Tag local businesses

Businesses and Bike Lanes

We have focused before in past posts on the benefits of bike lanes for businesses. Businesses, however, often do not like changes that provide any thought of risk to their business and to their profit. Creating protected or dedicated bike lanes on streets can pose potential risks for businesses’ profit. But in the long run, we see that there are many more benefits for businesses to accept bike lanes and bike access to streets outside their business storefronts. Biking allows more people to move more efficiently around the city, reduces traffic, and perhaps the most important aspect is that bikers are more likely to stop more at businesses because they can move more freely in an area than one can with a car. Businesses do see the risk in bike lanes taking away parking or stopping areas in front of their stores. Michael Andersen, writer for PeopleForBikes, discussed that there are two ways to positively approach the creation of dedicated bike lanes.

Governments should act in the public interest of making complete streets accessible to all. And, businesses should have public interest in mind as well but should know that the government is willing to help them get their needs met too.

The Jefferson Hotel in D.C. provides a good example of what it is like for a business or service provider to accept bike lanes and fight for their needs as well.  The Jefferson Hotel is prominent hotel on M Street NW close to the White House. A dedicated bike lane was created right outside the hotel, taking away the access for taxis and cars to pull up to the front door. John Stokes, the Director of Risk Management for the hotel, understood the importance of having bike lanes in DC, allowing people to get around the city more efficiently. He decided to not fight the bike lanes but to ask the government to allot the hotel two spaces for standing cars alongside 16th Street NW. Stokes believes that the bike lane is an opportunity, something they can work within and not fight against it.

Bike lanes are extremely important to our White Flint district residents, which is why they are incorporated in many of the Sector plans.  We hope that our current businesses and future businesses will welcome these bikes lanes and understand the benefits. But, we need to be on the lookout for ways to maximize their potential.

Stay tuned until tomorrow for an update on the Great Montgomery County Bike Summit from this past Saturday, where these issues were discussed in great importance.

Mark Your Calendars! Friends of White Flint’s Showcase and Happy Hour Event is Coming Soon!

Mark your calendars, members! Friends of White Flint is having its first event of the year. On March 10th, we will be hosting a showcase and happy hour event at Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar. This free event will showcase both the public and private development projects set for the White Flint district.  Come as you please, take a tour of the projects on display, interact with other FoWF members, sample some delicious food, purchase a drink at the cash bar, and listen to remarks from both County Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer. The event is sponsored by Friends of White Flint, Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar, Lerch Early & Brewer Chtd. and Linowes and Blocher LLC.

Click on the image below to enlarge for the details!

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Shopping Malls Through Out the U.S. are Dying Out

Across the United States, enclosed shopping malls are closing their doors. This is all too apparent for us here in White Flint, with the closing of the White Flint Mall.

There are many reasons behind the closings of shopping malls across the U.S. but one main reason stands out: anchor stores closing. Hayley Peterson, in her recent article for the Business Insider, quotes a managing director from a real estate firm saying “The risk of failure for a mall increases dramatically once you see anchor closures.” Malls with strong anchors stores are more likely to succeed than malls that are losing or already lost their anchor stores. Anchor stores, named for the role they have in holding down the mall, are essential to the health of malls. Without them, people are less likely to frequent the mall.  The good news for White Flint, though, is that our departed anchor (Bloomingdales) has expressed an interest in returning.

As these malls begin to close, however, mall owners and developers hope to bring in a mix of stores and services with mixed-use redevelopment projects, something we are capitalizing on here in White Flint. The issue is really that many of these malls across cities that are left to decay and fall down for years before any redevelopment begins to happen. We still do not have date for when the mall will be razed but we know that with the White Flint Sector Plan, redevelopment is on the horizon.

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This is a photo of Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio. Source: Nicholas Eckhart

Designated Bike Lanes May Help Local Businesses Thrive

Creating a safe and secure biking infrastructure in White Flint is essential to our mission in promoting a sustainable and walkable community. One of the best ways to ensure residents will feel safe enough to bike is to design and implement protected bike lanes, which are an important part of the White Flint Sector Plan. Indeed, we know these bike lanes will help cyclists but how will these bike lanes help those who do not travel by bicycle? Or will it even benefit them at all? These are often the questions community developers and practitioners ask when redeveloping cities and urban areas.  Amelia Taylor-Hochberg in her recent Archinect article discussed a report was completed by PeopleForBikes and Alliance for Biking & Walking, that researched cities with protected bike lanes. The report found that cites have started to see positive benefits for local economies and businesses because of these designated bike lanes.

As cities and urban areas become more dense with buildings, including residential and retail space, as well as people, they need to figure out a way to transport people that will use less space. Many of the cities found that “cycling infrastructure is the most efficient way to get more people around in less space.” Bicycling can also help to reduce traffic. If a city has designated bike lanes, we know more people are willing to use bikes as their means for travel, causing less cars to be on the roads. So how can bicycling help local businesses? Well those who bike to complete errands or daily activities, are more likely to stop at businesses or retailers more often (a reason for creating mixed-used properties that provide various goods and services in one area). This trend ultimately creates more spending, boosting the local economy. And an added bonus, local businesses will need less available parking spaces.

If bike lanes can help local businesses thrive, then those who do not necessarily bike will see positive change for their community or even themselves (if they are business owners). In White Flint, we hope that the designated bike lanes soon to be implemented will help our local businesses thrive too.

 

Welcome to new member Chesapeake Public Strategies!

Chesapeake Public Strategies, located in the midst of the White Flint sector on Rockville Pike, is not your average PR firm. Their focus is “the court of public opinion,” according to CEO Ellen Coren Bogage, who was recently named one of Maryland’s Most Admired CEOs. The company is focused on government and public affairs, specializing in local government throughout the Washington area. The firm has many services, including community outreach, grassroots organizing, public survey, corporate philanthropy programs and one-on-one lobbying with elected officials. Ellen explains that the group likes to focus on “win-win situations.”

I asked Ellen why she chose to locate her organization in White Flint. The key word: convenience. She immediately responded that she wanted to be close to Metro. Some of her employees are already avid transit users, and she doesn’t want all of her employees to need a car to get to work. Proximity to Metro has also been helpful for meetings in DC. Ellen mentioned restaurants as another important amenity, which are great for client lunches; Whole Foods is a great lunch option for the office any day. Working near a Kinkos has also proven to be useful. On a more personal level, Ellen says, “I’m an empty nester,” and the many new development projects coming to the area make White Flint a good place to look for people who are planning to downsize from a single family home.

But downsizing isn’t the only reason Ellen is excited about what’s happening in White Flint. “The kind of development Montgomery County has had doesn’t lend itself to community,” she explains, adding that walkable neighborhoods will create more of a sense of community. “There will be more ways to connect.”

Connecting with communities is not only an important part of Ellen’s work, but is an integral part of her personal life as well. She has been a County resident for 30 years and has held leadership roles in a variety of local organizations including President of Committee for Montgomery, CEO of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, First Vice President of the Greater Olney Civic Association,  founder and first President of the Maryland Government Relations Association, Board Chair of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, and board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council.   Most recently, Ellen was named to the Executive Board of Redskins Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s Blitz for the Better Foundation.  Her staff also volunteers, teaching a Junior Achievement program in Silver Spring and heading a youth ministries group at a local church. Ellen notes that while Chesapeake Public Strategies has clients all over the region, “This is our home.”

Chesapeake Public Strategies is located at 11426 Rockville Pike, Suite 304. You can learn more about them by visiting their website here.

How can White Flint draw local businesses?

Starbucks is great, but how can we make room for local businesses in White Flint?

When Federal Realty Investment Trust announced the first six restaurants that will open at Pike + Rose, the mixed-use development at Rockville Pike and Montrose Road, some people were upset they were all chains. Will there be a place for local businesses in the future White Flint?

Representatives from Federal Realty say their goal is to create an interesting array of shops and restaurants, regardless of what they are. “It’s less important to us whether something is a chain than [having] a mix of retail types, a mix of expense points, and a mix of dining types,” says Evan Goldman, vice president of development. “We want . . . a diverse mix of options to get a diverse mix of people there.”

There’s a lot of risk in opening a new retail project like Pike + Rose. Even on a busy corridor like Rockville Pike, successful retail isn’t a given, and both developers and business owners want to minimize risk. Unlike chains, which have a standard store format that’s easy to recreate, small business owners also have to design and build a space from scratch, which takes money and time.

And if an entrepreneur opens a second location that fails, their business may be sunk. If a chain’s 20th store isn’t successful, existing branches can help subsidize it. That’s why developers often find it easier to work with chains in new projects.

“We know they can perform, they know they can perform,” Goldman says. “And God forbid it doesn’t perform, it’s not going to take down their company or ours.”

Where do chains go today?

When Pike + Rose is finished several years from now, it may look like other town center developments in the region, with a mix of stand-alone stores, national chains, and local chains, which I define as locally-owned businesses whose locations are primarily in the DC area. So Georgetown-based Sweetgreen counts, because all but 4 of its 20 locations are here, but Virginia-based Five Guys, which has over 1,000 locations across North America, doesn’t.

Some projects have more locals than others. They’re 22% of the businesses at the Market Common at Clarendon to 65% at the Mosaic District in Fairfax. At Bethesda Row and Rockville Town Square, both owned by Federal Realty, locals make up between 50 and 60% of all businesses.

The distribution of chains vs. local businesses at 7 DC-area town center projects.

The distribution of chains vs. local businesses at 7 DC-area town center projects.

Locally-owned restaurants and shops, whether one-offs or small chains, can be an asset for communities, supporting the local economy and providing unique attraction for customers. To make it easier for them to open, they need to have lower risks. There are two ways to do that: reduce the cost of doing business, or increase the potential number of customers.

Lower rents reduce the risks for local businesses

One way is to lower the cost of rent, often by seeking out cheaper, older spaces. In White Flint, that means the 1960’s- and 70’s-era strip malls along Rockville Pike, or the light industrial buildings off of Boiling Brook Parkway. Economist and food critic Tyler Cowen notes that these kind of spaces are often fertile ground for innovative or ethnic restaurants:

Low-rent restaurants can experiment at relatively low risk. If a food idea does not work out, the proprietor is not left with an expensive lease. As a result, a strip-mall restaurant is more likely to try daring ideas than is a restaurant in, say, a large shopping mall. The people with the best, most creative, most innovative cooking ideas are not always the people with the most money.

Many of White Flint’s strip malls will be redeveloped in the future. But there are a few ways to make new developments more affordable as well. One is by reducing excessive parking requirements. Like many places, Montgomery County requires a lot of parking to serve shops and restaurants, resulting in big, underused parking lots that take up space, or parking garages that are expensive to build. The county’s changing its zoning code to require much less parking, especially for restaurants. This will allow developers to build only the parking they need, reducing costs and making rents a little lower.

Another way is through smaller storefronts, as commercial space rents by the square foot. Many local businesses, particularly those with a small staff or inventory, don’t need a lot of space.

Take this gelato shop in Takoma Park, which opened earlier this year in 500 square feet, the size of a studio apartment. Much of that room goes to back-of-house functions, like a freezer and preparation area, leaving little room for customers. But that’s okay: in the summer, when lots of people want gelato, the line spills out the door because the weather’s nice. In the winter, there aren’t as many people who want gelato, so they can all fit inside.

Smaller storefronts also mean developers can host more of them, giving people more reasons to visit. At the Piazza at Schmidt’s, a mixed-use development in Philadelphia that’s pretty similar to many of the projects being proposed for White Flint, developer Bart Blatstein purposely divided his storefronts into tiny spaces that artists and entrepreneurs could afford. One gallery, boutique, or cafe would have been interesting enough, but instead, there are 35 establishments that you can’t find anywhere else.

More people means more customers for local companies

Density is another way for businesses to reduce their risk. The future White Flint will have more residents, meaning more customers for local businesses. And as Economist writer Ryan Avent notes, that gives them the chance to specialize and develop niche markets, which is exactly what unique local businesses are good for.

More density also means more foot traffic. “You can’t support the really small, local guys, especially in the fashion world or furniture . . . without foot traffic,” says Goldman. “People that literally live there or work there.” He cites his own neighborhood of Adams Morgan in DC as an example of a place where small businesses thrive. According to the US Census, Adams Morgan has a population density of about 30,000 per square mile, four times the current density of White Flint.

As White Flint grows and matures, it’s likely that local businesses will follow. Not only will there be more people living and working here, but shop and restaurant owners will know what to expect. Goldman predicts that in the “second generation of leasing,” as business turn over and new storefronts open in White Flint, we’ll see more locals.

Goldman uses Bethesda Row, another Federal Realty project, as an example. “We’ve got a proven track record where anyone can say, ‘These sales are amazing,'” Goldman says. “I know if I go there, I’m not going to lose my shirt. I’m going to do well.”

Local businesses make White Flint what it is and will help the area craft a new, unique identity as it grows and evolves. However, it’s important to make sure they have a place in the future White Flint as well. Through zoning, design, and manageable rental rates, we can ensure that local businesses can keep contributing to this community.

A Good Neighbor: Meet Howard Feldman

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with local businessman Howard Feldman. A longtime Bethesda resident, Howard moved his State Farm Insurance agency one year ago from Prince George’s County to its current home in the Beco building, across from White Flint Mall.

Howard Feldman

Why the move? Howard explained that while working closer to home would be one advantage, being located right in the midst of a massive redevelopment project was a major draw. While the majority of his current customers are longtime clients from Prince George’s, he is actively looking for new clients in Montgomery County, particularly the Rockville/White Flint area. He explained that many of his new clients are young adults, which is not only in line with one of the target markets for the new White Flint but also allows a community-driven business like his to establish lifelong relationships with clients. Howard added that he has Spanish and Mandarin speaking representatives at his office, which gives him the opportunity to reach out to even more communities in the White Flint area.

Howard Feldman Office

While Howard is extremely excited about the new development coming our way, he voiced some concerns about transportation, particularly BRT. He stressed that the right infrastructure needs to come before these projects are completed; not once the entire plan is built out, urging that a solid transportation network should not be built retroactively. He explained that “ buses create business and residential interest” and that having a well-used, fully-functioning BRT system would positively impact small businesses. “I’m looking at a 20-year window for my business,” Howard explains, “I don’t want to be in year 18 and start benefiting ” Howard is interested in working with other small businesses in the area as well as residents to get more involved in the community and ultimately, help create the best White Flint possible (he said the first thing he did when he moved his business to the area was join Friends of White Flint!).

Howard Feldman’s State Farm Insurance Agency is located at 11140 Rockville Pike, Suite 380. To learn more about his business, visit www.howardfeldman.com.

Pike Central Farmers Market Returns This Saturday

 

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It seems we’ve finally left winter behind and, along with sunshine and warm breezes, we are very excited to welcome the Pike Central Farmers Market back to White Flint!  Reopening for their second year this Saturday, April 13th, the market will feature over 40 local farmers, food artisans, meat and seafood vendors and much more.   Come hungry as there are always food trucks and other options ready for devouring on-site.

 

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Mitch Berliner and Debra Moser began Central Farm Markets as a retirement project five years ago.  Their original Bethesda Central Market, which runs on Sundays, was joined by Pike Central last year.  “Both Bethesda Central and Pike Central will celebrate the anniversary with a full season of wine tastings, chef demos, Kids Club activities, green product demos, Yoga classes, great musicians, as well as the annual Oyster Festival in Rockville, Bake-Bethesda-A-Pie Contest, ‘Where in the World is Your Market Red Bag Contest,’ annual Halloween party, guest bloggers, a visit from Mr. Divabetic from NYC and themed months with special events dedicated to those themes,” says Moser.

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 The usual Pike Central offerings will be complimented with new additions, including the Cook’s Corner with Chef Lynne Foster.   Cook’s Corner will be the “place for all things food, including cooking classes for adults and children, food demonstrations, market food tours, knife skills and small gadget demos.”

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And, keep an eye out for your Friends.  That’s right — the Friends of White Flint team will be present at several markets throughout the season to meet in person and talk more about what’s coming to White Flint.

Pike Central Farmers Market is located on the Pike and Rose property, at Rockville Pike between Old Georgetown and Montrose Roads.  The market will be open Saturdays through December 22nd from 9am until 2pm.  Plenty of parking is available on-site.

 

Sweet and Trendy: sweetFrog is in White Flint

Frozen yogurt, or froyo, shops are popping up around the country – and on Rockville Pike! You can enjoy delicious (and relatively healthy) yogurt and customized toppings in a bright environment with funky décor at the sweetFrog in White Flint!

sweetFrog front

Last week I sat down with Darshan, the owner of the sweetFrog franchise in White Flint, which just opened in November. Our conversation ranged from flavors and toppings to development and community involvement.

sweetFrog flavors

In case you haven’t been yet, sweetFrog is a self-serve international frozen yogurt company. It’s pretty simple – you just grab a cup and GO FOR IT! You can pick any or all of the 14 flavors listed above their respective handles. You have your typical vanilla, chocolate and strawberry options, but also a wealth of more unconventional flavors, like oreo cheesecake, peanut butter and red velvet (the sweetFrog menu page boasts an impressive 75 flavors). Darshan explained that he keeps about half of the flavors, particularly the more traditional ones, constant, while changing the other half every few weeks or months depending on how they are selling. He also makes sure that there are a variety of options so that everyone can enjoy: nonfat, no sugar added, dairy-free and gluten-free (and often combinations of these) flavors are available. As if those weren’t enough options, you put on as much or as little of any toppings you want! A wide variety of fruit, candy, syrups, cookie and cake bits, even cereals and mochi are there for the adding.

sweetFrog toppings

Why White Flint? Darshan says that he and the corporate owner of sweetFrog chose their location on the Pike because it is close to so many neighborhoods and people, particularly families (the company’s target market). Additionally, he knew that more development was coming; the entire area is getting a “facelift,” he says, which will be good for business. Darshan says he looks forward to welcoming more people the store as the area develops and gets even more exposure.

As sweetFrog is relatively new to the area, Darshan is interested in becoming more involved in the local community. He is looking to partner with schools and sports teams in the area to sponsor fundraisers, or perhaps even discount cards to students who come in with good report cards. Darshan also mentioned possibly working with other organizations, such as senior living facilities.

Is your mouth watering yet? Whether you are skeptical about the froyo craze or have been to every shop in the DC area, you can check out the White Flint sweetFrog (Address: 11520-H Rockville Pike; across from Staples) this Thursday, March 14th between 6 and 9pm and get 25% off your purchase when you use the code word FRIENDS! (Just tell the cashier!). See you then!

P.S. – want even more froyo? On March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day) you will get 20% off your purchase at sweetFrog if you wear green!