Add County Council member Roger Berliner to the list of people who wants to see $6 million included in Montgomery County’s next capital budget to help build a parking garage in White Flint.
On Thursday, Berliner wrote a memo to colleagues on the council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee who are set to take up the Wall Park issue in a Monday session.
Montgomery Parks and the Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit of residents, business owners and developers, support the funding because the garage would replace the approximately 250 surface parking lot spaces in front of the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center and next to the existing park.
The parks department would then be able to replace the parking lot asphalt with grass, making it part of an expanded Wall Park that was envisioned as the central civic green in the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.
County Executive Ike Leggett didn’t include the $6 million for the parking garage in his recommended $4.4 billion six-year capital budget that would start July 1, saying the expanded Wall Park project needs more work.
“I believe the project requires additional coordination with County staff,” Leggett wrote in a letter to County Council President Nancy Floreen in which he presented his budget recommendations. “Based on the pace of White Flint redevelopment, I believe the project would benefit from additional time to work collaboratively to ensure that the Wall Park and combined aquatics and community center envisioned on the site can be effectively integrated and staged.”
But the Friends of White Flint, which has started an advocacy campaign for the garage funding called “Un-pave paradise, pull up the parking lot,” a reference to Joni Mitchell’s 1970 hit, “Big Yellow Taxi.” The group also says delaying the funding will only add to the garage costs later.
Developer Gables Residential, which plans to begin construction on a three-building, 476-unit mixed-use apartment project this summer behind the aquatic center, says it also will start building the roughly 1,000-space garage.
As a condition of the project’s approval in April, the developer must provide the county 10 years to come up with money to fund its portion of the garage—the 250 spaces to replace the existing surface parking lot at the aquatic center and an additional 150 spaces for a yet-to-be-funded community center next door.
Eddie Meder, development director at Gables Residential, said in January there could be about $1 million in cost savings if the county offers the money for its parking spaces during the initial construction of the garage, as opposed to having to modify the garage later.
In October, the Montgomery County Planning Board delayed other projects in its six-year capital budget request to provide the $6 million for the county’s portion of the garage and the replacement of the parking lot asphalt with grass.
“Now it is time to make it a reality and to fulfill our pledge to our community that we will not shirk our responsibility to provide the public amenities promised in return for greater density and urbanization,” Berliner wrote in a memo to Floreen and council members George Leventhal and Hans Riemer.
The three make up the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee.
“To their credit, our Parks Department understands that, and sent to the Executive Branch a [funding] request for $6 million to make Wall Park a reality and build the garage,” Berliner wrote. “The one cannot happen without the other. Not only does providing those dollars make good on our promise, it is also the most economically efficient approach as well.”