ROCKVILLE, Md., November 30, 2010—The Montgomery County Council today approved a plan that would help pay for major infrastructure improvements required by the White Flint Sector Plan. Today’s action will spur a revitalization effort transforming the North Bethesda area around Rockville Pike into a more urban and denser community strongly supported by public transit and designed to make residents and workers less dependent on automobiles.
The County Council approved the White Flint Sector Plan in March. The County Planning Board began its work on the revitalization plan more than three years ago, working with an advisory board of about 50 stakeholders. Bill 50-10 that was passed today establishes a White Flint Special Taxing District. The bill authorizes the levy of an added property tax on commercial properties that would go toward funding specific transportation infrastructure improvements in the area. Existing residential properties would be excluded from the tax district. The improvements would include creation of street grids, streetscaping and bike lanes for the area.
Under the financing plan, the County would provide advance funding—through the sale of bonds—to ensure that the improvements are made early in the project rather than relying on piecemeal development to drive the delivery of the needed improvements. The County investment would be repaid through funds collected from the taxing district. The plan calls for the tax district to expire when sufficient revenues have been raised to pay for all of the infrastructure items on the list.
Major roads that will be improved through the financing plan include Old Georgetown Road (Maryland 187), Nicholson Lane, Rockville Pike, Executive Boulevard, Marinelli Road and Nebel Street. Identified infrastructure improvements could cost an estimated $200 million if all are built.
The plan targets future growth along the Pike with development clustered around about 430 acres near the White Flint Metro Station. It will allow replacement of aging low-rise commercial properties in the area with mixed-use buildings as tall as 30 stories. The revitalized new urban neighborhood would include residences, offices, service-oriented businesses, restaurants and entertainment venues. The neighborhood would evolve through creation of a grid of streets to promote walkability for residents and employees.
“This is a very ambitious and complex plan that will transform the White Flint area along Rockville Pike into an exciting destination,” said Council President Nancy Floreen. “Property owners in White Flint have committed to a financing plan to speed up creation of infrastructure that would support growth. With everyone working together, as they have throughout the planning process, this will remake the strip shopping malls along the Pike into a new, urban community that will make Montgomery County proud.”
It is expected that as the plan is implemented over a period of about two decades, approximately 9,800 new residences will be added (there are approximately 2,300 residences currently within the plan area). There will be approximately 2,600 affordable housing units.
A key element of the plan will be the way it incorporates the Bethesda North Conference Center and Hotel into the transformed neighborhood. The plan provides for public gathering space and local parks. The long-term vision suggests civic or entertainment uses, such as a community playhouse or theater.
White Flint was proposed as an urban, mixed-use community as the center of North Bethesda more than 30 years ago as the influence of Metro’s Red Line was starting to take hold. The sector plan covers an area bounded by the CSX train tracks and White Flint Mall to the east, the merge point of Montrose Parkway and Old Georgetown Road to the north, Old Georgetown Road to the west and an area just below Edson Lane to the south. The Georgetown Prep school and the Strathmore Performing Arts Center are south of the plan. All of the plan is within a walkable three-quarters of a mile from the White Flint Metro Station.