Located two miles north of the Beltway, Wheaton has three major roads that run through its center: University Boulevard, Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road. The area around Wheaton’s Red Line Metro station experienced very little of the push for a more urban streetscape that turned downtown Silver Spring, two stops south, into one of the county’s most popular neighborhoods in recent years.
Part of that is by design: Having seen downtown Silver Spring populated with the likes of Red Lobster, Fuddruckers and Chik-fil-A, many Wheaton residents do not want to see development that portends an invasion of chain retail stores in their community of independent, if quirky, retailers.
Those concerns were heightened when mammoth retailer Costco announced plans to open a store in the area’s largest shopping destination, the Westfield Wheaton Plaza Mall on Veirs Mill Road. An H&M clothing store opened at Westfield in 2011, and a Dick’s Sporting Goods will open in October.
“We’ve got a lot of ethnic businesses in Silver Spring but not to the same degree as in Wheaton,” said Rollin Stanley, Montgomery County’s planning director. When he visited a Wheaton laundromat recently, Stanley said he heard more languages than he could identify. He said he wants to make sure that the area’s longtime small-business owners won’t be shut out as bigger projects begin sprouting near Wheaton’s Metro station.
“You’re seeing it — within a few years [development] will move several stops up the line” in Wheaton, he said. “And it is happening in a very positive way.”
The median price for homes sold in Wheaton in 2011 was $284,988, much lower than in nearby Rockville and Bethesda, according to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems. Detached, rambler-style homes are common in many of the area’s neighborhoods, with some bigger, more expensive homes prevalent in the western end, near Kensington and North Bethesda.
There are few condominiums in Wheaton, but apartments have begun to spring up close enough to Metro that they could enable a car-free lifestyle. One of the newest examples is the MetroPointe Apartments at 11175 Georgia Ave. Featuring funky, colorful facades, they are steps from the Metro station.
Wheaton was also home to one of the region’s oldest Safeway stores, but that is being replaced and upgraded, accompanied by new apartments. Last November, construction crews began to demolish the outdated facility and are building a 58,000-square-foot store expected to open in late 2013. Unlike the old store, the new Safeway will feature a bakery and a delicatessen and an array of prepared foods. It will also have 17 stories of apartments, 486 in all, on top.