, there's also a good post on DCMud with lots of info on the project.

On a side note, did you know that video links are available on the planning board's website for all of their hearings?  Out of curiosity, I watched the portion of the meeting dealing with the Safeway approval.  The new building sounds pretty sweet - there will be a 5th floor open-air terrace level with a lawn, pool, lounge area, and fire pit.  Inside the building, there will be a fitness center, play room, and lounge.  There will be an outdoor seating area at street level along the Safeway facade.  The public art they have planned sounds kind of dull (little mini-figures showing people going about their businesss), but it was amusing to hear the developer and artist try to sell the idea to the planning board during the meeting...People will end up naming the statues!  They'll dress them up for holidays!  Eh, I don't know about that.  But still, I'd rather have something small and innocuous than some sort of big, ugly public art monstrosity.

Now that the project has the planning board's approval, they'll still have to get all of their building permits for the demolition and new construction work.  So, it will be a number of months before any progress is seen, but things seem to be on the right track!

And then there was one...

As many of you probably noticed either last night or this morning, there is now only 1 working escalator in the Wheaton metro station.  So far, they've had the functioning elevator running in the 'up' direction, which I think makes sense regardless of whether it's in the morning or evening rush hours.  But, it's probably only a matter of time before I come home from work and find it running in the 'down' direction.  Who needs a gym when we have the Wheaton escalators, right?

***Update on Wednesday, 11/10:  Two escalators were up and running this morning!