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MoCo’s 7 Challenges

Last week 450 of you joined us at the Bethesda North Marriott to hear the Montgomery County facts of life—and the possible answers. Here are some hot topics so you can pretend you were there:

1. Aging Population.


County planning director Gwen Wright says the county has a high average percentage of residents over 55 years old, and Millennials are only 19%. The good news? Those young folks are 31% of the population near Metros. How to get more of 'em? Change from single-use zones to multi-use to encourage TOD, density and mixed-use. And encourage design excellence so buildings are cooler. They love that stuff. Added bonus: So do Boomers.

2. Housing Squeeze.


By 2032, 83,000 more housing units will be needed. Currently, the pace is 3,500 a year. We’ll need 4,200. Good news: These are the folks who can get them built. (From left, Chesapeake Strategies’ Ellen Bogage, Cooper Cary principal David Kitchens, Chevy Chase Land Co’s new CEO Tom Regnell, JBG principal Tony Greenberg, EYA co-founder Bob Youngentob, and MoCo General Services Deputy Director Greg Ossont.)

3. Whither the Purple Line?


Good News: MoConeheads (our term) are transit-savvy, 28% already living within a half mile of Metro. Architect David Kitchens, an urban mixed-use guru, says it’s a “low-rise, shoulder-to-shoulder community” willing to listen and negotiate projects of greater density associated with Metro. Despite current political debate about launching the Purple Line, panelists seemed to think that public support for trains to connect the eastern and western parts of the County is fairly inevitable.

4. What Use are all MoCo's Smart People?


Turns out they’re a huge attraction for cool retailers. MoCo ranks No. 10 among US counties in residents with bachelor’s degrees. One panelist said Harris Teeter seeks to locate where it finds more than 40% college grads. (Another use for smart people: serving on our panels. Amazing examples above, besides Gwen: Shulman Rogers land use chair Tim Dugan, Percontee EVP Jonathan Genn, JBGR Retail managing partner Grant Ehat, Monument EVP Doug Olson, Wormald Cos' Ken Wormald, Foulger Pratt Development president Brigg Bunker.)

5. Encouraging Diversity.


The County is now “majority minority.” Retailers are seeking to provide “authentic” offerings and experience. Which makes for real neighborhoods.

6. Improving Government Responsiveness.


County administrators want to go from completed site plan to approval within 120 days and building permits in 30 days. These folks won’t complain.

7. Dwindling Land?


Given all the space that’s preserved or has already been developed, infill is the future more than greenfield. After the event, we went to visit law firm Shulman Rogers and saw blossoming Park Potomac from its windows as if to prove the point.