Three projects approved for White Flint

Local,Maryland,Real Estate,Liz Farmer
Designs for three major projects in White Flint all were approved Thursday by the Montgomery County Planning Board amid public concern the developments may not include any public facilities they say the area needs.

Totaling nearly 4.2 million square feet, the projects span a half-mile stretch along Rockville Pike near the White Flint Metro station. They seek to transform the existing strip malls -- including Mid-Pike Plaza -- and car lots into thriving, walkable communities with retail, office towers, residences and hotels.

The projects

Mid-Pike Plaza
Developer: Federal Realty
Location: West side of Rockville Pike between Old Georgetown & Montrose roads
Concept plan: 1.7 million sq. ft. residential, 1.7 million sq. ft. of non-residential (offices, hotel, retail), 1.3 acres open space.
North Bethesda Gateway
Developer: Promark Real Estate Services LLC
Location: Eastern Rockville Pike south of Nicholson Lane
Concept plan: 1.03 million sq. ft. of non-residential development (offices, hotel, and retail) and 666,110 square feet residential, two central plazas
North Bethesda Market II
Developer: JGB
Location: West Pike south of Nicholson Lane
Concept plan: 372,528 sq. ft. residential, up to 368,000 sq. ft. commercial and ground-floor retail

And while the sketch plans for Mid-Pike Plaza, North Bethesda Gateway and North Bethesda Market II all include amenities such as parks, plazas or public parking, they don't specify any building space for community use.

Community members told the board Thursday that is was their chance to ensure White Flint gets a library or recreation center, services people said the area was in dire need of.

"If you let four million square feet walk out of this room without having some plan to get those built, they will not get built," said Bob Cope, who represented the Citizens Coordinating Committee of Friendship Heights and helped ensure that neighborhood got a recreational center as a part of its redevelopment.

Meredith Josef, vice president of the Timberlawn Homeowners Association, said the concept of making White Flint more pedestrian-friendly didn't take into account the needs of the greater neighborhood.

"We drive to the library in Bethesda if we want books; we drive to the community center if we want to take a county class," she said. "Rockville has its library. Silver Spring has [the AFI Theater]. I hope you will think carefully about what will make White Flint a unique destination."

Officials said getting a library or community center isn't out of the question. But for now, it's too early in the planning process for developers -- and the county -- to commit.

"The whole goal is not to dot the 'I's' and cross the 'T's' at this stage," said county Planning Director Rollin Stanley.

The burden, he said, is on the county -- not the planning board -- to come up with a way to afford such a space within one of the three projects. At 3.4 million square feet, Federal Realty's Mid-Pike Plaza project would be the likeliest candidate to spare the space.

"We can't force the county to spring forward with equipment and operations when they can't afford it," Stanley said.

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