Owners of strip malls, shopping plazas and auto dealerships in the Washington suburbs are tearing their properties apart and trying to create places that have most everything one would find in the span of a few city blocks, despite their location in congested suburbs.
They are among the most dramatic suburban redevelopment projects in the country. It’s happening in Tysons Corner, where Macerich is building offices, apartments and a hotel around a plaza adjacent to the Tysons Corner Center shopping mall. In Merrifield, Edens has completed much of the Mosaic District, featuring townhouses, apartments and shops.
The pitch for all of the projects is the same: if there are groceries, coffee, a few restaurants, a gym and a park within steps of your apartment, there’s no need to get in the car and slog through traffic. Sidewalk cafes emulating those in D.C., Brooklyn or Paris are pretty much a must-have.
Up next is Pike & Rose, a residential and commercial project being built in White Flint to replace Mid-Pike Plaza on Rockville Pike. The developer, Federal Realty Investment Trust, is a $7 billion retail developer headquartered nearby. One of its best-known local projects is Bethesda Row. White Flint is Federal Realty’s opportunity to show it can do urban and it can do mixed-use, combining a shopping district with apartment buildings and an office building as well.
Pike & Rose is shaping up like a carefully branded mini-city for white collar workers who want to remain in Montgomery County but want a more urban feel. The apartment buildings, named PerSei (174 units) and Palace (318 units), are beginning to take shape and should be complete in the spring. The office building should be done by the fall. Also under construction is the alley being built to connect the project with a future street grid. It has its own brand name, Muse Alley, as will a future park, Rose Park.
Looking at the retail lineup, it’s not hard to see how the developer is trying to mimic some of the success it found at Bethesda Row, signing a string of restaurants including Del Frisco’s Grille, Protein Bar, Roti, Southeast Asian ShopHouse Kitchen and Stella Barra Pizzeria. On top of that it will have an iPic movie theater, an enormous two-story gym by Sport & Health and a small music venue by the folks from Strathmore.
Last week Montgomery County approved the second phase of the project, which is much larger than the first. Phase one has three buildings totaling 951,000 square feet, while phase two has eight buildings totaling 1.6 million square feet, including a hotel, two more office buildings and two more residential buildings in an area where there is now surface parking and a Toys R Us.
Two-thirds of the retail in the first phase is leased and another 20 percent have more tentative commitments, so eventually Pike & Rose residents will likely be able to get much of what they need around where they live. Federal Realty’s Evan Goldman and Wendy Seher say the second phase will have a mix of restaurants, fashion and home goods. “No matter what we do we’ll probably blend all three of those,” Goldman said.
Projects like Pike & Rose are happening because of the increased value of land walkable to Metro stations, but that does not mean the walk is a pleasant one. In Tysons, the lucky first Silver Line passengers will be on foot bridges; the not-so-lucky will be trying to navigate their way around super blocks of parking.
Pike & Rose will have some of the same concerns when it opens. It’s less than a half-mile from the White Flint Metro station, but Rockville Pike was made for driving and that will take a long time to change. Traffic can move briskly and the current wait for a walk signal is long. Like the big projects in Tysons and Merrifield, the first mini-city in White Flint will be waiting on the rest of the neighborhood to fill in around it.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz