Following the ins and outs of the many redevelopment projects slated for White Flint isn’t easy.
So on Saturday a group of smart growth advocates put together a walking tour of the area to show about 50 area residents what is going on and what they hope to see happen to the strip malls and sidewalks of Rockville Pike.
The D.C.-based Coalition for Smarter Growth, a nonprofit funded by an environmental group, organized “White Flint: Drag to Desirable,” a two-hour tour of the area that included Tommy Mann from developer Federal Realty, County planner Nkosi Yearwood, resident Lindsay Hoffman from Friends of White Flint and Coalition executive director Stewart Schwartz.
They talked about plans for Federal Realty’s Pike & Rose project, underway at Mid-Pike Plaza, and developer LCOR’s North Bethesda Center on the east side of Rockville Pike near the White Flint Metro station. Yearwood answered questions about the realignment of Executive Boulevard, which the county hopes will one day run through what is now Mid-Pike Plaza and the Saab auto dealership across Old Georgetown Road.
Schwartz pointed out some of the less noticeable signs of car-oriented, older suburban planning that still exist on the Pike.
The high-speed right hand turn lane from Old Georgetown Road onto southbound Rockville Pike is one example. Drivers looking to get onto the Pike are more likely to look left for a gap in southbound traffic than to look right for pedestrians crossing at the crosswalk.
There is no tree buffer between the sidewalks of Rockville Pike and the road, a streetscaping tool that is apparent off the Pike near the Bethesda North Marriott and nearby apartment buildings.
Many asked about school overcrowding from new residents in mid-rise and high-rise apartments. The 2010 White Flint Sector Plan includes a new elementary school at the White Flint Mall redevelopment site. Yearwood fielded questions about public amenities, including a green space planned for near Wall Park.
And many wanted to know exactly what was going to be built and when. Mann answered questions about parking and retailers coming to Pike & Rose, the first major mixed-use development coming under the Sector Plan. Phase one will be done next year.
But residents found the bulk of redevelopment for White Flint is going to be a long process in which all the details – road construction, land ownership, the fate of existing small businesses, even a name – aren’t finalized.