First things first, White Flint needs one marketable and recognizable name.
That’s the first conclusion residents, developers and business representatives seemed to agree upon at Tuesday’s first-ever meeting of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee.
To some, the area around the White Flint Metro Station on Rockville Pike is still considered Rockville, even though the actual border of the city of Rockville is north of Montrose Parkway. North Bethesda has become more popular and the use of White Flint has also grown, at least in county government circles, since the adoption of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.
That Sector Plan calls for intense redevelopment of the strip shopping centers and surface parking lots around the Metro station, which was the impetus for the Advisory Committee. The Committee has two tasks: Advise the County Council and County Executive of needed government services in an annual report and begin early work on the creation of a Bethesda Urban Partnership-like organization or business improvement district.
Right now, though, members of the Committee want a way for everyone else to recognize White Flint exists.
“Branding is an extremely important issue,” said Bob Daley, general manager of the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel and Conference Center where the meeting was held.
Daley said guests or conference-goers at his hotel often come up empty if they type North Bethesda into their GPS systems. Marriott lists the address as in Bethesda. Daley said some people use Rockville.
Rockville-based developer Federal Realty, which has begun its redevelopment of Mid-Pike Plaza, has started an agressive marketing campaign for its property, called Pike & Rose. But Federal Realty’s Deirdre Johnson told the Committee she’d like to see a more unified branding campaign, one that distinguishes White Flint from downtown Bethesda.
“Not being a ‘Little Bethesda’ but creating a district that is unique and identifiable and that actually leads the county,” Johnson said. “We want people saying, ‘Look at what they did,’ and not, ‘Look at what Bethesda did and they replicated it.’”
Ken Hartman, director of the county’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, laid out some of the issues the Committee likely will be dealing with in its first year. The idea is that by 2017, the Committee will be able to recommend a Bethesda Urban Partnership-like organization for a special taxing district in White Flint.
Like BUP, that organization could be funded by the county and would be charged with landscaping, trash pick-up, marketing and putting on events that draw crowds to White Flint businesses. A more traditional business improvement district is possible, Hartman said, and would require the support of most of the area’s businesses.
But first, the Committee members made it clear they want to put White Flint on the map, perhaps even literally.
“Until we know who we are, it’s hard to accomplish a whole lot else,” said Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce Chair-Elect Andy Shulman.
Flickr photo by dan reed!