After months of community organizing by nearby residents, Montgomery County and the owner of the property that formerly housed the White Flint Mall have reached a tentative deal to reopen a path that connects a shopping center on Nicholson Lane to Garrett Park and farther areas south.
The shortcut, which is about 300 feet long, has been used by bicycle commuters, pedestrians and other residents who wanted to avoid traveling around to Rockville Pike and traveling north and south to get to the shopping center and other points.
Scott Peterson, a spokesman for County Executive Marc Elrich, said the county attorney’s office and Department of Transportation officials have been working with Lerner Enterprises — the owner of the White Flint mall property — to reach a deal, but couldn’t provide more information on what it entailed.
“The County and the Mall have tentatively reached an agreement that would enable a path to be opened by the end of September for the community’s use until the Mall is redeveloped,” Peterson wrote in an email.
“We continue to work with the county and hope to have the path open by month’s end,” a spokesperson for Lerner Enterprises wrote in an email.
WUSA first reported the news of the path potentially being reopened.
Garrett Park resident Karine Jegalian said Lerner Enterprises first closed the shortcut path through the property late last year. Last month, she wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post, noting how the shortcut provides accessibility for many pedestrians and cyclists, helping them connect to the shopping center, and also to the North Bethesda Metro station, among other benefits.
In an interview, she said taking the shortcut helps nearby residents and cyclists reach their jobs and the shopping center. Jegalian said cutting off the path forces people around the mall property and onto Rockville Pike, which is not pedestrian- or bicycle-friendly.
People have long used the shortcut — the pathway was used even before White Flint Mall was built, she added.
Amy Ginsburg, executive director of the Friends of White Flint, said Tuesday the tentative deal between the county and Lerner was good news for nearby residents. The alternate route around the mall property and to Rockville Pike is not ideal, she said.
“It doubles the journey [length], but probably quadruples the danger,” Ginsburg said. She credited the residents of Garrett Park for raising the issue for months and getting the county to act.
Jegalian is glad the path is being reopened, but hopes the county looks for a more long-term solution, depending on what occurs with the White Flint Mall property. She suggested that county officials look at establishing the path through a “prescriptive easement,” a legal term demonstrating that land has been used for people for a specific purpose, for an extended amount of time, such as 20 years or more.
“I don’t know what agreement they’re reaching … I would love them to formalize this and put a permanent easement to this,” Jegalian said.