Options revealed for Germantown Town Center park
Dec. 23, 2003
Ellen Shiau
Staff Writer

A tree-lined oasis fit for strolling and other leisurely activities encompassed the theme revealed in three proposed designs for a new park in the heart of Germantown last week.

Architect Mark Gionet of Lewis Scully Gionet presented designs for the Germantown Town Center Local Park at a community meeting Dec. 16 attended by about a dozen residents.

The 4-acre park will be located near Locbury and Pinnacle drives adjacent to BlackRock Center for the Arts and the future site of the Germantown Library.

Architectural sketches depict greenery surrounding a pond, which would be the park's central feature. A pedestrian bridge would cross the pond, and additional paths would provide access around it.

"We're going to have a good system of hard-surface trails to get people around," Gionet said.

The architects culled ideas for the park from a community meeting held in September. "What we ended up with was a pretty good idea of what interested people," county project manager Patricia McManus said.

Last week, several residents said they were pleased that the proposals incorporated their suggestions, such as developing a park for passive rather than active recreation.

"There was not much interest in an active play area," said Cheryl McDonald, vice president of the Germantown Town Center Homeowners Association. "They showed that they took interest in what we said."

"I was more than generally pleased. They really did incorporate the things that were favorable," association president Brett Silbert agreed. "The biggest disappointment would be that it's all iffy."

The earliest work could begin on the project would be in 2007. However, competition for budget dollars exists among park projects, which could push the project back to as late as fiscal year 2012.

But first, one design must be chosen for the park and approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board.

The primary differences between the three proposals revolve around the existing storm water management ponds that flank the central pond. "The storm water management on site is one of the critical things we have to solve to make it a useable park," Gionet said.

In one option, the storm water management ponds -- dry when it doesn't rain -- would remain as they are.

In the second and third options, the storm water management systems would be placed underground beneath grassy fields. The fields could be used as a community gathering space or for pick up games, for example.

"It could serve as a large area for a general event, like Oktoberfest," McManus said.

The third option would add more wetlands alongside the central pond to form a wetland habitat. Cost estimates range from $1 million to $3.5 million depending on the design, Gionet said.

Residents showed a clear preference for placing the storm water management systems underground.

"I like the [third option] where you have the large areas for the community gathering events. I think it gives us more options and variety to the park," Germantown resident Faith Schmidt said.

John Wall, who lives in a townhouse near the park, said placing the systems underground would be more aesthetic and useful.

"This would be a great place to play Frisbee," said Wall, pointing to a grassy field. "... I'm very happy having all of this in walking distance. I like the fact that they do show some type of buffer between the homeowners and the park."

Trees would separate the park from adjacent townhouses, according to the sketches. McDonald suggested incorporating a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees, and a fence.

The designs also showed various features -- such as a gazebo, formal and informal walking paths, a sculpture garden to complement BlackRock, a community holiday tree and a display garden -- that could be incorporated in each of the options.

The architects and county planning staff will take the comments submitted by residents at last week's meeting to develop a final plan for the park.

"It seems like we have some pretty strong support for some of the ideas," Gionet said after the meeting.

The Montgomery County Planning Board will consider the plan for approval in May or June at a public meeting, where residents can testify.

Comments about the proposed Germantown Town Center Local Park can be submitted to project manager Patricia McManus by e-mailing patricia.mcmanus@ mncppc-mc.org, calling 301-495-3580 or writing to M-NCPPC, 9500 Brunett Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20901.