White Flint developers pushing to include broader area in marketing campaign -- Gazette.Net


People shopping or dining on Rockville Pike in that nebulous zone between Bethesda and Rockville may one day have to learn a new name for the rapidly growing retail and residential area.

The White Flint Partnership, a group of some of the largest developers in the White Flint area, is devising a marketing strategy for White Flint and the surrounding area, possibly extending north into the Rockville city limits, and it wants to get a county committee on board.

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee was formed by county officials to look into starting a business improvement district for the White Flint Sector, a planning area a few blocks around the White Flint Metro station. The developers’ partnership, however, says marketing a larger area will make Rockville Pike more competitive with the Rosslyn-Ballston and Tysons Corner areas in Northern Virginia, according to a letter Friday from the partnership to the committee.

In its first meeting more than a year ago, the committee discussed settling on a name for the area sometimes referred to as White Flint, sometimes North Bethesda and occasionally Kensington.

In its letter, the White Flint Partnership says it is already working with a branding and marketing company to research several names for a larger area along Rockville Pike that extends beyond the sector plan’s boundaries. Several of the property owners in the White Flint area also own other properties up and down the Pike.

The letter says that when the partnership decides on a name and a defined area to market and rebrand, it plans to ask the committee to acknowledge the larger area and name in its marketing.

The partnership plans to make a presentation on its rebranding effort at the committee’s July 8 meeting, according to the letter.

At a Tuesday committee meeting, Ken Hartman, director of the county’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, said he expects the naming process to take until September or so.

“This larger area at least doubles and maybe triples the area we’re talking about,” he said.

Tara Flynn, a Garrett Park resident who sits on the committee, pointed out that the committee would have to seek a change in directive from the county if it wants to expand the area it is considering, because it was directed to look only at the White Flint area.

“Essentially, this is another pause button,” she said.

A new planning or marketing district that extends north also could run into Rockville, which has authority over development within its borders.

“The wrinkle here is that this district is likely to extend into the city of Rockville, which is a jurisdictional issue,” Hartman said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Along Rockville Pike, the city of Rockville’s southern line extends south of the Twinbrook Metro station and Twinbrook Parkway, stopping just north of Trader Joe’s and Target. The city is already developing a master plan for the area of the Pike within its borders, which envisions buildings half the height of some planned for the White Flint area, and some Rockville residents think that is still too tall.

Paul Meyer, a committee member who lives in the White Flint area, said any plan to name the area or expand the district needs lots of resident input.

“I’m a little concerned with it being so developer-driven,” he said.

While he didn’t see any problem with expanding the district, Meyer said he wanted more time to consider it. He also said residents might be upset if their area gets a new name from a developer who may live in downtown Washington.

Bernie Meyers, another White Flint resident and committee member, said he is not interested in rebranding until he hears a justification for it.

“We might be your biggest supporters,” he said. “Just involve us in the discussion.”

The committee typically meets at 8 a.m. on the second Tuesday of every month at the Montgomery County Conference Center on Marinelli Road — in North Bethesda.