The first wave of a new look on Rockville Pike -- Gazette.Net


Evan Goldman has spent most of his 30s working on White Flint, he quips. He got involved early on in shaping the county’s White Flint Sector Plan, which envisions high rises and rapid transit replacing parking lots along Rockville Pike, and is now drumming up interest in the first phase of Pike & Rose, the first major development to take shape under the sector plan.

“We’re the first to really do anything since the master plan approval,” he said.

Goldman, vice president of development for Federal Realty Investment Trust, started his career studying interior design, then moved into architecture before getting a master’s degree in business. He worked at Holladay Corp., where he first got involved in planning for the White Flint sector.

He spoke to The Gazette during a tour of the construction site for Pike & Rose Wednesday. The mixed-use development, being built in two phases, covers six blocks and is expected to include a hotel, movie theater, stores, a fitness club, apartments and offices. Part of the development is replacing Mid-Pike Plaza, an older strip mall-style shopping center with a large surface parking lot in front.

Pike & Rose is named for its location at the corner of Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road. The White Flint Metro station is viewable from some of the apartments, which Goldman thinks will be a selling point for commuters.

Goldman said the sector plan is a model for planners around the country in suburban areas with roads like Rockville Pike that some would like to see become more “multi-modal,” incorporating easy access for transit, bikes and pedestrians.

BRT for the Pike?

Goldman said he and the White Flint Partnership, a group of major landowners in the sector plan area, have long been supportive of rapid transit. He predicts that future residents will use rapid transit, which the county wants to run down Rockville Pike from Clarksburg to the District line, for short trips and take Metro for longer trips and commuting.

The county is planning a bus rapid transit network, while some have questioned whether light rail would be more appropriate for the area. Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton has said she would prefer a “trolley-like bus system.” Goldman said he doesn’t care what the vehicles look like, as long as they have dedicated space to keep them from being stuck in traffic.

“If you have the fear that you’re going to get stuck in a lane with cars in traffic, you’re not going to take BRT,” he said.

‘Pent-up demand’ for apartments

Pike & Rose is targeting two different demographics that Goldman said he thinks will be attracted to the area: young adults from post-college to age 40, and empty nesters or retirees who are downsizing. The first apartment building, PerSei, has 174 apartments and is set to begin leasing this spring. A second apartment building is on track to lease in 2015.

Federal Realty is only one of several developers planning high-rise apartment buildings in Montgomery County. The White Flint Sector Plan anticipates eventually adding 9,800 residential units to the area, although that is a long-term projection, and more people in the area would have to start taking transit, rather than cars, before developers can build that many units.

In other areas around the county, Goldman said he expects rents to go down some as more buildings start leasing space, but he thinks rents will drop less in the White Flint area.

“There is some pent-up demand here,” he said, to keep rents somewhat stable.

Rents at PerSei are starting at $1,816 to $4,114, according to the property manager’s website, and Goldman doesn’t think the company will have any trouble filling them up.

“The rents we’re charging here are going to be at a discount to Bethesda, and certainly to Dupont Circle,” he said. Once the White Flint area is built up to a more urban and densely populated environment, Goldman said he can easily see rent prices being on par with those in Bethesda, where Federal Realty operates Bethesda Row.

Lessons learned

Federal Realty learned a lot about parking from its experience in Bethesda, where the centrally located garage is operated by the county. Goldman says the company plans to build one garage for residents and a separate one for visitors and shoppers with wayfinding signs and smartphone apps to help people find parking.

He also said that retail for both phases of Pike & Rose is expected to be less focused on boutiques than Bethesda Row. Federal Realty is still negotiating leases for some retailers, but Goldman said to expect a mix of local stores and large, national chains. Goldman said the area will also benefit from shopping options over the border in Rockville, like Target and the Congressional Plaza shopping center.

“People will still find the retail they want,” he said.