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White Flint development could cost $895 million

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Local,Bill Myers

Maryland and Montgomery County taxpayers could be on the hook for up to three-fourths of the proposed $895 million overhaul of the neighborhoods surrounding the White Flint Metro station, officials said Tuesday.

County leaders stressed at a public hearing that the estimated costs are "preliminary," but added that their estimates are conservative.

"This is really about tomorrow," Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg, D-at large, said during Tuesday's hearing. "This is about how things are going to be done in the county."

Developers and county leaders want to remake the White Flint area, currently covered in strip malls, into a high-rise urban center with condos, apartments, restaurants and shopping.

It won't be cheap: Officials said Tuesday at a County Council meeting that the project will cost at least $895 million. The estimate doesn't include the cost of the proposed library and recreation center county leaders want to tack onto the project.

Early estimates show that taxpayers would handle more than one-third of the financing through direct subsidy and another two-fifths through the creation of a special bond-and-tax district in the White Flint area, figures provided at Tuesday's hearing show.

White Flint estimates »  Total cost: $895 million »  Bond-and-tax district funds: $370 million »  State or county funds: $300 million »  Private developers' funds: $225 million

Source: Montgomery County Council memo, Jan. 26, 2010

Much is riding on the White Flint project. Designers, developers and community leaders around the country are increasingly turning to high-density, "walkable" developments for their suburban planning. Experts say that the sprawling, car-dependent cul-de-sacs typical of suburban developments for nearly a century have been overbuilt and that the future of towns and cities lie in edge cities.

Much is riding on the White Flint project. Designers, developers and community leaders around the country are increasingly turning to high-density, "walkable" developments for their suburban planning. Experts say that the sprawling, car-dependent cul-de-sacs typical of suburban developments for nearly a century have been overbuilt and that the future of towns and cities lie in edge cities.

White Flint is a case study in this so-called "new urbanism" and many "smart growth" advocates say that failure in White Flint will set back the cause.

The county, already facing budget cutbacks and declining property values, is weighing several big-ticket development projects besides White Flint. Worried about the high risks of massive development in a recession, the council also is considering a proposal that would require county Executive Ike Leggett to appoint a development czar for every major project in the county.

bmyers@washingtonexaminer.com

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