As debates about building heights, density and floor-to-area ratios for the Chevy Chase Lake Sector are resolved, a new question arises: What will the new buildings actually look like?
Over a year ago, the buildings sketched out by the Chevy Chase Land Company's architects were vaguely futuristic. One public meeting attendee called the sketches a "brave new world," Patch reported. The land company ended up scrapping those plans, and drew together a new team to re-envision something more low-rise and residential in character, Patch reported.
Since then, the only clue as to what the development—which spans Connecticut Avenue between Manor Road and Chevy Chase Lake Drive—might look like has been issued by the county planning department.
Planning staff are recommending that the sector retain its human scale, and that there be a focus on traditional architecture and pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use development, Montgomery County Senior Planner Elza Hisel-McCoy said at a presentation in Chevy Chase Village last month, Patch reported.
At a county planning board meeting on July 16, Margaret K. Rifkin, an urban designer and planner for the county, elaborated on what was meant by "traditional architecture"—that the buildings should have traditional styling, composition, materials and design details.
That's "what makes Chevy Chase distinctive," Rifkin said. "It's a critical part of what makes Chevy Chase Lake what it is."
Rifkin explained that planning staff weren't recommending that the new buildings in Chevy Chase Lake be slavish copies of 17th- and 18th-century Maryland farmhouses, or that Chevy Chase Lake become a "pseudo-Williamsburg," but that the architectural materials traditionally seen in the mid-Atlantic region—red brick, white trim, shutters—be "[incorporated] into fresh, new designs," Rifkin added.
Chevy Chase Lake is already home to plenty of red brick and white trim—both in many of the residences in the area and in some of the commercial buildings—like the Lake West Shopping Center (home to Manoli Canoli) and the shopping center with Chevy Chase Supermarket.
The Chevy Chase Lake Centers building (with the SunTrust Bank thermometer) represents a more modern take on the traditional red-brick-and-white-trim scheme—with its neoclassical, two-storied brick arcade—but it's hardly inspiring for a new development. Neither is 8401 Connecticut Ave., built in 1971, with its blocky massing, drab concrete and dark, vertical strips of windows—an ensemble that is, perhaps, just dour enough to send many of us racing in the neo-traditional direction, modernists or not.
What do you think? Is a reinterpretation of traditional, mid-Atlantic architecture appropriate for a 21st-century development in Chevy Chase? Tell us in the comments.