Notes from the Downtown Advisory Committee Meeting 5.14.2013

Notes from the Downtown Advisory Committee Meeting 5.14.2013

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee met for the second time on May 14th at the North Bethesda Conference Center. In addition to electing Committee leadership, the group discussed how the Downtown Advisory Committee will fit into the bigger picture of what’s happening in White Flint, and how this committee can work with the other groups working in the area (including Friends of White Flint). There was continued discussion regarding marketing and branding the new White Flint. Subcommittee topics were determined. Here are the details:

* Francine Waters of Lerner and Tower Enterprises was elected Chair of the Committee. Cliff Cohen, an attorney who lives and works in Friendship Heights, was elected Vice Chair. Terms will run from February to February.

* N’Kosi Yearwood from the Planning Department gave a brief overview of how the White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee fits into the picture. N’Kosi explained that the Implementation Advisory Committee is really there to look at the nuts and bolts of what’s happening on the ground. Everyone who submits a sketch/site/preliminary plan presents to the committee. The group considers these approvals, and other related aspects such as public facilities.

* I was there to give a similar overview of Friends of White Flint. One aspect that distinguishes Friends from other groups/committees is the advocacy aspect of our mission. Additionally, our board members and staff are not appointed and/or confirmed by a governmental body.

* Francine Waters spoke about the White Flint Partnership, which is made up of property owners, and what that group is doing in terms of branding. She explained that the group is engaged with a firm and is looking to start a branding and marketing study soon (the contract is not yet finalized). Once there is some information, she will ask the firm to present to the Committee, most likely in the fall. When asked about community involvement during this process, Waters noted that there will not be a charrette/public meeting. She stressed that the property owners involved (i.e. those funding the effort) need to work through this process on their own to start. Ken Hartman, Director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, supported Waters and said that there are many different property owners – each with different marketing strategies – who need to agree on a common strategy. What may come from this initial process may not be the ultimate strategy/logo/”brand” in the end, but getting something on the table for the community to come around is an important step. The discussion then came back to what to name the area. Waters explained that it comes down to either picking a new name and making that real, or changing the perspective of the current name. Experts say that changing the name completely takes longer, and that authenticity can be a real issue. Alternatively, some names may develop overtime. Either way, the challenge for property owners is to market themselves to everyone: the local and regional community. (You can check out BethesdaNow.com’s take on this issue here).

* General topic areas for sub-committees were discussed and ultimately decided on as follows:

** Executive – chair; vice chair; creating bylaws of the whole committee
** Maintenance and Beautification – how to create and maintain a visually appealing place with efforts like flower beds, etc.; likely to be a partnership between property owners,
** Business Promotion – events
** Strategic – strategic planning
** Communication – how to communicate between and to different channels working on these projects; this will also involve branding efforts
** Security and Safety – how to manage the current safety challenges as well as new challenges that will arise with increased density
** Municipal Impacts – how impacts related to construction and roadwork should be dealt with in the transitional period

The Committee agreed that the sub committees will help define the direction for this group, which will in the end, will have to be carefully coordinated with the other committees and groups working in the area.

The Downtown Advisory Board meets the second Tuesday morning of every month at 8am. The next meeting will be June 11th at Federal Realty Investment Trust’s offices on 1626 E. Jefferson Street.  The meetings are open to the public and all are welcome to attend.

Amy Donin

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