The Urban Land Institute (ULI) Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) recently published their “Identifying and Branding the Pike District,” and it’s actually a pretty interesting read. That said, it is summer, so if you prefer to play 18 holes, lounge at the pool, or BBQ on the deck instead of reading all 32 pages, here are some highlights:
- The term “White Flint” means different things to different people, and there are varying interpretations of its boundaries and neighborhoods. When this TAP was commissioned, “The Pike District” intended to refer to the commercial corridor along Rockville Pike, between Grosvenor-Strathmore Metrorail station to the south and the Rockville City limits, just south of the Twinbrook Metrorail station. The boundaries, however, are fluid and could encompass more in the future as the Pike District identity continues to grow.
- There is no need for a “giant sign” or an arbitrary moniker to create a sense of identity — these elements have a limited lifespan and can feel inauthentic. Instead, the Panel encouraged the sponsor to enhance the civic realm, and view the new primary, secondary, and tertiary streets as foundational assets that can create a sense of identity and place through the intersections they create.
- Celebrate the area’s intersections as anchors for the study area. Reclaiming this public realm will necessitate creative ways to embrace both vehicular and pedestrian activity at the intersections.
- Recognizing that influential developers along Rockville Pike will likely be branding their own developments through marketing, signage, and other elements, Panelists encourage the sponsor to differentiate from this approach in order to avoid causing competition and confusion. Instead, creatively reclaiming the public space provides an overarching sense of identity that can unify the entire study area in its present state and as it grows.
- Expected activity along Rockville Pike will transform the way it is used today, and so any identity strategy must be designed to evolve as well.
- The Panel recommended embracing pylons, or large upright structures, that can serve a multitude of uses: navigational, whimsical, artistic, and technological. These creative uses of illumination and color can make pylons interactive at all hours of the day. At the pedestrian level, employing light and color at crosswalks can render intersections more whimsical and interactive.
This rendering captures several ideas for celebrating how the intersections in the study area can reclaim the civic space and build identity. Large pylons serve a multitude of uses, chief among these uses are placemaking archways, and meeting destinations, as well as pragmatic pillars on which street lights can hang and phones may be charged. Image Source: ULI Washington.
- Adding LED lighting to sidewalks, enhancing crosswalks in all directions, and raising the road level at the intersections signal to both pedestrians and auto-travelers that they are crossing something different and unique. Such elements also calm traffic and will reduce speeds throughout the study area.
- Public/private partnerships will be necessary to create an identity for the area, and formalizing a mechanism to coordinate private investment so that the area’s developers can work in concert with each other will be critical.Establishing a BID that is dedicated to serving the study area would be optimal. The Panel acknowledged, however, that there may be hurdles to creating a BID, and that establishing such a formal body could be a timely and burdensome endeavor. Until a BID is formed, the Panel recommended empowering the White Flint Partnership as the main entity that would convene local private stakeholders in the immediate term.