2013 | News

On Rockville Pike, ‘Smart Growth’ Not Yet A Universal Concept

The residents, smart growth advocates, planners and politicians who showed up at a Tuesday event titled “Can we make the suburbs hip?” celebrated the coming transformation of White Flint from car-centric suburban strip malls to vibrant, transit-friendly mixed-use neighborhoods.

County Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Silver Spring told the gathering that Montgomery County is “on the verge of a golden age” and the massive changes planned around the White Flint Metro station (a projected 14,000 housing units and 13 million square feet of “walkable, urban” development) was the first step in the reimagining of Rockville Pike as a whole, all the way from Friendship Heights to Gaithersburg.

That concept apparently hasn’t made it as far as Montrose Crossing Center, the Pike strip mall a stone’s throw from White Flint near the Rockville city border.

According to NorthFlintVille blogger Ben Harris, two standalone fast food joints are being built in Montrose Crossing. A report in a New Jersey newspaper says one of those new buildings will be filled with a Chick-Fil-A and another pad site is being developed for a TD Bank, precisely the type of “old-suburban” development that runs contrary to the smart growth goals of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.

Montrose Crossing Center is not within the borders of the White Flint Sector Plan, what county leaders have labeled a landmark initiative for utilizing the space around a Metro station in a smarter, more efficient way.

Ninety percent of the strip mall, which includes a Giant Food grocery store, Old Navy, Marshall’s, Sport’s Authority and other big box retailers, was purchased by Rockville-based Federal Realty for $127 million earlier this month, according to The Gazette.

The Gazette described Montrose Crossing as “a 357,000-square-foot retail center that sits at the most prominent intersection slated for intense redevelopment between and around the White Flint and Twinbrook Metrorail stops on Rockville Pike in Rockville.”

In a press release, the company’s president and CEO Don Wood called it “a dominant shopping center with very productive tenant sales that has historically competed aggressively with our own Congressional Plaza, Federal Plaza and Mid-Pike Plaza. With the addition of Montrose Crossing, we now have a product on the Pike that will work in terms of focus and merchandising strategy for nearly every retailer.”

Federal Realty is the same company behind the Pike & Rose mixed-use project at the old Mid-Pike Plaza. That project has been celebrated for its village-like design and mix of apartments, condos and office buildings that will bring in a luxury movie theater and other upscale retailers around a town center.

Federal Realty’s plans for Montrose Crossing appear very different.

Crews have begun work on a pad site next to the Old Navy and near the Timpano restaurant.

The shopping center will be one of the subjects of the Planning Department’s White Flint 2 Sector Plan, which is still in its infancy. According to the Planning Department website, one of the Sector Plan’s goals is to, “Recommend land uses to promote new mixed use development in an area where a mix of uses is now limited or prohibited.”

It will also, “Analyze a segment of Rockville Pike that will contribute to its transformation into an urban boulevard.”

The schedule says planners hope to hold a community meeting in winter of 2013.

Pike & Rose rendering via Federal Realty