Friends of White Flint

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Kensington, MD 20891

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East Village promises “heterogeneity, surprise” for White Flint

Posted on by dan reed!

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Bird's-eye view of East Village at North Bethesda Gateway. Rockville Pike is at the bottom.

Bird’s-eye view of East Village at North Bethesda Gateway. Rockville Pike is at the bottom. Images from Foulger-Pratt.

UPDATE: We’ve added images courtesy of Foulger-Pratt of the current proposal for East Village and the former design for comparison.

The White Flint Sector Plan envisions Rockville Pike as a grand boulevard with tall buildings. But what about the side streets? Is there an opportunity to create a more intimate experience there?

Dick Knapp, senior vice president at Foulger-Pratt, has proposed doing just that at East Village at North Bethesda Gateway, a project he’s working on with fellow developer ProMark at the corner of Nicholson Lane and Huff Court, next to White Flint Mall.

“In a vital city, there’s heterogeneity and surprise,” said Knapp during a public presentation last Thursday night in the 1960′s-era office building that would give way to East Village, which would contain 640 apartments in two six-story buildings and 36,000 square feet of ground-floor shops along a narrow, private street.

He called Rockville Pike a future “Gold Coast,” where grand buildings would ask accordingly high rents and draw high-end stores. At East Village, Foulger-Pratt and Promark hope to draw young professionals seeking an urban experience with “smaller, cheaper” living spaces and local, “authentic” retailers. Knapp described the project as “our village concept, human scale closer to the street.”

Huff Court, which today is lined by parking lots, would become a “vibrant retail street,” says architect George Dove of WDG Architecture, which is also one of three design firms working on Pike + Rose. One-fourth of the site will be set aside as open space, including a small plaza.

Knapp suggested future retail tenants could include casual dining places like Busboys and Poets, coffee shops and yoga studios. “We’re trying to create a ‘third space,’” he said, using sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s term for venues that were neither home nor work, but a place where people could gather and build community.

East Village would include a private street parallel to Nicholson Lane that would eventually run between Rockville Pike and a future MARC station at the end of Nicholson Court. Along the new street, ground-floor apartments would have “real doors” with stairs and stoops, providing visual interest.

County planners have designated the street for pedestrians only, but the developers say it would be bad for retail. They would prefer to build a street that accommodates cars as well, although at very low speeds. On-street parking would allow some visitors to even pull over and stop.

“There will be more feet in the street than tires in the street,” says Knapp. “Without the cars, the space just becomes dead.”

Original site plan for North Bethesda Gateway. The East Village site is on the right.

Original site plan for North Bethesda Gateway. The East Village site is on the right.

New site plan for East Village, showing shorter apartment buildings.

New site plan for East Village, showing shorter apartment buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

East Village is half of a larger scheme for North Bethesda Gateway, which Promark created in partnership with the owners of the Fitzgerald auto dealership and a retail building across Huff Court. A sketch plan for it approved two years ago proposed several 12-to-20 story buildings containing a mix of apartments, offices and retail space.

Since then, the three landowners have decided to work independently. Foulger-Pratt and Promark revised the concept for their half, taking out the offices and slightly reducing the amount of apartments and retail. This allowed them to swap out taller buildings, which would have to be built out of more expensive concrete, for shorter, more affordable wood-framed buildings.

Not having offices also means the project will generate 45% fewer car trips during rush hour, allowing them to provide less parking, though there will still be an underground garage.

“We’ve reduced the congestion, reduced the density, and provided more affordable housing,” notes Dove. “There’s been a change in the younger generation. We want to encourage people to walk to the Metro.”

While East Village will include about 80 moderately priced dwelling units, even market-rate apartments could rent for less than others in the White Flint area. Rents are estimated to range from $1500 for a 475-square foot studio to $1600 for a 650-square-foot one-bedroom, and $2175 for a 900-square-foot two-bedroom. By comparison, a comparably-sized studio rents for $1635 a month at North Bethesda Market, which opened in 2011.

The apartments will be “compact but very well-finished,” Knapp says, showing images of units with hardwood floors and granite countertops.

Foulger-Pratt and ProMark will file an amended sketch plan at the Planning Department later this month; if it’s approved, it’ll go through the site plan process. Knapp anticipates that they’ll break ground by the end of 2014 and the first building will open by the end of 2015.

4 Responses to East Village promises “heterogeneity, surprise” for White Flint

B. Gull says: January 17, 2013 at 9:29 pm

While I think having every building built as a high-rise is not a great design idea, and lends to some of the negative comments given about Ballston and Rosslyn, I think completely removing them, along with completely removing the office to provide for short wood framed residential only is not in total keeping with the plan or the desire for the area. The developers are responding to today’s market conditions, which is fine, but should still have to also plan for tomorrows conditions. I’d rather see them just build one of the two buildings and wait a couple years to see if it makes more sense for the next building to be taller, or have an office component.

dan reed! says: January 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Gull, you raise an interesting point. Across the county, office projects, or projects with some office component in them, have been converted to residential – 8711 Georgia in Silver Spring and the Computer Building in Wheaton are two I can think of. I’m not totally sure why this is happening, though unlike in SS or Wheaton, there are still office projects being built in White Flint, notably at Pike + Rose and the new building at North Bethesda Center.

I should’ve also noted that even though this proposal is shorter than the original design, it’s actually not that much less dense. According to Knapp, the original FAR (floor-area-ratio) was 3.0, whereas now it’s 2.9. But since the construction style is less expensive and the units are smaller, the rents will be lower than they would have been before, which I think is a win for White Flint – having a range of price points (even with a difference of $135/month as I showed) will allow a larger variety of people to call White Flint home.

one4all says: January 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Nobody’s building office space downcounty right now. The only ecception is 4500 East-West, which has received some criticism since it’s purely speculative. Maryland is really struggling to attract private companies, most of whommove NoVa instead, and with the fed govt. belt-tightening the future of commercial real estate in the MD suburbs doesn’t look so promising. Even Bethesda which is historically the premier business-hub of the DC Area has multiple residential hi-rises under construction or in the works, but 4500 is the only office space on the horizon.

In addition to the projects you mentioned, 8621 Georgia Ave has also switched from commercial to residential.