Greater Greater Washington

See a strip mall become a neighborhood in White Flint

The first phase of Pike + Rose, the massive strip mall redevelopment on Rockville Pike, is scheduled to open this fall. Recently, I got to tour the construction site as it slowly transforms into a neighborhood.


Grand Park Avenue, one of several new streets at Pike + Rose. All photos by the author.

When it's finished several years from now, Pike + Rose will contain 9 city blocks with 3.5 million square feet of apartments, offices, shops, and restaurants, as well as a movie theatre and music venue. I'll be five times the size of Bethesda Row, which developer Federal Realty also built.

After about 18 months of construction, Pike + Rose is beginning to look like a place. Cladding is beginning to cover the buildings' frames, and windows are starting to go in. Grand Park Avenue, envisioned as a bustling street lined with storefronts and dining patios, is still a mud pit, though it now has curbs.


The future Muse Alley.

Around the corner is Muse Alley, the first of several public spaces in the development. Evan Goldman, Federal Realty's vice president of development and my tour guide, explained that the lower level would be a deck with movable tables and chairs and surrounded by a "forest" of birch trees. Overlooking it will be a beer garden.

There are three buildings in the first phase. Two are apartment buildings: Pallas, an 18-story building that's still being framed, and PerSei, a mid-rise building that will open this spring. Aaron Kraut at BethesdaNow got to take a look inside PerSei last week.


Looking at PerSei from across the street.

Like many new apartment buildings, it's been designed to look like several smaller buildings in an attempt to break down its block-long size. Goldman said that the developer wanted to draw from the area's history. One section is designed to look like a repurposed warehouse building, while the cream-colored section pictured above will get a mural inspired by a bakery that was once located nearby.


11800 Grand Park will contain offices over a movie theatre and other venues.

The third building, 11800 Grand Park Avenue, contains several floors of offices atop a health club, a high-end movie theatre, and a four-star restaurant. Federal Realty worked with Strathmore, whose music hall is a mile away, to create a jazz club as well. It was originally supposed to be an open-air space, but instead will have sliding glass walls, allowing it to double as a corporate meeting space during the week.

Having this many entertainment venues next to each other, and all opening at once, could create a critical mass of activity in White Flint almost instantly. It's similar to the way that restaurateur Joe Englert sought to make H Street NE a nightlife destination by opening several bars and restaurants at once. "This will be the entertainment center of the county," Goldman says. "We hope this is that place everyone goes on the weekends."


Looking out at White Flint's skyline from the health club deck.

This building includes a number of outdoor spaces; the restaurant, health club, and jazz venue all have roof decks. Today the views are of parking lots and strip malls, but over time, it'll fill in as White Flint grows a skyline.

Back on the street, 75% of the retail spaces have been leased, including several restaurants. Many of them are chains, but there are places that only have a few other locations nationwide, meaning they'll be the only ones in the DC area.


Restaurants will fill the ground-floor spaces on Old Georgetown Road.

Some of these restaurants will face Old Georgetown Road, a busy state highway. This fits in with the county's vision to make it a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly street, though both Montgomery County and Maryland transportation officials have been reluctant to do so. Hopefully, creating activity on Old Georgetown now will push them to redesign it as an urban street.


What's left of Mid-Pike Plaza.

In May, work on Pike + Rose's second phase will start by demolishing the rest of the main strip mall, while a small retail building at the corner of Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road will get a facelift to help it blend in with the new buildings. Most of the remaining tenants have left; some have moved to other Federal Realty-owned shopping centers along Rockville Pike, while Chipotle, Starbucks, and La Madeleine will move to new spaces on-site.

The second phase should open within two years, but Federal Realty has no timeline for the rest of the site, including the building on the corner. Plans show that it could eventually become a high-rise office building, though that probably won't happen until there's funding for a new entrance to the White Flint Metro across the street, which would make that site much more valuable.

White Flint has been in planning for years, and it'll take decades for it to fully become a more urban place. The first phase of Pike + Rose offers us a glimpse of White Flint's future, but also suggests a path forward for other aging shopping centers around the region.

Check out this slideshow of Pike + Rose under construction.

A planner and architect by training, Dan Reed also writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

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We need this along US-1 in Fairfax.

by Jasper on Jan 27, 2014 12:46 pm • linkreport

Wow, I used to work just north of this project, but haven't been up that way in quite some time. I'm amazed to see the transformation in these pictures and hope to check it out next time I'm in DC. Talk about sprawl repair!

by Chris L on Jan 27, 2014 12:50 pm • linkreport

Bit of a tangent but I was thinking about the relative merit of adding a new entrance at various Metro stations that only have one or two that are closely spaced. You could potentially save people 5 minutes roundtrip walking time by providing more convient entrances. The layout of several require many people to make rather circuitous trips and can create bottlenecks at faregates. Not to mention the emergency response advantage of having more than one exit! For example it's too bad they didn't add an additional Foggy Bottom entrance during all the redevelopment there. Glad they are at least considering the option in White Flint.

by BTA on Jan 27, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

Yummy!!! When are they building the BRT to this place?

by Thayer-D on Jan 27, 2014 1:07 pm • linkreport

Looks good so far. Only concern I've noticed when driving by on Old Georgetown is that the amount of sidewalk available is pretty minimal with no buffer from traffic. Would have been nice if they set the buildings back another few feet and planted some trees between the road and sidewalk. Considering the size of the project, they probably could have spared an extra 5 feet.

Maybe it just looks that way since they have the fence up though.

by Brian S on Jan 27, 2014 1:07 pm • linkreport

Nice. When did they re-route Old Georgetown Road?

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 27, 2014 1:18 pm • linkreport

@Neil

They haven't. The ultimate plan is to rebuild the intersection of Old Georgetown and Executive Boulevard and shift Executive to the east (and State Highway Administration won't make any changes to Old Georgetown before that happens), but the stretch of Old Georgetown where Pike + Rose is will stay right where it is. I am very curious to see how it'll work with outdoor dining on it later this year.

Dan

by dan reed! on Jan 27, 2014 1:31 pm • linkreport

Any reason why the developers chose to keep the heights so low, meanwhile a couple of blocks south you have the 24-story North Bethesda Market, and the future 26 story North Bethesda Market II?

by Resident of MontCo on Jan 27, 2014 2:29 pm • linkreport

How wide is that sidewalk, a whole 5 feet?

They've really outdone themselves by building the bare minimum!

by JJJJ on Jan 27, 2014 2:29 pm • linkreport

"Any reason why the developers chose to keep the heights so low, meanwhile a couple of blocks south you have the 24-story North Bethesda Market?"

Maybe they wanted to build a "humane" urbanism that will out perform their 24 story neighbors :)

by Thayer-D on Jan 27, 2014 2:43 pm • linkreport

The main thing I'm worried about is the connectivity between all these massive developments. I really hope the developers are keeping this in mind. I'm all for all this development but I fear they will all become little urban islands where people will drive to one, do their shopping and dining then get in their cars and drive to the next development. I hope that eventually there will be a real street grid where people will be able to walk and/or bike between all these new projects.

by BBBB on Jan 27, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

Thayer-D, at the same time they build a brt to Tysons Corner, Reston, Sterling, Fair Oaks, and Dulles Town Centre.

by tom on Jan 27, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

Tom

There is BRT service to Tysons on the beltway express lanes - to Braddock road, to Burke, and to Springfield. BRT is one of the options being considered for Rte 7 from Tysons to Baileys Crossroads. FFX county is looking at BRT for Rte 28, for FFX county Parkway, and for several other corridors.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 27, 2014 3:27 pm • linkreport

This is near my old neighborhood in Potomac. I've done a lot of shopping on the Pike.

Developments like this are encouraging, but just vertical versions of the same car-centric pattern that is the area's biggest problem. It is still, and will continue to be, a living hell for pedestrians and cyclists.

There's all kinds of regionally important shopping near the White Flint and Twinbrook stations. But no one would take Metro there if they could drive instead -- it's too hard to walk to/from the stations. (GGW has reported on the crosswalk issues.) Biking or walking to/from surrounding neighborhoods is out of the question for most people, which is ridiculous because the distances are short, and the road and corridors have plenty of room for the infrastructure. Greenspace corridors could provide plenty more.

High school kids from a mile or three away should be able to get to the Pike's retail and food service jobs, under their own power, unsupervised, without worry. It should be second nature. Not to mention the new Pike residents being able to get to schools, parks, sports facilities, churches and other amenities.

by Matt O'Toole on Jan 27, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

The county has shifted its proposed relocation of the old Rollins Ave fire station from the park & ride lot to a parcel near Chapman/maple ave. This would free up the park&ride lot for redevelopment possibly air rights over Montrose Parkway connecting to Pike & Rose. Current plans would no preclude this plan, although this is something far down the road.

by Cyrus on Jan 27, 2014 3:48 pm • linkreport

Thanks, Dan. I misunderstood the borders of Pike & Rose.

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 27, 2014 4:04 pm • linkreport

Really nice.

Wish we could have an 18 story building in DC

by h st ll on Jan 27, 2014 4:14 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity, it is not being discussed on here as it is with Montgomery County.

by tom on Jan 27, 2014 5:33 pm • linkreport

We need this along US-1 in pretty much anywhere in the US.

by Richard on Jan 27, 2014 6:01 pm • linkreport

Hope fully this will make it easier to walk along Rockville Pike from the Shopping center with Giant, Sports Authority, Old Navy etc to White Flint Station; current people are forced to cross the street adding about 10 minutes to the time it takes to walk from the station to the shopping center

@ BTA

What stations force riders to walk circuitous trips? the only one that comes to mind in the area would be Shady Grove or Medical Center (which cant be fixed).

The one thing I would love to see is giving White Flint a bus bay area where all buses stop instead of some along Rockville Pike, some along Marinelli Rd and others along Nicholson Lane.

It would be quite easy to put a second entrance at the far north of the current station with the entrance on Old Georgetown Road; but what i would love to see is something similar to Friendship Heights with stairs/escalators at each corner on Rockville Pike & Old Georgetown Road and get rid of the turn lanes to and from Old Georgetown Road.

by kk on Jan 27, 2014 7:40 pm • linkreport

This looks interesting and fairly well done at this point. I like the size of the buildings.

The problem for white flint is I'm not sure what market they are really chasing.

I'm of the opinion that increasing condo/apt construction isn't going to have huge impact on DC markets -- although changes in jobs will. But what is the vacancy rate in white flint and how much are the rents dropping.

I doubt you could ever drop it low enough to compete with DC in terms of attractions. Of the top of my head, it would have to be in the 800-900 range for a 1 BR to get my GF, for example, to even consider moving there.

The market need that isn't being met is condos for families (3+ bedrooms) and to some extent seniors. Not sure if that is what the developers really want.

by charlie on Jan 27, 2014 8:21 pm • linkreport

@Charlie
The problem for white flint is I'm not sure what market they are really chasing.

The abundance of jobs along the I-270 biotech corridor.
I doubt you could ever drop it low enough to compete with DC in terms of attractions.
They aren't competing with DCers, although I'd imagine the apartments will be filled with people who work in the district, yet enjoy the 30% rent savings+better building amenities that North Bethesda has to offer.
Of the top of my head, it would have to be in the 800-900 range for a 1 BR to get my GF, for example, to even consider moving there.
Have you looked for apartments in DC lately?
although changes in jobs will
Interestingly the District's office vacancy rate continues to grow larger and larger, and job creation for the region is centered around TYSONS CORNER, which I believe is still creating two jobs for every one created in the district. The district is fast becoming just an expensive bedroom community of the DMV.

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 27, 2014 10:34 pm • linkreport

I work near here. Oddly workplaces are not a significant part of the ongoing development in the area. The people I know who live nearby work in places like the Rockledge area. The high rises new and old are really the deadest part of the area and brick one that takes up a nearby block is totally self-contained. A new apartment development by one of the chains (Gables, I think) will rise on the other Old Georgetown/Executive corner, across from the Marriott. The scale of these buildings seems more likely to generate some pedestrian life than the high rises in the area and they'll probably draw people who work in the Executive Blvd. corridor. The high rises are pretty plane and so are these, but at least there is some variation among them.

It's funny to see people talk about affordability because if developments like these succeed and spread, they could ultimately crowd out affordable apartments in nearby areas like those near Twinbrook, behind Congressional and Federal Plazas or down near Grosvenor.

by Rich on Jan 27, 2014 10:47 pm • linkreport

"The scale of these buildings seems more likely to generate some pedestrian life than the high rises in the area and they'll probably draw people who work in the Executive Blvd. corridor. The high rises are pretty plane and so are these, but at least there is some variation among them."

This comment is very pertinant to the discussion of raising the height limit in DC. Also pertinent is the issue of affordable housing in DC. Transit connected development outside the actual boundry of DC can't be discounted.

by Thayer-D on Jan 28, 2014 9:03 am • linkreport

A bit off-topic: that top picture is an absolute disgrace. Those power lines and cable wires strung on wooden poles make our national capital region look like a favela in Brazil. Bury the darn wires.

by James on Jan 28, 2014 11:36 am • linkreport

This comment is very pertinant to the discussion of raising the height limit in DC.

How?

It's a great argument in favor of pedestrian-friendly urban design. But you can achieve that with tall buildings and with shorter ones.

To the other side, you can have crap urban design with tall buildings and with short ones.

Ergo, the discussion of height is largely independent of a discussion about walkability.

That said, I think these look great and will be a great addition to the area. But let's not extend that argument too far.

by Alex B. on Jan 28, 2014 11:43 am • linkreport

"Any reason why the developers chose to keep the heights so low, meanwhile a couple of blocks south you have the 24-story North Bethesda Market, and the future 26 story North Bethesda Market II?"

The tallest building in Phase II will be a 277 ft, ~23 story office building along MD355 (which probably won't be built anytime soon unfortunately).

" Of the top of my head, it would have to be in the 800-900 range for a 1 BR to get my GF, for example, to even consider moving there."

Lol. Yeah, try $2,100+...

by King Terrapin on Jan 28, 2014 11:51 am • linkreport

Alex,
Rich's statement seems to tie the scale of these buildings to a 'more' pedestrian friendly environment, not that its scale is necessary for a pedestrian friendly environment.

I know these distinctions escape you, but they do seem to matter to many as the recent survey on DC's height limit makes apparent. Oppresive pedestrian environments can be a result of a variety of factors, but to deny that scale isn't one of them is not to understand the psychological impact of the built form.

If you think this 'extening that argument too far', I'd like to hear what your interpretation of his comment was.

by Thayer-D on Jan 28, 2014 12:44 pm • linkreport

@tom: Dan Reed doesn't write about NoVA infrastructure projects because he lives in Silver Spring and has a MoCo focus. (Seems reasonable.) If you want more NoVa stories, why don't you write & submit some, instead of complaining in the comments section of every story having to do with Md infrastructure?

by Mike on Jan 28, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

tom

I just discussed it.

part of it is that there isnt a big system as far along as in MoCo - CCPY transitway is far along, but is small. Fairfax has proposed extensive lines, but is not far along the way MoCo is. they are tending to start small, and add incrementally - the express busses on I495 being a good example. And no one in Fairfax is as devoted to writing posts as Dan Reed is about MoCo.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 28, 2014 1:17 pm • linkreport

Rich's statement seems to tie the scale of these buildings to a 'more' pedestrian friendly environment, not that its scale is necessary for a pedestrian friendly environment.

And point is that this has more to do with urban design at the street level than the raw height of buildings. These buildings are designed to at least facilitate a walkable environment, and attempting to boil that down to just a discussion of building height is bizzare and misleading.

I know these distinctions escape you, but they do seem to matter to many as the recent survey on DC's height limit makes apparent.

What distinction is this? Please, spell it out for me.

Also, how does the Post's poll have anything to do with this? The Post asked about height and affordability, not urban design or walkability.

Oppresive pedestrian environments can be a result of a variety of factors, but to deny that scale isn't one of them is not to understand the psychological impact of the built form.

Aha! Perhaps if you think 'these distinctions escape me,' it would help if you didn't distort my statements. When did I say scale did not matter to walkability?

Let's not forget that there's a big difference between scale at the street level and scale at the city block level. There is nothing that makes tall buildings and walkable environments impossible or even unlikely.

People cite Rosslyn as some doomed case of tall buildings ruining walkability, when they should be concerned about Rossyln's modernist auto-centric planning heritage instead of building heights. It's not hard to find plenty of other examples of walkable neighborhoods with tall buildings around the world.

If you think this 'extening that argument too far', I'd like to hear what your interpretation of his comment was.

I didn't think Rich was extending the argument too far, I think you are: conflating the positive reaction to suburban redevelopment to some sort of evidence against altering DC's height limit is indeed extending Rich's statement too far.

by Alex B. on Jan 28, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

Taller buildings take longer to build. So my guess is that they could start making a little money sooner on this very long project as well as generate interest and attract customers by building a few shorter buildings early.

by Pam on Jan 28, 2014 3:14 pm • linkreport

"The scale of these buildings seems more likely to generate some pedestrian life than the high rises in the area..."

"And point is that this has more to do with urban design at the street level than the raw height of buildings."

high rises has nothing to do with raw height. Sure.

by Thayer-D on Jan 28, 2014 3:55 pm • linkreport

high rises has nothing to do with raw height. Sure.

It's no wonder you think I miss the point when you keep mis-stating it. I'll mention walkability, and you throw in height. So I discuss height, and then you pivot back to walkability. It's like whack-a-mole.

Of course high rises have a lot to do with height. But the mere fact that they are tall has nothing to do with how they meet the street.

My argument is this: for good walkability, the design of the building at street level is far more important than the total height. Do you agree? If not, why?

by Alex B. on Jan 28, 2014 4:15 pm • linkreport

thayer

If someone asks me "who is the smartest person in the room" and I respond "its that blonde over there" it does not imply that I think blondes are smart, or that they arent. I am simply using the word blonde to designate a particular individual.

I would certainly have agreed, a few years ago, that the wrap around low rise in Pentagon City is better for walkability than the high rises in the neighborhood. Because back then the only hi rises were pre-1990 buildings with surface lots seperating them from the street, little retail, etc. Now that we have some neo-urbanist hi rises on Fern Street, I would not say that, unless it was in a context where it was clear I meant the pre-1990 hi rises.

I don't know White Flint well enough to know what hi rises Rish is referring to, and what their charecteristics are. Ergo, this who discussion leaves me puzzled, and unable to apply it to real policy questions, such as what height limits should be in Tysons, in Crystal City, or in Rosslyn.

As for what they should be in DC, thats moot. I do not beleive the issue will be revisited for several years.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 28, 2014 4:23 pm • linkreport

Alex,
I don't think anyone would argue that the street level design is more important than the (raw?) height regarding walkability. I was merely noting that Rich tied the scale of these buildings to the quality of the pedestrian experience, comparing the scale of these buildings favorably to the high rises in the area. Maybe he mispoke, becasue as AWITC correctly points out, those highrises have a crappy street level design. But he didn't mention the street design, he mentioned the scale of these buildings.

"The scale of these buildings seems more likely to generate some pedestrian life than the high rises in the area..."

I'm also aware that any argument which speaks negatively of highrises is jumped on immediatly by you. Unfortunatley that dosen't mean some would rather stroll down a 6 story streetscape rather than a 30 story street scape, regardless of how well the street level design was. All things being equal, the quality of light and the lack of a wind tunnel effect does impact the pedestrian experience for some, to say nothing of feeling small in a over scaled environment. Can you live with that reality?

I've long ago stopped trying to convince you that this phenomenon is not just appreciated by Parisians, even though the latest poll seems to lump Washingtonians along with those effete Europeans. Let's just say "for good walkability, the design of the building at street level is far more important than the total height", but it's not the only factor. Ergo, chill out.

by Thayer-D on Jan 28, 2014 7:27 pm • linkreport

@Matt: Developments like this are encouraging, but just vertical versions of the same car-centric pattern that is the area's biggest problem. It is still, and will continue to be, a living hell for pedestrians and cyclists.

Agreed. Until Rockville Pike is tamed,this will never truly be a 'neighborhood'. I've purchased bikes at both REI and Performance and have learned that it's much safer to just bring them back to DC on Metro.

@kk: Are you talking about where Rockville Pike crosses Montrose Pkwy? Although they removed ped access from the flyover,you can still go down to Montrose and use the crosswalk to go back up to the Pike. Not as fast as the old way of just crossing the flyover,but much better than crossing the street and looping around.

by dynaryder on Jan 28, 2014 7:43 pm • linkreport

I'm also aware that any argument which speaks negatively of highrises is jumped on immediatly by you.

Again, you don't do a very good job of summing up my arguments. I don't mind arguments against highrises; but that is a very different argument in the DC context compared to White Flint.

Most of all, I don't like seeing logical fallacies put into use. Just as Rosslyn's streetscape isn't a good argument against tall buildings, a well-executed mid-rise infill development isn't a good argument against modest increases to height in DC (which is more or less what you said here).

Unfortunatley that dosen't mean some would rather stroll down a 6 story streetscape rather than a 30 story street scape, regardless of how well the street level design was.

See, this is what I'm talking about: a 30 story building and a 30 story streetwall are two very different things. You're absolutely right, scale matters - but 30 stories isn't out of scale depending on the urban design of a block.

I've long ago stopped trying to convince you that this phenomenon is not just appreciated by Parisians, even though the latest poll seems to lump Washingtonians along with those effete Europeans.

I would love for the Post to poll Washingtonians, asking them to pick one of two options:

a) Let's have the city grow in a Parisian fashion, with large infill development projects that obey the height limit but also mean the large-scale redevelopment of DC's rowhouse and single-family home areas.

OR

b) Let's have a city that grows by allowing taller buildings in areas already zoned and planned for dense development.

You never had to convince me about the wonders of Paris. I've been there, it's lovely. But I'm going to need a lot more convincing that DC is Paris on the Potomac merely because we have a federal law limiting building heights.

by Alex B. on Jan 28, 2014 8:11 pm • linkreport

"But I'm going to need a lot more convincing that DC is Paris on the Potomac merely because we have a federal law limiting building heights."

Fortunately I don't have to since 61% of Washingtonians seem to agree with me on the height question.

by Thayer-D on Jan 28, 2014 9:53 pm • linkreport

drumz, I wasn't the one who equated Paris with Washington. What I said was...

"I've long ago stopped trying to convince you that this phenomenon is not just appreciated by Parisians,"

Phenomenon being...that there's a qualitative difference between a thirty story skyline and a six story skyline, all things being equal ie; streetwall, hardscapes, setbacks, tree spacing, sidewalk width, on-street parking etc.

And I was sure to say for some, not for everyone. My Dad, for example wouldn't appreciate the difference between living in Georgetown or Germantown. To be honest with you, as much as I like Paris, I prefer the variety of DC both stylistically and in terms of height variation. I'm just one of those people who would rather sit at an outdoor restaurant on a 6-10 story street rather than a 30 story street. Call me crazy!

by Thayer-D on Jan 29, 2014 6:43 am • linkreport

I'm just bomb throwing.

Re: the qualitative difference between 6 stories and 30. I'm not so sure that I just can't appreciate it, or care then when it comes to DCs growth. What about 12 (roughly where most height maxed DC buildings are) and 30 stories?

by drumz on Jan 29, 2014 8:06 am • linkreport

@ kk -

Federal also owns Montrose Crossing (formerly "Flagship Center"), the shopping center with the Giant, Sports Authority, etc. As well as the Federal Plaza (TJ Maxx, Ross, MicroCenter) and Congessional Plaza.

I'm not sure that having all the buses go through bus bays is the most efficient solution. At the Bethesda station the detour needed to go to the bus bays adds several minutes to the ride on the Ride-On 34.

by Frank IBC on Jan 29, 2014 9:16 am • linkreport

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