One of the most frequent questions we got in our hundreds of residents’ meetings over the last four years was “When will we see something built?” In fact, in some of our residential communities with a more mature demographic, the question was “will we live to see it?”
We always had to say, “at least a few years.” Well, a few years have passed, and the Coalition for Smarter Growth, www.smartergrowth.net, held a very successful walking tour yesterday to view what’s going on. And there was lots going on.
Montgomery County President Nancy Floreen and Councilmember Roger Berliner joined the tour. Floreen announced that the Council would introduce a White Flint infrastructure financing bill on Tuesday, and said that residents should not be disturbed by the County Executive’s incomplete financing proposal from last week. Floreen declared: “It’s our Plan. We’re going to take apart the financing proposal and put it back together so we get this done.” Berliner said: “This is where the future of Montgomery County is going to be taking shape over the next few years.”
More than sixty people participated in the walking tour, which began at the White Flint Metro station, circled the North Bethesda Center (LCOR – Harris Teeter) block, discussed the differences between the 1960’s-era Mid-Pike Plaza (Federal Realty – Toys R Us, Silver Diner) and the modern urbanism of the sold-out Sterling condominums across the street, looked at the Conference Center block, the Metro Pike Plaza (Holladay Corp. – McDonalds and Stella’s Bakery), and ended with a harrowing walk along Rockville Pike to see the North Bethesda Market (JBG – Whole Foods and residential tower).
The tour was led by Nkosi Yearwood, from the Montgomery Planning Board, Evan Goldman from Federal Realty, Dan Hoffman from Randolph Civic Association and the Citizens League of Montgomery County, and me, from Friends of White Flint.
(Yearwood (L), Goldman, and Hoffman on tour)
Some projects are already underway, including the new third tower for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, right next to the Metro station, where a construction shovel was hard at work as the tour began. NRC (a Friends of White Flint member) has just been voted the best federal workplace (for the third year in a row), and this site next to the Metro station should help it maintain its stellar record of half its employees taking transit to work.
At Mid-Pike Plaza, Federal Realty has offered the first “sketch plans” for a massive renovation of the aging center. Construction on the first phase may begin (assuming a reasonable White Flint infrastructure financing plan is adopted) with the building along Old Georgetown Road (labeled “12” on the sketch below) as soon as permits are issued, in perhaps 2012.
Finally, in the southern end of the White Flint Sector, North Bethesda Market’s Phase One is nearing completion. The extension of Executive Boulevard across Woodglen to Rockville Pike is “awaiting review” by the County before opening. This is one of the new roads, one of several funded and built by the private developers, making up the “smart grid” of streets intended to both increase walkability and decrease congestion on Rockville Pike.
Some tenants are already slated. The 26-story residential tower began leasing last week, and retail tenants are beginning construction. Apparently, the modern practice is to finish the outside of the building first, and then the tenants do their own construction, which is why there are temporary coverings on the first- and second-floor retail spaces. Tenants include L.A. Fitness, and a new Seasons 52 restaurant concept, based on locavore and healthful food.
Whole Foods Market, whose regional headquarters is in White Flint, will open a huge store, stretching from Woodglen almost to Rockville Pike, with parking above the store inside the building. Opening is likely to be next summer.
So, the answer to “when will we see something?” is going to be 2011. With lots more to come.