Four Reasons You Should Pay Attention to the ‘White Flint 2’ Plan

Four Reasons You Should Pay Attention to the ‘White Flint 2’ Plan

Sector Plan could allow major development between White Flint and the City of Rockville

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White Flint 2 Sector Plan proposed boundaries and key properties, via Montgomery County Planning Department

Montgomery County planners this week will lay out the process for a new master plan that could open the door for major changes to popular shopping centers and not-so-popular office buildings along and near Rockville Pike.

The White Flint 2 Sector Plan will bring new zoning and land use rules for 455 acres directly to the east, west and north of where Montrose Parkway crosses under Rockville Pike.

Planners will present the proposed Scope of Work for the plan Thursday to the county Planning Board, which will start months of community meetings and public input leading up to its review sometime in spring or summer of 2016.

The transformation of strip shopping centers into mixed use may not be limited to White Flint

While the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan has already brought major redevelopment such as Pike & Rose, White Flint 2 could allow similar projects at other Rockville Pike strip shopping centers:

  • Montrose Crossing Shopping Center

The massive facility is owned by Rockville-based Federal Realty, the same developer building Pike & Rose on what was the Mid-Pike Plaza Shopping Center.

  • Pike Center Shopping Center

This shopping center, familiar to many as the home of Bagel City, was already the target of a much-talked about redevelopment project. Wal-Mart hoped to open an 80,000-square-foot store there, but the effort fell through after local residents and elected officials raised concerns.

  • Federal Plaza

Another Federal Realty-owned property, this shopping center bordered by Rockville Pike on the east and East Jefferson Street on the west is home to a Trader Joe’s, Micro Center and Planet Fitness as well as a long list of other retailers and restaurants.

  • Towne Plaza

This shopping center, owned by Lerner Enterprises, features 60,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space on the west side of Rockville Pike.

The county could put its ambitions for repurposing vacant office buildings to the test

The White Flint 2 area includes a series of mid-rise office buildings along Executive Boulevard once known as the Washington Science Center. Those buildings have fallen on hard times.

The sky-high vacancy rates are part of the reason the Planning Department has determined there is little hope for a recovery of suburban-style office buildings in the county.

One of the buildings—6116 Executive Blvd.—was 98.7 percent vacant in July, earning it prominent billing in a Washington Post Style section feature on the demise of the suburban office park.

In a June report commissioned by the Planning Department, a consultant suggested mixed-use zoning or using vacant office space to house schools as a way to address the vacancy issue.

A new train station is on planners’ radar screen

The plan will be heavy on suggestions for handling traffic congestion and increasing the area’s accessibility to pedestrians and cyclists. In the 2010 White Flint Plan, that was reflected in recommendations for new street grids and bicycle facilities, and turning the highway-like Rockville Pike into a grand boulevard.

In materials the Planning Department has prepared so far for the White Flint 2 plan, there's another suggestion: A new commuter train station to take advantage of the CSX tracks that run through the area.

The Scope of Work to be presented Thursday to the Planning Board mentions a “proposed location for a new MARC station near Nicholson Court.”

The state now operates the MARC Brunswick Line that takes commuters from West Virginia, Frederick County and northern Montgomery County through Rockville, Garrett Park, Kensington, Silver Spring and down to Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Today, Nicholson Court is home to some light industrial uses and a depot for Montgomery County Ride On buses that backs up to the rail tracks.

White Flint 2 could be pivotal in the City of Rockville’s plans for its stretch of Rockville Pike

One of the main objectives of the White Flint 2 plan will be to connect White Flint to the City of Rockville. The city’s southern border is just south of where Rollins Avenue and Twinbrook Parkway meet Rockville Pike.

So while the White Flint 2 plan area encompasses just a 1,800-foot section of the pike, it could contribute a lot to any new zoning the city approves as part of its ongoing Rockville Pike Plan.

Another factor to consider: The City of Rockville could one day expand all the way south to where Montrose Road crosses the pike, according to county planners.

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