Ambitious plans unveiled for White Oak Science Gateway -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County planners have offered preliminary recommendations for the proposed White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan that would allow a doubling of commercial space, jobs and housing, establishing the area as a major center of growth that could rival the Interstate 270 biotech corridor.

The 50-page report presented to the Planning Board on Thursday details growth scenarios that could transform 3,000 acres stretching west from the Prince George’s County line, bounded by Cherry Hill Road to the north, Md. 29 to the west and the Capital Beltway to the south.

The plan calls for reorienting huge tracts of unconnected properties toward transit-center development, replacing the typical suburban “seas of asphalt,” lead planner Nancy Sturgeon said.

In addition to the White Oak and Hillandale shopping centers, the area includes the Food and Drug Administration campus on New Hampshire Avenue; the proposed new location for Washington Adventist Hospital; the National Labor College; a 46-acre site on New Hampshire Avenue that is for sale; and the 300-acre Percontee/county life sciences village, which has plans for more than 7 million square feet of commercial space and 5,360 residential units.

Crucial to making all the pieces work would be development of a bus rapid transit network connecting the Metrorail system that would feed commuters into the area. Workers in the area now depend on arriving in their own vehicles, but the new development would encourage the use of mass transit or alternatives approaching the level of the Metro Red Line serving Rockville, said county transportation planner Tom Autrey.

“We think that 25 percent is attainable,” he said of use of mass transit.

Planning recommendations start with a modest assumption that only 14 percent of commuters will arrive to jobs by some mode other than their own vehicles, or 25 percent if they are headed to jobs in one of the activity centers. That would include a combination of transit, carpooling, walking and biking by workers living in newly developed housing. By comparison, the report noted, the non-auto commuter mode assumptions used in support of the 2010 Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan and the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan were 30 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

Development would occur in stages, pegged to rapid bus networks completed along Md. 29, New Hampshire Avenue, Randolph Road-Cherry Hill Road and other corridors. The importance of the rapid bus system was underscored in a draft report to the Planning Board on the county’s subdivision staging policy, which showed that the roads in the White Oak-Fairland area could fail adequacy standards by 2022.

Forrester starts work on Rockville cancer center

Forrester Construction of Rockville has started building the $12 million Aquilino Cancer Center on the campus of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville.

Construction of the three-story, 510,000-square-foot building is scheduled for next summer. The project is designed to obtain silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

Emory Properties sells distribution center in Columbia

Emory Properties of Towson sold the 444,765-square-foot Oakland Mills Distribution Center in Columbia to TA Associates of Boston, according to Cassidy Turley, which brokered the deal.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed or available yet in state records. The two-building warehouse property, at 7075-7081 Oakland Mills Road, was 61 percent leased.

“This partially leased industrial portfolio represented a rare value-add opportunity in the Baltimore Washington Corridor,” Jonathan Carpenter, senior vice president and principal at Cassidy Turley, said in a news release. “With most properties coming to market already well leased, this investment allows the buyer to capture upside and create value in an otherwise very heated market.”

Marriott TownPlace Suites hotel opening in Frederick

The new Marriott TownePlace Suites will open in Frederick next month, beginning with a media tour to show off the hotel’s environmentally friendly design, according to its operator, Plamondon Hospitality Partners of Frederick.

The 120-room hotel has features certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, including a fleet of bicycles for guest use, back and front of house recycling programs, saltwater indoor pool, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, low-flow showers and toilets, and charging stations for electronic cars, according to Plamondon.

The 73,000-square-foot hotel offers fully equipped kitchens and separate living-working and sleeping areas. The TownPlace brand is a midprice option for extended-stay guests.

Marriott International of Bethesda said last year that the hotel would be the first of its brand categories to be built using its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Volume pre-certification. The program creates green prototypes preapproved by the building council, saving hotel owner design time and costs.

Downtown Baltimore office tower set for auction

Calvert Center, a 17-story office building near the Baltimore Inner Harbor, has been scheduled for auction, according to CBRE Auction Services.

The auction, set for Oct. 11, follows a series of other sales of high-profile buildings to the highest bidder in downtown Baltimore, which has been hit hard by office space consolidations and an exodus of major tenants to the new Inner Harbor east submarket. The 411,730-square-foot Calvert Center, at 225 N. Calvert St., is less than 10 percent occupied, “providing tremendous upside potential to the astute investor,” CBRE said in its marketing brochure.

The building never recovered since 2009, when Bank of America vacated 220,000 square feet and M&T Bank gave up 30,500 square feet. The minimum bid of $14 per square feet is “significantly below replacement cost,” according to CBRE.

A pair of nearby buildings sold at auction this summer. The Brookshire Suites, a 97-room Inner Harbor hotel, sold for $7.85 million. Three blocks away, the 121,438-square-foot Sun Life building sold for $3.1 million.

Cassidy Turley reported that the downtown Baltimore submarket had nearly 100,000 square feet of net new leasing in the second quarter, “marking the second straight quarter of positive growth. While the absorption is undoubtedly a positive development within the Downtown submarket, it is important to note that this activity has been limited to a select few buildings and is largely the result of transactions that were completed in the second half of 2011 or early 2012.”

The downtown market had 4.4 million square feet of direct vacant space at the end of June, with a vacancy rate of 22.2 percent, Cassidy reported.

DuClaw Brewing moving HQ to Baltimore County

DuClaw Brewing is moving its headquarters and craft beer plant to Baltimore County, according to Cassidy Turley, which represented landlord RREEF in the 62,962-square-foot lease.

DuClaw will hire as many as 35 people early next year for production, distribution, sales and marketing at 8901 Yellow Brick Road in Rosedale. The craft brewer currently now is in Abingdon.

The tenant was represented by Colliers International.

Sound Studio moving to Silver Spring from Dallas

Defacto Sound, a post-audio sound studio, has moved to Silver Spring from Dallas in a deal brokered by Scheer Partners of Rockville. Defacto is leasing about 1,300 square feet at 8121 Georgia Ave., known as the World Building.

The company was founded in a Maryland basement five years ago by Dallas Taylor, who at the time was a senior sound engineer at Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, according to a Scheer Partners statement.

Defacto Sound provides sound design, editing and mixing for products including documentaries, political ads, short films, television shows and video games.

Scheer Partners Vice President Matt Brady represented Defacto Sound, which opened its first office in Texas three years ago. As its client base grew in the Washington, D.C., area, the company decided to moved back. Its client roster includes Discovery Communications.

“It was a no brainer,” Leigh Taylor, a producer at Defacto Sound, said in the statement. “We found that, while we could serve our clients to an extent in Dallas, it made much more sense to invest locally in our creative partners in the region.”

The company employs three sound designers and one producer, and it might hire more designers soon, Leigh Taylor said.

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