The final piece is in place, and phase one of Montgomery County’s ambitious effort to remake Rockville Pike in White Flint into a grand boulevard lined with walkable urban villages is set to move forward.
This week’s County Council vote approving a transportation analysis program clears the way for developers to seek permits for a series of projects that officials hope will turn Rockville Pike into an economic engine that could generate $6 billion to $7 billion in revenue over the next two to three decades.
“We’re open for business,” said Nkosi Yearwood, a Montgomery community planner who has spent several years working on the plan to remake the White Flint area.
County officials and community members will mark the milestone Friday with a ribbon-cutting in the center court of White Flint Mall, signaling the official start of a building program designed to transform the area along Rockville Pike from a disconnected mishmash of strip malls, car dealerships and gas stations into a community where people can live, work, walk and shop without having to get into their cars.
The remaking of White Flint will be one of the largest redevelopment efforts in suburban Washington since the World War II.
Though the makeover was approved by the council in March 2010 and three developers have submitted tentative plans for projects in the area, a series of prerequisites had to be approved by the planning board and the council before phase one could commence, Yearwood said. The requirements, including the creation of a community advisory board and a plan to monitor transportation issues, were designed to ensure that public services could handle the expected development.
In addition, the council approved the creation of a special tax district to help fund infrastructure improvements, mostly related to transportation. According to county officials, that tax is expected to generate $200 million.
The council approved the final element — the transportation analysis program — this week.
“It’s been a long road, but it’s very exciting,” said Evan Goldman, vice president of Federal Realty Investment Trust, which has submitted tentative plans to redevelop the Mid-Pike Plaza, home to a Toys R Us and a World Market, into a mixed-use community. “It’s very exciting to be finally kicking off.”
Goldman said his company is negotiating with potential tenants and hopes to break ground on the first phase of the project in 2012.
“I will say, after four years of process, it’s exciting to finally be here in this new era of White Flint,” said Greg Trimmer, senior vice president at JBG Cos., which has submitted tentative plans for a project at Nicholson Lane, Woodglen Drive and Rockville Pike. North Bethesda Market II will complement North Bethesda Market, a mixed-use development JBG opened in late 2010.