Montgomery board renews nod for Glenmont Metro project -- Gazette.Net


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This article was corrected on Feb. 24, 2012. An expanation follows the article.

The Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday renewed its approval for plans to replace a 1960s-era apartment complex next to the Glenmont Metrorail station with 1,550 upscale housing units and 90,000 square feet of retail space, four years after the County Council balked at the possibility of adding traffic to the often-gridlocked neighborhood.

In a unanimous voice vote, the board endorsed planning staff’s assessment that a new traffic analysis commissioned by the developer — a partnership between Westpath Real Estate of Chevy Chase and Buchanan Partners of Gaithersburg — confirms original studies that the local road network can support the new development, according to county traffic congestion standards. The board added that the developer should further study improving traffic around other multifamily housing projects when Privacy World at Glenmont is redeveloped, but it rejected some resident groups’ demand that the company submit its traffic report for review by the State Highway Administration.

“Our role is finished today until we have a preliminary plan,” said board Chairwoman Francoise Carrier. “Personally, I’m not persuaded that it would be sensible to require more traffic study at this time.”

That represents a turnaround for Carrier, whose concerns about traffic when she headed the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings in 2008 persuaded the County Council to remand the plan for reconsideration. She said that one major factor in her new assessment is that full state funding has been approved for an interchange at Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road a few blocks south of Privacy World.

Preliminary utility work already has been completed at the intersection, where Randolph will run beneath Georgia, allowing for better traffic flow. The crossroads, which in 2008 ranked as the county’s second-most congested, since has dropped off the annual list of traffic jams.

Project manager Peter Jervey of Westpath said approval of the plan will boost an area that has seen no significant improvements in 50 years and has “been plagued by crime and drug use.” He also said the project finally could spark redevelopment of the dilapidated Glenmont Shopping Center, which has been the focus of futile renewal hopes for decades and once again is drawing attention as county planners seek community input on a new Glenmont sector plan.

Jervey, principal with Westpath, took over the project's contract after it was dropped by the original developer, the JBG Cos. of Chevy Chase.

If built, the project would be one of the few private developments to spring up next to a Metrorail stop in Montgomery County without some sort of major direct partnership with the subway system or the county.

Taxpayers already have committed significant investment in Glenmont, which is the last stop on the eastern leg of Metro’s Red Line. In addition to the station itself and the new interchange, there is one 1,800-space public garage that fills up every weekday opposite Privacy World on Glenallan Avenue and a new 1,200-space garage will open across from the apartments on Georgia Avenue this spring.

But these parking space traffic magnets are part of what residents already complain about when they express concern about the plans to build a grocery store and 1,550 apartment and townhouse units in place of the 352-unit Privacy World.

“We are having a great deal of difficulty moving in and out of our development,” said Vicki Vergagni, representing Glen Waye Gardens, a 214-unit condominium complex one block south of Privacy World.

Her community and others suffer from commuters lining up in their cars to enter or leave the Metro station, or parking along Glenallan Avenue to avoid garage fees. Although the JBG studies showed traffic flow is within acceptable standards at Glenallan intersections, it did not measure the effect of congestion due to Metro access or the timing of traffic lights.

But the new Randolph Road underpass should improve conditions, said Nancy Randall, a principal with Wells & Associates of Annapolis, which conducted the developer’s new traffic study.

“With the proposed interchange, there’s going to be a rather significant change in the entire signal system,” she said.

Wells and others at the hearing said traffic already has seemed to improve in Glenmont, whether owing to the Great Recession of 2007-09 or a 50 percent vacancy rate at Privacy World. There also has been a surge in abandoned houses in surrounding neighborhoods, and sales and reclamations of single-family homes that previously had been rented out to multiple unrelated tenants.

The plan now goes back to the hearing examiner, which is scheduled to reconsider the project March 5.

Peterson signs on with Rock Spring Centre in Bethesda

The Peterson Cos. of Fairfax, Va., announced that it has signed on as a development partner for the Rock Spring Centre project in North Bethesda, a 1.2 million-square-foot town center complex planned by DRI Development of Washington, D.C.

The participation of Peterson, developer of National Harbor in Prince George’s County, could breathe life into a project that first won Montgomery County approval in the 1990s. Plans approved again a year ago call for nine separate buildings, including two office towers totaling 549,900 square feet; 209,944 square feet of retail space; two residential buildings totaling 189,735 square feet; a 200-room, 183,295-square-foot hotel; and 90,000 square feet of entertainment facilities on 30 acres.

Peterson will take a 90 percent stake in the retail and entertainment space and a 10 percent share of the office and residential buildings. The current plan, first proposed by DRI in 2008, was delayed by the recession and the collapse of the financial industry.

The plan includes low-scale, six-story residential buildings but it would be anchored by two office towers reaching 17 and 20 stories.

The property is part of a corporate office center covering 247 acres between Old Georgetown Road and the Interstate 270 spurs near their junction with the Capital Beltway. It already includes a 386-unit apartment complex in six four-story buildings developed by Avalon Bay.

Syms bargain hunter finds apartments on discount rack

Educated renters soon will be the best customers in Rockville where the new owner of a Syms discount store that closed in December proposes to build a pair of apartment buildings.

The retail chain — whose motto is “An educated consumer is our best customer” — declared bankruptcy in November and closed all its stores.

Hines Interests of London bought the 70,884-square-foot property for $15 million last year and plans to build 667 apartment units in two buildings and 5,142 square feet of street-level retail, according to a plan reviewed last month by Rockville’s Development Review Committee. The project totals 700,000 square feet and includes 775 spaces of garage parking, according to the Hines website.

Hines bought the property in a lease-back deal with Syms. The Rockville store, built in 1996, is near the Twinbrook Metrorail station.

Greenspring Development offers flex building for sale

Greenspring Development of Lutherville has put a 39,000-square foot office and warehouse building on the market, according to Cassidy Turley, which is marketing the lease or sale of the property.

The building, at 6570 Dobbin Road, has 106 spaces of surface parking and easy access to the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

Commercial real estate news items may be mailed to Robert Rand, The Business Gazette, 9030 Comprint Court, Gaithersburg, MD 20877; emailed to rrand@gazette.net; or faxed to 301-670-7183.

Explanation: The current developer of the proposed Glenmont project was incorrectly reported in the original version. The developer is a partnership between Westpath Real Estate and Buchanan Partners.