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Can MoCo Score Millennials?

Washington DC Mixed-Use

A Who's Who of DC development titans is pouring big resources and big dollars into projects throughout Montgomery County in hot pursuit of Millennials. (Have they tried getting JK Rowling to tweet about how great Silver Spring is?) Will the youngins take the bait?

This morning at Bisnow's Montgomery County Boom! event at the North Bethesda Marriott, Tower Companies VP Sri Velamati said that attracting Gen Y to live, work, and play in the area's new developments is a big challenge. That's why creating a sense of authenticity is paramount in drawing up any new mixed-use, he says: "When they find authenticity, they hold onto it." Tower is doing its part with the redevelopment of its Blairs complex in Silver Spring, and hopes to reel in the younger folk with not just new, efficient retail and residential, but well-programmed and smartly designed outdoor spaces.

Toll Brothers City Living's Stephen Alfandre (with Arent Fox's Mindy Hurwitz) says he'd like to see MoCo duplicate the success of NoVa's R-B Corridor and DC's 14th Street Corridor in attracting Millennials. Poor job growth in Montgomery is holding that back, Stephen says, but the rise of cutting-edge mixed-use in Bethesda, White Flint, Silver Spring, and Wheaton are all creating a new brand for the county that hasn't existed before.

JBG's Rich Jordan says a mix of incomes is equally as important as a mix of uses when developing new product, something his firm is trying to implement at its redevelopment of the Falkland Chase Apartments in Silver Spring. (The firm will soon add over a million square feet of residential and retail to the site at 16th Street and Colesville Road.) 20% of the property's units are affordable, which will create a diverse environment JBG hopes Millennials will flock to.

To build these new projects, developers have had to sift through the behemoth zoning ordinance book you see in the foreground. But Pam Dunn of the Montgomery County Planning Board (with Miller, Miller & Canby's Jody Kline) and her comrades have given the book (last rewritten in 1977) a major overhaul. Pam says new features include a condensed list of zoning types, parking minimum and maximum standards, and a more pedestrian-friendly zoning attitude in general.

Back to wooing those Millennials: StonebridgeCarras' Kent Marquis says downtown Bethesda is well capitalized enough to win them over since there's an unprecedented abundance of Class-A rental product delivering. It gives young renters attractive options, says Kent, whose firm is building two such projects in Bethesda, The Flats at Lot 31 and 8300 Wisconsin Ave. Stay tuned tomorrow for more MoCo coverage.