ROCKVILLE, Md., March 23, 2010—The Montgomery County Council today unanimously approved the White Flint Sector Plan that will transform the North Bethesda area around Rockville Pike into a more urban and more dense community strongly supported by public transit and designed to make residents and workers less dependent on automobiles.
The Montgomery County Planning Board began its work on the White Flint Sector Plan more than three years ago, working with an advisory board of about 50 stakeholders. The County Council and its respective committees have held extensive worksessions on the plan over the past six months.
The plan targets future growth along the Pike with development clustered around about 430 acres near the White Flint Metro Station. It will allow replacement of aging low-rise commercial properties in the area with mixed-use buildings as tall as 30 stories. The revitalized new urban neighborhood would include residences, offices, service-oriented businesses, restaurants and entertainment venues. The neighborhood would evolve through creation of a grid of streets to promote walkability for residents and employees.
“This is a very ambitious and complex plan that will transform the White Flint area along Rockville Pike into an exciting destination,” said Council President Nancy Floreen. “Property owners in White Flint have committed to a financing plan to speed up creation of infrastructure that would support growth. With everyone working together, as they have throughout the planning process, this will remake the strip shopping malls along the Pike into a new, urban community that will make Montgomery County proud.”
It is expected that as the plan is implemented over a period of about two decades, approximately 9,800 new residences will be added (there are approximately 2,300 residences currently within the plan area). There will be approximately 2,600 affordable housing units.
“Arguably the most important aspect of the White Flint plan, given its scale and scope, is the degree of consensus that was reached, consensus reflected in our own Council's unanimous support,” said Councilmember Roger Berliner, who represents District 1 that includes the White Flint area. “And this was not just a happy coincidence, but rather the result of years of ongoing collaboration between the private sector, neighbors and government. Differing priorities and perspectives came together around a shared goal—to make the White Flint Sector Plan a strong, viable blueprint that will guide the successful transformation of the area for current and future generations of Montgomery County residents.”
A key element of the plan will be the way it incorporates the Bethesda North Conference Center and Hotel into the transformed neighborhood. The plan provides for public gathering space and locals parks. The long-term vision suggests civic or entertainment uses, such as a community playhouse or theater.
“The White Flint Master Plan will bring a new vibrancy to this area,” said Councilmember Mike Knapp, who chairs the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee that reviewed many aspects of the plan. “This plan will take Rockville Pike and the surrounding area from a series of underdeveloped strip malls and pedestrian unfriendly intersections and enable it to become a comfortable destination where our residents can live, work, and play. Sometimes all it takes to revitalize a community is a willingness to shake old habits. That is what we have done today.”
White Flint was proposed as an urban, mixed-use community as the center of North Bethesda more than 30 years ago as the influence of Metro’s Red Line was starting to take hold. The sector plan covers an area bounded by the CSX train tracks and White Flint Mall to the east, the merge point of Montrose Parkway and Old Georgetown Road to the north, Old Georgetown Road to the west and an area just below Edson Lane to the south. The Georgetown Prep school and the Strathmore Performing Arts Center are south of the plan. All of the plan is within a walkable three-quarters of a mile from the White Flint Metro Station.
“I am very pleased at the Council’s strong affirmative vote in support of the White Flint Sector Plan,” said Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, who lives close to the White Flint area. “During its consideration, we witnessed a very strong, effective and positive collaborative effort among key community stakeholders which has resulted in an exciting plan for a safe, healthy and pedestrian friendly urban community. This ‘partnership’ with the community stands as a model for future master plans in Montgomery County.
“With this effort, we have worked hard to design a plan which promotes growth, respects established neighborhoods, and incorporates innovative and environmentally-friendly solutions for traffic and mobility. Our work, however, is not over. I look forward to working with my Council colleagues on the development of a sustainable financing plan for the White Flint plan area and a development coordination mechanism which will give comfort to our neighbors and the business community about infrastructure and financing issues.”
“Passing the White Flint Sector Plan allows us to create a bright future for the White Flint area built around good jobs, effective transportation and the high quality of life we come to expect from Montgomery County,” said Councilmember George Leventhal. “It’s especially promising that we were able to pass this plan with the unanimous support of the County Council and extensive input from surrounding neighborhoods. I hope that White Flint will become a model for transit-oriented development and community involvement both within the region and beyond.”