Soon, there will be town squares, apartment towers and luxury shops in the large empty lots near the White Flint Metro station and Old Georgetown Road.
But for now, those lots and the surrounding streets are just large and empty, which makes the lots the perfect place for trash, weeds and overgrown brush.
Montgomery County White Flint Implementation Coordinator Dee Metz recently told residents that 20,000 to 30,000 bags of trash had been removed from the area since last May.
In the absence of a Business Improvement District-like organization to maintain the area, the crews removing the trash and keeping the area clean are people fulfilling community service requirements through the county’s Department of Corrections.
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services director Ken Hartman gives the crews a list of things to do each weekend, what he says is a cost effective and much-needed service for an area still on the cusp of major development.
“Major property owners are going to take care of their own. What we had were these gaps, these blocks where the appearance was just atrocious,” Hartman said. “One day, hopefully the stars will align and we’ll have another Bethesda Urban Partnership up in the White Flint area. But right now, this is filling a big need.”
The Bethesda Urban Partnership (BUP) is a county-funded nonprofit that uses in-house maintenance crews, landscape workers and even a garbage truck to keep the streets of downtown Bethesda looking clean.
White Flint has a long way to go. Based on the zoning recommendations and strategies of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, multiple mixed-use, transit-oriented projects are estimated to bring 14,000 housing units and 13 million square feet in commercial space to both sides of Rockville Pike over the next 25 years.
But in the absence of government upkeep, an ad-hoc committee of residents and Hartman were able to put some efforts into basic maintenance. Crews patrol the area every weekend, Hartman said, and will continue to for the foreseeable future.
Projects have included picking up trash on the Montouri property, at Nebel Street and Old Georgetown Road, where the volume of trash has been known to be particularly high. Special projects include sweeping out the parking lot at Wall Park on Nicholson Lane and picking up litter along Old Georgetown Road.
Soon the crew will receive a wheelbarrow and some rakes to help with mulching. Montgomery Parks will let the crew use some of its mulch around the park and the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center.
Rockville-based Federal Realty continues work on Phase 1 of its Pike & Rose project at Mid-Pike Plaza. Across Rockville Pike, though, developer LCOR is still waiting to break ground on its fenced off lot that it hopes will one day be home to 280,000 square feet of retail, a 320-room Westin hotel and a Wishbone suspension bridge over the White Flint Metro Station platform.
One of the Committee’s tasks will be to be to update the County Council on the feasibility of creating a White Flint Urban District and provide a recommendation on the feasibility of such an organization by 2017.