Archives May 2014

North Bethesda Market II Ramping Back Up?

North Bethesda Market II has been proposed with one of the most unique architectural designs for White Flint redevelopment, thus far.  So, we were excited to receive an indication that this on-hold project might be coming back to life soon.  JBG is hosting a public meeting to “review amendments to previously approved plans and to discuss the proposed mixed-use development” that is North Bethesda Market II, on the property bounded by Rockville Pike, Nicholson Lane, Woodglen Drive and Executive Boulevard.

nobearchbethesda_market_01

According to the announcement (which indicates the property as being in Bethesda!), JBG will be seeking amendments to the original plan that propose “a reduction of the commercial component and an increase to the residential component while maintaining the same overall development concept and architectural direction.”  This is no surprise.  With commercial and office space sitting empty throughout the county, developers are rethinking their plans.  Our hope, though, is that White Flint will grow to be a solid commercial center so we hope developers aren’t being short-sighted in rescaling their balance between commercial and residential.  Montgomery County might not be attracting as much business right now as it hopes to, but that’s why county leaders are promising to take steps to shift that trend.

The meeting will be on Tuesday, June 10th from 7pm to 8pm at the Bethesda North Conference Center, in the Linden Oak Room.  RSVPs are appreciated, but not required, by emailing ecgeare@lerchearly.com (please put North Bethesda II Community Meeting in the subject line).  Can’t make it?  Don’t worry – your Friends will be there and we’ll post an update on the blog to keep you abreast of the news.

More Media Coverage on our Naming Process

Well, we can’t back away from this issue now — the media is watching.  In addition to this week’s article in the Washington Post on establishing a name for this new district, Bethesda Magazine has also offered attention to the issue.  Earlier this month, BethesdaNow.com really got the media conversation started and, between the three publications, the comments have been going nuts with opinions on the subject.  The Washington Post even supplemented its original piece last night by highlighting some of the suggestions they’ve seen floating around.

More on this subject at our meeting tonight and we’ll keep you posted online as the issue develops!

Check out Plank & Rose at Pike Central Market This Saturday

This Saturday, May 31st, Pike & Rose will host a free, outdoor yoga event, Plank & Rose, at the Pike Central Farm Market. Please join us for this excellent event and another great chance to learn more about Pike & Rose.  We’ll also be out there with information about Friends of White Flint – make sure you stop and say “hello!”

plank eblast-FINAL

Plank & Rose will take place from 10 am to 12 noon with a free yoga class from 10:30 am- 11:30 am, as well as great music, an aqua bar, and a raffle to win a $250 gift card to Lululemon and a yoga pack from City Sports. Pike & Rose will also be giving away a free yoga mat to the first 50 attendees so make sure you get there early!

The Naming of this Place

As we noted in our post last week, the naming and branding of the White Flint Sector has been long overdue (click here for that post).  Although the issue is usually framed as “renaming” the redevelopment district, I would offer a different perspective.  I don’t think we’re “re-naming” anything — I think we’re just finally naming it for the first time.

To “rename” something suggests that it already has a name and an identity.  But, if you ask any four people what they call this area, I’ll be you’ll get four different answers.  Those of us who pay attention to White Flint redevelopment everyday tend to use the term “White Flint,” so it’s sometimes a challenge for us to step back and realize that’s not always the norm.  We need consistency if we’re building a destination.  As has been oft repeated, we need a “there” there.

So, the Washington Post has started asking the same question and has run an article on the subject.  Questions still remain – most notably, what are the borders of this to-be-named area?  Will we use the borders of the White Flint Sector Plan or stretch beyond?  Single-family neighborhoods adjacent to the redevelopment area are wondering how much of a dog they have in this fight – and that might shift the conversation considerably.

Interested in discussing the subject further?  Come to our meeting on Thursday evening!  Click here for the Washington Post article and click here for more information on this week’s meeting.

Agenda for Next Week’s FoWF Meeting

We hope many of you are planning to attend next Thursday’s Friends of White Flint meeting.  It’s the best way to stay abreast of current events and connect with the folks moving the redevelopment forward.  Our tentative agenda is below.  If you have additions or comments, please email them to info@WhiteFlint.org.  Also, although RSVPs are not required, they are appreciated at the same email address.

Friends of White Flint Annual Meeting
Thursday, May 29, 2014, 6:30pm – 8:00pm
The Offices of Federal Realty Investment Trust, 1626 E. Jefferson Street, Rockville

  1. Call to Order, Welcome, Introductions
  2. Confirmation of Quorum
  3. Approval of Minutes from February 24, 2014, meeting
  4. Update on Friends of White Flint business and Development Projects
  5. Presentation by David Hauck, Communities for Transit
  6. Discussion on Naming and Branding of Urban District
  7. Presentation by Ken Hartman, White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee
  8. Board and Officer Elections
  9. Adjournment

For more information about the meeting and the elections (especially if you’re considering throwing your name into the ring), please click here.  See you next week!

Montgomery County Council FY-15 Budget Updates

The Montgomery County Council met on Thursday, May 15 to deliberate on the FY-15 Montgomery County Operating Budget and the FY 2015-20 Capital Improvements Program. The council came to an unanimous tentative agreement on the Operating Budget for FY-15 and the FY2015-20 CIP.

Some of the key actions to took place that are important for White Flint include:

  •  The approval of the FY 15 Montgomery County Operating Budget of $4.99 billion, which will include funding for the Urban Park Elements.
  • The unanimous tentative agreement on the approval of $4.45 billion of spending in the FY 2015-20 Capital Improvements Program (CIP). This includes the Montrose Parkway East and Chapman Avenue Extension.

The final action and deliberation on the budget will take place this morning, Thursday, May 22nd at 9:30 am. Stay tuned for more information on the final approval of the budget.

Urban Streets and Fire Departments

If you’re familiar with this blog, and with White Flint redevelopment in general, then you know that we’re working toward making our area more friendly toward all modes of transportation.  Car can no longer be king – people should be the kings (and queens!).  A major barrier toward getting people out of their cars and onto the sidewalks and bike lanes (where we have bike lanes) is the safety of our roads.  That’s why we applauded the effort of Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer when they introduced a county bill late last year that would improve the road code in our urban areas and give us the “Complete Streets” we need.  (Click here for more information).

The proposal would do such things as limit speeds and lane widths, address turning radii on curbs and require pedestrian refuges for those crossing the street.  All of these would lend for a more comfortable pedestrian experience, something anyone who’s tried walking along the Pike would value.  (Yes, we know that Rockville Pike is a state road, and not county controlled, but the hope is that we could get the State on board with the surrounding roads).  Concerns have been raised, though, that these recommendations could be improved.  Most notably, there’s a concern that fire and emergency equipment, as well as commercial vehicles, will have trouble navigating narrower roads and negotiating restrictive turns.  Certainly, we would not be reaching our pedestrian-friendly goals if a person is hit by a truck that bumps up on the sidewalk while making a tight turn.

Thankfully, the county has not seen this as a reason to scrap the improvements but they’ve convened a multi-disciplinary workgroup to try and find smart, creative solutions.  We’re also not the only urban area navigating these issues (pun intended).  The Atlantic’s CityLab ran a piece on this very issue — urban roads vs. fire departments — just yesterday.  Written by Scott Weiner, who sits on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and is the chair of their Land Use & Economic Development Committee, the piece tackles these issues head on – from the updating of fire codes to the scrutiny of which fire trucks the county is purchasing, there are ways to make sure everyone wins.

In San Francisco, we are attempting to ensure strong fire safety while also promoting compact, walkable, well-designed streets. We are looking at the size and turning radius of fire trucks to see if our fire department is purchasing the best equipment for our city, as opposed to insisting that our city be re-designed for large fire trucks. I recently authored an amendment to our fire code to clarify that pedestrian bulb-outs are permissible, and I’m moving forward with additional legislation to ensure that our fire code is not an obstacle to improving the safety and livability of our streets.

Street design matters. Street safety matters. Fire safety matters. We have to get each of these priorities right. With smart choices, we can.

Learning from other jurisdiction has been the bailiwick of White Flint redevelopment.  Why reinvent the wheel when there are so many national and global examples from which we can learn?   We’re looking forward to the results of the county’s multi-disciplinary group on urban road code amendment proposal but, in the meantime, read the full CityLab piece by clicking here.

Solving the Identity Crisis

Friends of White Flint has been around for seven years now and, for about as long, questions have abounded about what we should call this amazing place we’re creating.  You’ve seen articles and polls and questionnaires asking for your opinion on the subject.  Are we White Flint?  North Bethesda?  NoBeSoRo (that’s North Bethesda South Rockville)? Something brand new?  The bottom line problem is that there’s no consensus on the subject.

We have a post from back in 2009 by our indefatigable Barnaby Zall (click here) which quotes the original White Flint Advisory Group on the subject:

Image and Identity:    There is a consensus on the need for a unifying identity, but no consensus on what that name or identity should be. The Advisory Group put off further discussion on this point. There was a proposal to create a separate working group to create an image and explore means to “brand” the image; the working group could review information such as the public opinion work done by some developers in creating their project names (which include both White Flint and North Bethesda in titles).

And, we have a post from just last year (click here) weighing the varying options.  But, until the landowners within our sector can agree on a name that they’ll work together to brand and market, we’re all stuck in limbo.  This, though, is what makes current events so exciting!

Finally, the question of our identity crisis is coming to a head and, with luck, we’ll have some solid direction before the summer is out.  As reported yesterday by Bethesda Magazine (click here), an alternative to renaming the whole redevelopment sector is to break it into neighborhoods.  So, the area around White Flint Mall might retain the name White Flint while other pockets of redevelopment might adopt other names.

The bottom line remains that we aren’t within the city limits of Rockville, so that name doesn’t make sense.  The borders of North Bethesda range far wider than the redevelopment sector, so that doesn’t quite fit either.  Whether we continue with the name White Flint or switch to something new, an education, marketing and branding campaign will be needed.  So, it’s time to get moving.  Stay tuned to this blog and our weekly emails for how you, as our Friends, can help with the effort.

And, please come to our next Friends of White Flint meeting next week. This subject will be on the agenda. Click here for more information on that!

Check out FOWF at Bike to Work Day 2014

Friends of White Flint was a sponsor at the Bike to Work Day 2014 pit-stop in North Bethesda at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission building on Rockville Pike last Friday.  Despite less-than-ideal weather conditions, we still had a great turnout!  Thanks to Ize’s Deli and Bagelry for partnering with us in donating a $50 gift card for one lucky winner!

Check out some of our pictures from the event:

        IMG_1567                            IMG_1573 IMG_1576 IMG_1571 IMG_1570 IMG_1561