Less than twelve hours after the White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee adjourned on Monday night, another body took up a different aspect of planning. The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee is the group that will coordinate and plan the day-to-day operations to help White Flint reach its potential. The group met for the first time on Tuesday morning, April 9th and began with introductions. So, let’s meet them and learn their goals for White Flint:
** Ken Hartman, an ex-officio non-voting member of the group, is the Director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.
** Lee Barnes owns Barwood Taxi Company and is focused on the transportation components of White Flint. He wants to ensure White Flint is a livable, enjoyable downtown.
** Tom Murphy is president of Eagle Bank and, a MoCo native, he lives just outside the sector. Mr. Murphy has served on the Bethesda Urban Partnership so has experience in this realm. His goals are to maximize the quality of life where he lives and shops and also to ensure the happiness of his customers, who are located all along this corridor.
** Bernie Meyers has been an area resident for over 30 years. He wants White Flint to be a great place to live and have a business – but he doesn’t want it to get too crowded.
** Paul Meyer is a very active resident in White Flint planning. He works with Friends of White Flint and already serves on the Planning Board’s Implementation Committee. Mr. Meyer has lived in the area for about 45 years and has been at The Wisconsin condominiums for the last 20 of those. He wants to ensure that the needs of the people are met and that we continue a good collaboration between residents and businesses.
** Peggy Schwartz is Executive Director of the North Bethesda Transportation Management District. She has also been active throughout the planning history of White Flint and has been living in the area for the last 15 years.
** Bob Daley is senior manager of the Bethesda North Conference Center and the North Bethesda Marriott. He is looking to enhance where he lives and works, as well as protect the facility’s investment.
** Francine Waters represents Lerner and Tower Enterprises. She is focused in ensuring transportation & transit solutions for the community, which is her background. With a commitment to the community, Ms. Waters wants to ensure that this emerging and vibrant mixed-use community will have the options it needs.
** Deirdre Johnson is a senior asset manager with Federal Realty Investment Trust and works with Pike & Rose, Bethesda Row and Wildwood. She is looking for a unified, inspirational long-term vision and a strong foundation for the future.
** Cindy Gibson is also a non-voting member of the Board. She is chief of staff to County Councilmember Roger Berliner, in whose district White Flint falls. Ms. Gibson and the Council’s goal is to ensure that the economic promises that have been made are kept and that the promises made to residents become reality.
** Cliff Cohen is an attorney who lives and works in Friendship Heights. He is the Board’s representative who lives outside of the sector. He wants to ensure that Montgomery County remains a great place with great services. He believes transit-oriented development is necessary.
** Tara Flynn serves on the Western Montgomery Citizens Advisory Board and the Garrett Park Town Council. Her goals for White Flint are that is becomes walkable and bikable with continuity – not just pockets of development. She also lives in an area where neighbors are concerned about how school capacity will be affected by the new development.
** Andy Shulman is a commercial real estate broker and president-elect of the Bethesda Chevy-Chase Chamber of Commerce. Involved for years with White Flint planning, he believes branding of this new area is important. “Do we know what this is,” he asked. He also is concerned with facilitating infrastructure improvements. He wants the community to see the county’s investment as well as the developers’ in, for example, the transformation of Rockville Pike.
** Brian Downie is with BF Saul/Saul Centers, a property owner based in Bethesda who owns 15 million square feet including Metro Pike Plaza and a parcel across Rockville Pike.
The purpose of the Downtown Advisory Committee is to advise county agencies on necessary public service, advance walkability, placemaking and a sense of community, as well as supporting business interests. The Committee has an overall goal of determining, by 2017, the feasibility of a White Flint Urban District. Hurdles will include funding. Unlike Bethesda which generates revenue via parking, there is no designated funding source for these purposes.
In discussing reasonable and achievable goals for the next year, branding and placemaking were key among suggestions. Several members agreed that there must be a plan for knowing what this area will be called, which will require involvement from landowners who have already named their projects. It was generally agreed that White Flint should be a unique district, not a “little Bethesda” as posited by Deirdre. She doesn’t want it thought that we’ve replicated Bethesda, but that we’ve taken it to the next level, beyond clean streets and coordinated flowers. Bob Daley noted that when you enter White Flint, or even North Bethesda, into a GPS, you get a virtual blank stare in return. Someone needs to decide – are we creating a destination or a non-destination?
The White Flint Partnership has agreed to financially support a branding process and Francine Waters, who heads that body, will share more at a later date. She also suggested that an education process would be useful for the Board as everyone knows a lot but no one knows everything. Community education, engagement and communication were also tops on the list of goals.
The Downtown Advisory Board will meet the second Tuesday morning of every month at 8am. The meetings are open to the public and all are welcome to attend.