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Developers Put The Brakes On White Flint Branding Process

By Aaron Kraut

Tuesday - 7/8/2014, 10:10am  ET

White Flint Metro StationThe developers seeking a new name for the Rockville Pike corridor in White Flint and North Bethesda hope to gather a wider array of community input before proposing any specific branding strategies.

Evan Goldman, vice president of Federal Realty, told a county advisory committee on Tuesday that his group’s goal now is to hold a public charrette in the next few months where stakeholders would help come up with a list of 5-10 names. Those names would then lead to some sort of selection in the fall.

The meeting Tuesday was held by the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee, a group of residents, developers, business owners and county officials charged with creating an urban partnership-like organization to manage maintenance and perhaps other civic responsibilities in the emerging White Flint area.

In April, as the Committee sent out drafts of a website to promote the area as MetroWhiteFlint.org, Federal Realty and developer JBG said they thought the name was tied too closely to White Flint Mall and not the broader Rockville Pike corridor.

That spurred a new round of discussions and much news interest about a long developing issue — what to call the area around the White Flint Metro station?

Goldman and Federal Realty proposed the idea of a larger Pike District that would stretch to JBG’s redevelopment in the Twinbrook section of Rockville and that would consist of smaller neighborhoods with their own labels. The White Flint Partnership, a group of development companies in the area, expressed that goal in a letter to the Downtown Advisory Committee in June.

The meeting on Tuesday was originally set to include a presentation from Goldman on the Pike District concept. But Cliff Cohen, the new committee chair, said his preference is to remain focused on creating the urban partnership organization, then worry about naming and branding as it’s decided.

“From the standpoint of our committee, what we decided is we’re moving forward with our mission,” Cohen said. “Should some broad-based support come or somebody comes to us and discusses a plan, then we can certainly consider it at that point.”

The naming issue didn’t come up until the end of the meeting, when committee member Andy Shulman asked how the committee’s website would proceed without an agreed upon branding strategy.

“It was clearly not handled well from the private sector,” Goldman then told the committee. “The intent here was never really to lay a brand on the area.”

The public charrette, which Goldman said could be facilitated by real estate consultant Streetsense, would include an educational session on branding, followed by focus groups and conversations about potential names.

In its June letter, the White Flint Partnership wrote that the area would be stronger economically if it included a larger swath of the Rockville Pike corridor than just the area identified in the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.

Cohen said the Downtown Advisory Committee, meanwhile, will focus on the framework for an urban partnership, streetscaping standards for Rockville Pike and creating one, unified zip code for the area, among other tasks.