White Flint Neighbors Kick Off Placemaking Project

County planning department brings in nonprofit that helps communities create identity


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Community members talk during last week's placemaking event at the Randolph Hills Shopping Center.

VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANNING DEPARTMENT

Community members in White Flint last week got together to build a column.

It wasn’t a big one, and it was only made out of wood, but it was the first step in a months-long placemaking effort for the neighborhood around the Randolph Hills Shopping Center.

“We are really excited about this. We’ve been talking about placemaking as an idea a lot in the planning department ... and now we are really trying to have the community take the lead on doing that,” Atul Sharma, an urban planner for the Montgomery County Planning Department, said.

The planning department is working with a Dallas-based nonprofit called the Better Block Foundation on the effort, which kicked off with a May 30 meeting at the shopping center. Community members assembled the wooden Morris Column during the event and left it there as a place where people can leave suggestions for temporary placemaking projects.

The Morris Column at the shopping center. Via Montgomery County Planning Department.

“We have to mark sure our communities are not just livable, but lovable,” Planning Director Gwen Wright said in the video recording from the event.

Amy Ginsburg, executive director of Friends of White Flint, said she attended the gathering, where foundation representatives explained that they’ve helped other communities around the nation create a sense of place with pop-ups—bike lanes, coffees shops, markets and art galleries. In some cases, the pop-ups have been so successful that they became permanent, she said.

“I’ll be honest, I walked into the meeting pretty skeptical and walked out a true believer,” Ginsburg said.

While the White Flint area around Rockville Pike is thriving, Ginsburg said the section around the Randolph Hills Shopping Center has felt somewhat left out of the action. The placemaking exercise could bring energy to the area and build connection between neighbors, she said.

Ginsburg said a sports-themed pop-up might work well for the Randolph Hills Shopping Center neighborhood because it would be near the Launch Trampoline Park (a business), a martial arts studio and a gym.

Sharma said the planning department focused on the shopping center for the placemaking project because the White Flint 2 Sector Plan identified its potential as a future community gathering area.

The planning department has funding in its budget for placemaking efforts and has set aside $50,000 for the White Flint project. That money will be spent on things including outreach, design and materials for pulling off community members’ ideas.

Community members in coming months will choose a placemaking project by leaving comments at the column and participating in a survey and in other outreach efforts. Sharma said he expects the team will select some final options in July.

Sharma said there could be more than one pop-up, and the length of time each will remain in place depends on the idea. Some could be placed at the shopping center site, and some could go elsewhere, he said.

In early October, residents, business owners and property owners will work with planning officials and foundation representatives to design and build the pop-up projects.

The grand opening is slated to happen in mid-October, potentially coinciding with the Pike District Fall Fest.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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