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With development plan approved, the future of White Flint begins to take shape

The new plan for White Flint will allow for 30-story buildings.
The new plan for White Flint will allow for 30-story buildings. (Jbg)
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The plan imposes limits on the amount of parking, which will discourage auto use by making cars more expensive to store. Streets will be laid out, buildings constructed, a network of paths and parks built, all to encourage foot traffic, cycling and minimal car commuting.

Some developers in White Flint say they can submit their plans to the county later this year or early next year, and put shovels in the ground within two to three years which could move the project more quickly than efforts to transform Tysons into a new urban center for Fairfax County. White Flint already is a step ahead, since there are Metrorail Red Line stations along Rockville Pike. In Northern Virginia, construction of Metrorail's Silver Line to Dulles International Airport is expected to continue until at least 2016.

The smooth approval of White Flint redevelopment Tuesday stemmed from an intense, grass-roots organizing effort by a consortium of developers, who turned to social networking on the Internet in addition to traditional face-to-face lobbying and community meetings.

"A lot of work was done with the community," said council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large), a member of Knapp's committee. Elrich, a skeptic about county planners' traffic studies, pushed for tougher traffic standards at White Flint.

Defining the details

There is still much work ahead on White Flint. A plan by the county and developers to decide who will pay for the redesign of streets, parks and other amenities needs to be worked out, and the plan exempts more landowners than usual from paying county impact taxes. Details of how to discourage car travel still need to be hammered out.

The council took a step in that direction Tuesday, unanimously approving an amendment from member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac, Bethesda) to require more reporting by the planning agency about traffic, transportation, construction of needed infrastructure and whether the plans are working.

There are new developments on the Pike that foreshadow what is ahead. Just north of White Flint near Old Georgetown Road, developer LCOR has opened sections of North Bethesda Center, a high-rise office, retail, hotel and residential project, anchored by a Harris Teeter supermarket.

And south of White Flint Metro station, JBG has almost completed a $250 million retail, residential and commercial project known as North Bethesda Market. Other developers such as Lerner Enterprises, which owns the struggling White Flint mall nearby, and Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns Mid-Pike Plaza and other holdings on the Pike, also are gearing up.

"We are all well-capitalized developers who will be around for a long time," said Rod Lawrence, a principal of JBG who has been heavily involved in planning for the redevelopment of White Flint.

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