Friends of White Flint

Promoting a Sustainable, Walkable and Engaging Community

P.O. Box 2761

White Flint Station

Kensington, MD 20891

Phone: 301-980-3768

Email: info@whiteflint.org


Naming/Branding Discussion at Downtown Advisory Committee

Posted on by Lindsay Hoffman

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Yesterday, the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee (DAC) held its monthly meeting at the Bethesda North Conference Center, located at 5701 Marinelli Road, Rockville, directly across the street from the White Flint metro station.  This very juxtaposition (Bethesda, North Bethesda, Rockville, White Flint) is why the subject of our area’s naming was on the agenda.

While we had hoped for a presentation by the White Flint Partnership, an organization of developers within the sector (all of whom are members of FoWF), what we got instead was a letter.  The letter says that the Partnership has “begun to move forward with an effort to identify a unifying brand for a larger area along the Rockville Pike corridor, an area that would extend in both directions beyond the White Flint Sector Plan boundaries.”  This shift, they say, would establish a “forward-thinking identity” which has the “potential for local, regional and national impacts” and would “empower property owners to express their individual identities, working collectively for the greater good while simultaneously preserving the individuality of existing residential communities.”

The letter was distributed at the start of the meeting and seemed to take several committee members off-guard – though the potential expansion of the urban district has been floated anecdotally in the media and on this blog, this was the first many committee members had heard of it.  No details were offered as to the boundaries of this newly-enlarged area but Ken Hartman, our regional services director and to whom the letter was addressed, surmised that the area would stretch north to include new development taking shape in Twinbrook and, perhaps, south to include Strathmore.  As he noted, “this would double – maybe triple – the geography” of our boundaries.  He also rightly noted that there is little distinction along this stretch of Rockville Pike.  If you look at a Google Earth image of the area from White Flint Mall up to Twinbrook metro (see below), it does look like one large commercial center.  Are we well-served by drawing an arbitrary line through the center of it?

Expanded District Map

 

From Google Maps

I would submit that I have not yet seen any downside to an expansion.  One issue that White Flint, with its current boundaries, will always face is regarding revenue generation.  Unlike similar regional undertakings, like Tysons and Rosslyn-Ballston, our area is constrained to the surrounds of one metro stop.  This already limits the sources of revenue which would be used for maintenance, streetscapes and programming (like the community contributions made by Bethesda Urban Partnership).  Other urban districts in Montgomery County are funded in large part by parking fees.  White Flint is not set up this way.  We will have few, if any, county-owned parking and, what we will have, is expected to be poached by the Department of Transportation.  We do have a special taxing district established here but, for the foreseeable future, all funds collected through it will be used on infrastructure projects.  So, expanding the urban district’s borders to include more opportunity for funding is an up-side in my view.

Also, if we’re looking to create a destination that will be marketed nationally – and if we’re building a destination worth visiting – why not make it as bold as possible?  I see no down-side there, either.  As newly-elected committee Chair Cliff Cohen noted, a larger, “more visible, more identifiable” district offers a greater chance of success.  It will attract great tenants and shops and really only has an impact on the big picture of the district.  The small picture remains the same – neighborhoods maintain their identity.

Committee members, however, were generally displeased with the Partnership’s letter and, unfortunately, the Partnership did not send a representative to lend voice to the text.  Resident committee member Paul Meyer, who lives in The Wisconsin, particularly did not like feeling that this discussion was so “developer-driven” and he wanted to ensure that the community, and the committee, had adequate say in the process.  Another resident committee member, Bernie Meyers, was “angry” that he feels “not plugged-in.”  Business member Bob Daley was not pleased that the Partnership had “just sent a definitive letter” without even coming to the meeting for a discussion.  In any event, an expansion of the district would require modification of the DAC’s mission which is presently restricted to the White Flint Sector Plan area.

But, a more positive flip side was offered by business member Andy Shulman.  The name of this district has been stalled for seven years because the developers couldn’t agree.  At least now, progress is being made!

We are told to expect a full presentation by the Partnership at the July DAC meeting and we’re hoping it’s going to address a few of the concerns we have:  

First, an expansion north might broach the borders of Rockville City, adding a burdensome and unnecessary bureaucratic layer to our work.  We hope this is not being contemplated.

Second, Friends of White Flint is all about community engagement and finding consensus for smart solutions in moving White Flint forward.  We are pushing to be part of this process and want to hear thoughts FROM YOU!  Do you think there are advantages or disadvantages to expanding and/or branding the White Flint Sector area?  Or, do you think that these types of decisions won’t have much impact on your day-to-day life?  Sound off here on the blog or email me directly at Lindsay.Hoffman@whiteflint.org.

 

10 Responses to Naming/Branding Discussion at Downtown Advisory Committee

cpterp says: June 11, 2014 at 1:30 pm

This shouldn’t be a decision for developers (who are only after one thing: $$$). The Planning Board should be the one’s to decide, or the community, landowners, and business owners should reach some sort of consensus.

Lindsay Hoffman says: June 11, 2014 at 2:31 pm

My preference would NOT be to let the Planning Board tinker with this. Let’s keep the decision within our community of residents, businesses and landowners.

josfitz says: June 12, 2014 at 9:32 am

At first I was in favor of “White Flint”, if a larger area stretching down to Strathmore, then I kinda’ like Strathmore. Also, when Bloomes was there they listed their address as “Kensington” wouldn’t mind having that worked into the name either..

Marc Brenman says: June 12, 2014 at 10:18 am

No, this urbanization is a bad idea. The model is allegedly Bethesda, but the buildings on the books and already constructed are much taller than Bethesda. We had a nice traditional suburb, but our quality of life is being destroyed. And one of the big problems– getting across Rockville Pike as a pedestrian– has not been solved.

Jack Mandel says: June 12, 2014 at 10:48 am

My point of view is based on the belief that the area – whatever it’s final boundaries – should be called “White Flint.” The origins for calling it “North Bethesda” couldn’t possibly have come from long-time residents (tell me if I’m wrong). I cannot see any reasons to call it NoBe other than financial ones. Is that really the characteristic we want to use to determine the name of where our children grow up? The name “WF” has identify, individuality and specificity. Our objective is that it should become so successful that people will one day say “Oh, Bethesda… that’s the neighborhood just below White Flint…”
With that in mind, I think it’s reasonable to consider extending the boundary south to Strathmore (admission: I live in Garrett Park) and even down to the Beltway. I can see changing the names of the two Metro stops to WF North and WF South, for example. Residents south of Edson Lane will be included in a larger, more clearly defined community than they may currently feel part of (apologies if I’m wrong). But, I’m leery of extending north of Montrose, through Twinbrook, for several reasons: 1) This will greatly increase the probability that the name for the new area becomes NoBe, as those in Twinbrook are far more likely to agree to a neutral, new name than to adopt the historic name of their neighbor (Would we be willing to call the whole thing “Twinbrook”? Again – tell me I’m wrong and I’ll happily do a mea culpa.); 2) Randolph Road/Montrose Road is a very natural border; 3) Lindsay’s point that “… expanding the urban district’s borders to include more opportunity for funding is an upside…” may be correct. But, it also may mean that more funds from the current WF get pushed into the Twinbrook zone. 4) It will be a heck of a lot easier to fold in the common needs of developers north and south of Montrose Road than those of the residents. Developers can focus on the bottom line; residents are going to have to look at schools, culture, green space, etc. So, all the stuff that we’ve been talking about for years will need to be rethought. That does not bode well for the balance of power between residents, business and government, especially under the time pressures we’ll be under.

Lindsay Hoffman says: June 12, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Hi Readers! Thanks for your thoughtful discussion on this topic. This is a reminder that these comments are moderated and, to maintain the integrity of the discussion, we do not allow anonymous posting. Folks who wish to stay publicly anonymous may email me directly with their comments at Lindsay.Hoffman@whiteflint.org.

Christiana Drapkin says: June 12, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Home is where the heart is.
My feeling is that White Flint is a perfect name, short, definite, and somehow a reflection of our topography and location. — The other names floated seem sterile, boardroom, focus-group driven.
Where do you live? How will you answer that? With an eye-roll and an apologetic, “oh, the developers like to call it….” Or with an emphatic, “I love living in White Flint. Hope the Metro and come on up.”
Our residents’ attitudes and heart & minds have a direct impact on how much we’ll shop here, recreate here, invite friends, family, colleagues up here. Don’t underestimate your locals’ potential for support, or alienation and indifference. White Flint works for me.

Paul Meyer says: June 12, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Bernie Meyers and I (Paul Meyer) were appointed by the County Executive to serve on the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee to represent the residents who reside in the current White Flint sector as defined by the legislation approved by the Montgomery County Council and County Executive. We have both lived in White Flint for 20 years and have a strong interest in ensuring that White Flint remains a great place to call home. We both feel that our role on the Committee is to consider how any issue brought before the Advisory Committee affects the residents and work with the developers and others to ensure that the overall project is a win-win for everyone (developers, businesses, residents). Bernie and I were made aware of the proposal to expand the borders of the White Flint sector by receiving an email message with the topics to be discussed the night before the meeting and were given a letter developed by the Partnership (comprised of the large developers in White Flint) touting the value of expanding the boundaries of the current sector at the morning meeting. The presentation and the letter made a strong case as to why the developers wanted to expand the boundaries but was completely lacking in describing any benefits to the residents who live within the current White Flint boundaries. While there might be benefits to the residents there might also be negative consequences. While this might benefit the residents we are not ready to support this proposal until there is further discussion as to how this will affect those who currently live in White Flint. We certainly hope that all of the developers gain financially in this large endeavor but that is not our prime goal as representatives of the White Flint residents. It is to ensure that the residents who live here gain by the changes made in our area.

Paul Meyer

Georgia Perdue says: June 16, 2014 at 11:26 am

“There is an old saying, “if it ain’t broke, leave it alone “, i.e don’t try to fix it! I say leave well enough alone. White Flint means nothing. Town names are better! It is VERY exasperating to have developers come in and try to reconfigurate this area which was so beautiful at one time. I have heard so MANY negative comments about what is happening to a once beautiful area; very few positive comments. In this case, money, which is the prime mover, is a big negative.

Suzanne Hudson says: June 16, 2014 at 5:29 pm

White Flint should be the “urban district” name. There is not much that is historic in M.C. but White Flint is. It makes the perfect over arching district name. It is distinct, known to many of us (and not just the Mall which is no longer), and offers a cache. Remember that Twinbrook is in the City of Rockville.