Property owners came prepared for Thursday night’s renaming White Flint event in downtown Bethesda.
Attendees arriving at Streetsense headquarters were greeted Thursday night with a room filled with signs, each one offering up a different name to call the developing area surrounding the White Flint Metro station.
There was Rocksy, The Stem, Market District, Uptown, Slate District, Rockline, Quartz District, The Summit, Pike District and, in a nod to the current name, Metropolitan White Flint. Those were the 10 names that developers, including The JBG Companies and Federal Realty, had chosen from a long list of names produced through focus groups, background research and in-person interviews that Streetsense conducted.
The event brought developers another step closer to deciding on a name for the half-mile area where they are constructing what amounts to new, urban neighborhoods of high-rise apartments and commercial development on a stretch of Rockville Pike previously dominated by strip malls.
Name confusion still permeates the area, as was evidenced by a resident’s comment at the event: “We have the Rockville Whole Foods at North Bethesda Market next to the White Flint Metro station.”
Still, residents at the event wanted to know why the area couldn’t remain known as White Flint and criticized developers for narrowing the list of names without residents’ input. When asked why the proposed name, Metropolitan White Flint, wasn’t simply “White Flint” a Streetsense employee said, “We thought we would add something to it.”
At the heart of the naming debate is a disagreement between Federal Realty, which is constructing Pike & Rose, and Lerner Enterprises, which owns and is redeveloping the White Flint Mall property. Lerner is interested in keeping the White Flint name for its new development, but also possibly for the entire region; while Federal Realty believes the name is too closely associated with the now almost completely-shuttered White Flint Mall and wants a new one for the region. The JBG Companies, owners of North Bethesda Market, has also publically supported Federal Realty’s stance.
However, the developers do agree about one thing: The renaming campaign is for marketing purposes only; the new name will not be used for nearby residential neighborhoods or for postage or tax purposes.
To gain momentum for a new name, Federal Realty and The JBG Companies sponsored last night’s event, hoping to build momentum for a new name. Participants used iPads to indicate which of the proposed names they liked.
“Our goal is to get feedback from everybody,” said Evan Goldman, vice president of Federal Realty. He said the company will use the information to narrow the choices, noting that it will take time for a new name to be accepted by residents. When asked about keeping White Flint as the name, Goldman said, “For some property owners White Flint is not an acceptable option.” Goldman envisions a new urban center, enveloped by the new name, but separated by neighborhood names. The new name would unite the various developments in the area: JBG’s North Bethesda Market neighborhood, Lerner’s White Flint, and Federal Realty’s Pike & Rose, as well as other developments being planned by Saul Centers Inc., Gables Residential and ProMark Real Estate.
Lerner Vice President Ed de Avila said the company “wholeheartedly” supports researching a new name for the region and would support a name that connotes a livable, memorable place.
“If [people] chose White Flint, we would applaud them,” de Avila said. “It has been a very successful name and brand for many years.”
Participants questioned whether a name coined through market research and paid events by developers could stick for the area. Vanessa Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for Federal Realty, said she believes that marketing can help an area embrace a new name. She said Streetsense will present its findings from Thursday’s event to the White Flint Partnership, and recommended names will be presented in a public meeting in October.
Many of the developers at the event said they want to find the right name for the area.
“We want this to be real and authentic,” de Avila said. “Not forced and contrived.”
— Bethesda Beat (@BethesdaBeat) September 11, 2014
Photo: Garrett Park Estates resident, Fred Marcial, had his own idea for a name: North by Northwest, which he said describes the transition of young people from Northwest D.C. to the developing White Flint area, for suburban benefits including better schools. He suggested the name could be abbreviated as NXNW.
Credit: Andrew Metcalf