Wall Park Could Be Among First Under New Corporate Sponsorship Policy
From Bethesda Now – By Aaron Kraut
The future of Wall Park is important to many in White Flint who see it as the rapidly developing area's central green space and perhaps one day home to concerts and festivals.
That makes it a strong candidate to be one of the first Montgomery Parks projects subject to a recently approved corporate sponsorship policy that could include any number of things related to programming, advertising, or naming.
"We have been involved in some conversations about the public-private partnership of Wall Park. Whether it's a partnership or a sponsorship or a naming has yet to be determined," said Kate Stookey, Montgomery Parks' chief of public affairs and community partnerships. "There's very likely to be some aspect of any of those in the development of Wall Park. We are very open to that."
Montgomery Parks hopes to revamp and expand the existing Wall Local Park (4901 Nicholson Lane) with the new mixed-use residential and commercial developments of White Flint as the catalyst. The Planning Board approved the corporate sponsorship policy in January.
Stookey said the policy should help fund and pilot new programs by allowing for more frequent and widespread marketing of corporate sponsors that pitch in. Don't expect a corporate sponsor to swoop in and acquire the naming rights to Wall Park.
Parks staff found other municipalities that have similar policies don't really use it as a way to make up for tight budgets. Other areas generated between $100,000 and a little over $1 million with their sponsorships, which would only cover a small piece of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's budget for parks.
"We're not seeing this as a way to replace tax funding because it can't," Stookey said. "But it is a way to generate revenue to enhance existing programs, to pilot new programs, to maybe fund community events that could then be free to the public."
Plans for Wall Park would seem to fit naturally with that goal. Parks wants to transform it from 12 acres tucked behind the Shriver Aquatics Center and a 250-space parking lot to a great lawn, complete with activities and programming that would make it a destination for more than its swimming facilities.
Parks hopes to replace that parking by entering into a public-private deal with Atlanta-based developer Gables Residential, which plans to build 450 to 500 apartment units in three buildings on its property just north of Wall Park and the Aquatics Center. Gables so far has said it is on-board with the idea of including 250 parking spots (and another 150 for a planned recreation center) in its garage for the development.
But many factors are in play, including a new street grid for the area that has yet to get off the ground. Without a realigned Executive Boulevard as imagined in the White Flint Sector Plan, Gables can't build the project it has designed.
Rachel Newhouse, a landscape architect and planner for Montgomery Parks, attended numerous meetings about Wall Park and the Gables development over the past few months in order to get community suggestions for features or programming. She said she would like to take the Concept Plan for the expanded park to the Planning Board at the same time Gables presents its Sketch Plan, which it's expected to file in early June.
Montgomery County recently announced it will start posting advertisements in June in two Bethesda garages.
Map via Montgomery Parks