What’s In a Name Charette

What’s In a Name Charette

Last Thursday, the public charette on the renaming of the White Flint sector was hosted by Friends of White Flint and Streetsense, and sponsored by various developers in the White Flint sector.

Dan Hoffman, Montgomery County’s chief innovation officer and a community activist who has been involved in the White Flint sector plan for the past 8 years, was asked to introduce the charette for the attendees which included community residents, concerned citizens, property owners, and developers.

The White Flint Sector Plan was developed by residents, local business owners, property owners, the county, and developers in 2010 to create a shared vision of what the White Flint sector will become. This shared vision is why it is so important for this rebranding to take place, to create a unique and concise identity for this area.

As Dan mentioned, now is the time to figure out the future of the region and how the region will attract individuals to the area over the next 30 years. One way is to figure out a name that creates a sense of vibrancy, uniqueness, and timelessness. This charette provided an opportunity for the community to give their input on the naming of the place they live, play, and work in.

Streetsense began the charette by defining what a brand is. A brand comes down to the gut feeling one gets as a result of their sense of place and their buy-in or understanding of area. The branding process of a area or district begins with creating a new name. From there, awareness of the new name will be raised, hopefully creating unity among the area’s residents and distinguishing the area from other districts.

Participants in the charette were presented with signs of 10 possible names for the region: The Quartz District, Metropolitan White Flint, Rockline, Rocksy, The Summit, Pike District, Slate District, The Stem, Uptown, and Market District.  These were chosen by Streetsense and the developers, such as The JBG Companies, Federal Realty Investment Trust, and Lerner Enterprises, as the remaining choices. These 10 names were selected based on a criteria including but not limited to sticking power of the name, placing a location, a sense of energy/vibrancy, authencity, and large scale-ness. Attendees were asked to go around to every sign and give their ranking from -5 to +5 and any additional comments they had on the name to Streetsense employees standing next to each sign.

It is important to acknowledge that the branding “is for marketing purposes only; the new name will not be used for nearby residential neighborhoods or for postage or tax purposes,” as Bethesda Beat’s Andrew Metcalf mentioned. The branding process for this new campaign is six-fold. Streetsense began the process by conducting case studies of other districts faced with the same branding issues. Following that step, they conducted in-person interviews, held “re-focus” groups, and had a namestorming session. All these steps then led to the charette. After the charette, Streetsense and the developers will take the rankings and comments left by the attendees and will complete more market research in hopes of making the decision on the final name.

Rebecca Hertz


Rebecca Hertz is the Assistant Executive Director of Friends of White Flint. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in International Development and Social Change from Clark University, Worcester Massachusetts in 2012. She completed her Master’s Degree from Clark University, as well, in Community Development and Planning in 2013. She is interested in how built environments impact the health and growth of communities. Prior to this role, she worked as a youth worker and mentor for several non-profit organizations in Maryland and Massachusetts. She grew up in Rockville, MD and has recently moved back to the region.


Toby Levin

I am very disappointed in the names offered by the “experts.” As a neighbor, I recommend calling the area North Bethesda as that is the name the community uses to describe our area. What is the purpose of creating confusion by adding a different name when we already have a community identity. It is great to expand and enhance the commercial offerings but let’s use the name that is already associated with the area.

Denise Harrington

North Bethesda is best

Stephen Miller

The area south of Montrose Road, north and west of 270, and west of Rockville Pike is a very clearly defined area that should be called North Bethesda. It is recognized as such by the Post Office, is easily recognizable with its relationship to Bethesda which is very well known around the country and the world. We do not need any other names that would add confusion to the area and would mean nothing to anyone outside of the area.

Maurice Margulies

The shopping mall (and I do hate them because they are not an integral part of where they are) developers are a bunch of buffoons to think any of the names is an improvement over White Flint . White Flint Mall did not fail because of its name.

Lindsay Hoffman

Hi Readers! Thanks for your thoughtful discussion on this topic. This is a reminder that these comments are moderated and, to maintain the integrity of the discussion, we do not allow anonymous posting. Folks who wish to stay publicly anonymous may email me directly with their comments at Lindsay.Hoffman@whiteflint.org.

David Ohlrich

I my line of work I am regularly involved in naming or renaming real estate properties, and I would echo what has been said here – the choices proposed so far are frankly abysmal. I completely agree that this area is, and has been called North Bethesda for some time, and firmly believe it should remain North Bethesda.


Agree that the names from street sense are hokey at best. I agree that North Bethesda has is appealing because it is simple, classy and already has name recognition

Emily Mintz

This is not a large area. North Bethesda is known, easy to remember, has historical meaning in this area, and is excellent for advertising purposes. There is no need to create a “district” that has a new name that would require a huge financial investment just to get it off the ground.

None of the proposed options have any cache to those who know and live near the commercial district (which is multi-use, BTW). Those who move into the sector in the apartments and townhouses proposed will feel like they are in a commercial area.

Leave it alone, call it what it is, North Bethesda, and save tons of money trying to get people to understand this area as anything other than what it is.


    Except that those of us who have been living in the area for 25 or more years, know that the area isn’t really North Bethesda–it’s White Flint or even, gasp…Kensington. Which is what White Flint wanted as it’s postal address, because it sounded classier than North Bethesda. The boundaries for NB weren’t around the sector..they were south, right north of, uh, Bethesda. As Jane states below, the residents know it as White Flint. Why not keep it that way?

Sean Altekruse

White Flint has a nice ring to it. North Bethesda is also fine It is a recognized name for this area, but it is derived from Bethesdainstead of being a unique place name. The new brand names like Rocksy, NoBe and the Pike District are even less compelling.

Jane Huff

We, who live here, know that his area was called White Flint when it was a golf course and then a mall and some of us think that name is the more distinctive and appropriate for this area. I live in the area called White Flint Park, below the little White Flint Neighborhood park. We like this name.

Mark groban

North Bethesda has been supported by many comments. It has a definite location, a geographical sense that appeals to outsiders. It certainly has staying power. Even the condominium North of Giant and Barnes and Noble used it in their sales advertising which went quite well. Why be cutesy? The names suggested have the consultant’s own interest at heart because it justifies their profit. North Bethesda is the best name. I personally have renamed a $2.7 billion, annual revenue, corporation and found that simple was best and memorable.

Mark Groban

Ed Reich

I could live with North Bethesda though, in truth, we are so disconnected from Bethesda that Very North Bethesda would be more accurate.

I prefer White Flint because it is unique to the area and doesn’t appear to borrow the cache of Bethesda. Developers don’t like it because it complicates marketing because people identify the name with the mall. But that is a short-term concern at best as the mall fades into history and I can’t help but believe that savvy marketers can deal with it. As a resident, I don’t have that concern since I doubt my friends think I live in a mall.

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