A group of White Flint developers is close to finalizing a branding study that could produce a name for the area.
But not all major developers, including one that has already branded its property as North Bethesda Center, are on board. Developers are split on whether to label the rapidly redeveloping area around the White Flint Metro station as White Flint or as North Bethesda.
Francine Waters, from Lerner Enterprises, told a meeting of an area advisory board that the group, called the White Flint Partnership, is close to signing a contract with a firm to conduct the branding study. Lerner Enterprises owns White Flint Mall, which it plans to redevelop into a mixed-use, town square-oriented community.
LCOR, the developer that plans a similar project along Old Georgetown Road called North Bethesda Center, is not part of the Partnership, which Waters said includes Lerner, Saul Centers, Gables Residential, Federal Realty Investment Trust and JBG. All have agreed to pitch in to pay for the study.
“We reached out to all the developers in White Flint. We asked that they participate financially,” Waters told the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee on Tuesday, without referring specifically to LCOR. “We were politely told that they’d love to be engaged but were not interested in contributing financially.
“I would say, when you think about branding and naming, if you come up with a new name, then you have to think about what it would take to define that place with the new name,” Waters said.
“It’s not just a question of the new name or the existing name, because we have two existing names,” said Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce Board member Andy Shulman.
The meeting was held at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, which Montgomery County helped fund. LCOR Vice President Mike Smith said the developer went with North Bethesda in part because of the name of that facility.
Meanwhile, the County Planning Department labeled the master plan that allowed for all of the redevelopment as the White Flint Sector Plan.
Smith said those in favor of White Flint “have a case,” and he’d like to see a broader conversation.
It appears that conversation won’t start until the White Flint Partnership has its privately-financed branding study. Waters said she hopes to present it to the Downtown Advisory Committee in the fall.
The Partnership includes JBG, which has labeled its project (across the street from White Flint Mall) as North Bethesda Market.
“The Partnership has so many integral parts to it that by the time we work through the process, I would hope the end result would be something that everyone could really embrace,” Waters said. “One firm said sometimes you have a name and then it gets used differently by the community over time. So the White Flint District, maybe one day people will say, ‘I’m going to the WFD.’ That would be something to develop over time, not necessarily something that would come out of this.”