2014 | Business

The Rockville Pike Urban District May Be Getting Bigger

Two Metro stations may be designated into one development district between Bethesda and Rockville

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The White Flint Advisory Committee is expected to debate adding the Twinbrook Metro area into the White Flint urban district in June.

Google Earth

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee is scheduled to consider widening the designation area of the White Flint urban district, currently defined as a radius of about a mile and a half extending from the White Flint Metro, to include the area surrounding the Twinbrook Metro station at its June 10 meeting.

Federal Realty Investment Trust is scheduled to make a presentation on the topic at the meeting.

If approved, the move could enable the county to provide resources through a nonprofit entity similar to the Bethesda Urban Partnership to a larger area by combining the two metro areas, according to Ken Hartman, the executive director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

Hartman is a nonvoting member of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee, which is tasked with promoting the developing district. He and his staff are also responsible for setting up the urban maintenance partnership for the region at the behest of the committee.

If it’s added, the Twinbrook Metro area would receive the benefits that come with a downtown district partnership including marketing, beautification, enhanced public transportation and litter removal.

Hartman notes that the two Metro stations are only a mile apart, and both are surrounded by significant development. Also, major developers in the White Flint Metro area have developments near the Twinbrook Metro, including Federal Realty, The JBG Companies and the B.F. Saul Company.

The two stations and their surrounding areas are guided by different sector plans. The area surrounding Twinbrook Metro is part of the White Flint 2 Sector Plan, while the White Flint Sector Plan governs the area near the White Flint Metro. The White Flint 2 Sector Plan is scheduled to be reviewed by planning staff this coming winter; recommendations include allowing mixed-use development, transforming the area around Rockville Pike into an urban boulevard and creating new public transit options—all of which are similar to the approved White Flint Plan.

“We can’t ignore there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening in Twinbrook, too,” Hartman said. He added that the inclusion of the Twinbrook area may make the new urban district more marketable. It would then include more residential units, higher retail sales numbers, broader demographics, additional education options and the office park off Executive Boulevard. It may also create a need that would make a Circulator-style bus system possible, Hartman said.

“These numbers are phenomenal for a major business corridor,” Hartman said, referring to office space, retail outlets and residential units. “It might even rival Tysons Corner [Virginia] in scope.”

“Maybe there’s a broader designation,” Hartman added, and he suggested the name “Twin Stations.”

Inside his office, Hartman used a telestrator and projector to circle the nearby upcoming developments and their close proximity on a map. He then zoomed out on a Google Earth view of the area, which made the dense areas surrounding Rockville’s city center and downtown Bethesda stand out, and also showed how dense the area is surrounding the two Metro stations. He said it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine the two metro areas as one urban district.

To make it happen, first the White Flint Advisory Committee, which is made up of 12 voting members who are local residents, business representatives and government officials, needs to support it. Ultimately, the County Council has final approval and therefore must vote to extend the urban district to the Twinbrook area.

“We desperately need guidance from the property owners…but we also need consensus,” Hartman said. “Developing a designation that fits the area as a whole is critical.”