Plan to transform White Flint attracts major investor

The plan to transform White Flint from a traffic-riddled stretch of Rockville Pike to an urban neighborhood has attracted another major investor.

Foulger-Pratt, based in Rockville, bought a 1.2-acre property near the White Flint Metro station in early December, and plans a mixed-use project that would contribute to turning the area from a series of strip malls into a walkable, transit-oriented center.

One of the most active developers in Montgomery County, Foulger-Pratt re-made much of downtown Silver Spring and completed other projects in Silver Spring, Rockville, Gaithersburg and Potomac.

The company spent $5.1 million to buy the two-story, 31,000-square-foot building at 11600 Nebel St., attracted by Montgomery County’s plans for transforming the area, said Dick Knapp, senior vice president at Foulger-Pratt.

“In a lot of ways, Montgomery County is underrated over what they do from a zoning perspective,” Knapp said. “They’ve created this vertical mixed-use destination at White Flint with all kinds of amenities, a street network, mixed-use projects, park dedications.”

Rollin Stanley, Montgomery County’s planning director until he left in April for the same job in Calgary, Alberta, drew criticism from some county residents because of his aggressive support for high density development as a way of combating sprawl.

A partnership of mostly local firms in White Flint have agreed to help pay for transportation and infrastructure improvements and a number of them, including Federal Realty Investment Trust, Lcor and the JBG Cos. have already begun building new apartment, office and retail projects near the White Flint Metro station.

But there are signs of softening in Rockville’s broader real estate market, with office vacancy on the rise during the past two years and concerns that there are too many apartments being built and planned for the area. There were 5,976 apartments in the pipeline for Rockville at the end of the third quarter, according to the research firm Delta Associates.

Knapp said two nonprofit organizations are currently tenants of the office property it bought. He said the company is looking at acquiring adjacent properties to the Nebel Street site that would allow for a larger project.

“We have relationships with the adjoining owners that we’re talking to about a broader assembly,” he said.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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