The county has great hopes for hipness in the massive White Flint redevelopment along Rockville Pike. While developers envision high-rises and high-end stores, there are also plans for smaller, moderately priced living spaces, with walkable streets and coffee shops, yoga studios and casual dining in the Busboys and Poets mold.
“What we’re hoping for is that this will be the alternative downtown,” said Lindsay Hoffman, executive director of Friends of White Flint, the nonprofit group of developers, residents and other stakeholders supporting the project. “We’re hoping that this will be a good alternative with a variety of housing options at a variety of price points.”
Last week, the Rockville-based Tower Cos. announced that it would overhaul its Blairs apartment complex in Silver Spring according to new urbanist specs, with new units, wide walking trails and green space. “This is a suburb that’s becoming a city,” said Bing Thom, one of the architects hired by Tower to design the makeover.
To fully realize the vision of becoming a millennial magnet, the county faces formidable hurdles, none bigger than mobility. Without transit-friendly neighborhoods, the area will probably never draw the kind of young energy and talent it desires.
Montgomery is still looking for the billions it will take to pay for three major projects that have been on the boards for years: the light-rail Purple Line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, the Corridor Cities Transitway to connect upper Montgomery with the Shady Grove Metrorail station, and a network of express bus lanes to link commuting corridors.
Some millennials see moving to a place like Montgomery at some point, just not while they’re young.
“If you’re in your early 20s, it’s probably not a great idea to move to Montgomery County if you can avoid it,” Matt Lyons, 24, a business consultant who grew up in Columbia and lives near Thomas Circle. “But I think once you hit that certain age where you’re ready to start calming things down, then I think it’s a great place to be.”
Farah Mohamed contributed to this report.