Leggett: White Flint Mall Site Could Be Part of County’s Pitch To Attract Amazon HQ

County executive tells real estate group that continued economic growth will mean dealing with traffic jams


County Executive Ike Leggett

Aaron Kraut

The White Flint Mall site could emerge as one of several Montgomery County locations suggested for an Amazon headquarters, County Executive Ike Leggett told real estate agents on Thursday.

The county is putting the finishing touches on its pitch to Amazon and will submit the proposal by mid-October, vying with jurisdictions around the U.S. to lure an estimated 50,000 new jobs to the area.

But Leggett acknowledged that the economic windfall would have downsides: more traffic and higher demand on infrastructure.

These issues are the price of continued economic growth, he told a group of Long and Foster agents during a presentation at their Bethesda office.

“I’ve talked to county executives all over the country,” Leggett said. “They’d like to have some of the growth problems we’re having.”

In and around Maryland, other jurisdictions also are wooing Amazon, including Washington, D.C., Baltimore city, Prince George’s County and Howard County. Gov. Larry Hogan has said he thinks Port Covington in Baltimore is the best spot in the area for the new headquarters and he would tell Amazon that.

Leggett on Thursday did not name any other potential sites for the Amazon base.

Leggett, who’s leaving the executive post next year after his third term expires, said he’s pleased with what the county’s economic development corporation has accomplished since its creation in 2015.

This year, Marriott International announced it would stay in Montgomery County and build a new headquarters in downtown Bethesda. Discovery Communications recently revealed it would expand its Silver Spring offices. Fox 5 recently made public its plans to move into a trophy tower under construction on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda in 2021.

Leggett said concentrating growth in Silver Spring, Bethesda and north Potomac helps bring jobs to the area and expand the tax base while preserving open space in the county. The alternative, he said, would be sacrificing the county’s farmland with a more sprawling pattern of development.

In response to questions about traffic problems, Leggett said the Purple Line and a bus rapid transit system could help ease congestion. But those projects will not get rid of the backups in areas like Bethesda or Pike and Rose, which are slated for significant growth.

“This will not be smooth,” he said of coming development.

Asked about Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to build new toll lanes on the Beltway and Interstate 270, Leggett said he appreciates the state’s attention to these highways. He agreed with the need for new capacity on I-270, but he was less sure about plans for expanding Interstate 495. Maryland officials also would need to address the chokepoint at the American Legion Memorial Bridge to have a significant impact on traffic flow, he said.

If the state simply builds new lanes on the Maryland section of the Beltway, “we would just move the bottleneck to the American Legion Bridge,” he said.

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