This story was corrected at 5:15 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2013. An explanation follows the story.
No residential development presentation in Silver Spring goes without a conversation about where residents will walk and relieve their dogs.
Thursday night was no exception when representatives from Robert Hillerson and Michael, LLC addressed a crowd of about 25 people on the Studio Plaza project — a mixed-use development that will be on the block between Georgia Avenue and Fenton Street, and between Thayer and Silver Spring avenues.
The first out of three phases of project calls for more than 400,000 square feet in rental apartments, two-story townhomes and retail space, according to pre-development Manager Bryan Condie. Developers said they envision the shops to be local businesses to blend into the feel of the Fenton Village neighborhood.
The Montgomery County-managed parking area will move underground, developers said.
One of the main attractions of the project is a plaza containing a large public green that will be accessible to anyone at all times of the day, according to developers. There will also be an a walkway attaching Mayor's Promenade to the development.
Public art will also displayed throughout to encourage pedestrian flow, developers said.
The project was first presented to the community at a meeting in July. The community expressed concerns that the project was too close to the street, too tall and too large with respect to the surrounding neighborhood — similar to concerns about development on Newell Street in South Silver Spring.
At Thursday's meeting, developers said the site plan has been well-received and that they did take the concerns of the community into consideration for the plan. The plan now calls for a green roof and a larger opening into the plaza near the shops. Also, the block-long building will have more glass on the facade, clearer divisions and a varied roofline, which is as tall as 11 stories high.
Ernest Bland, chair of the Urban District Advisory Committee, said he was concerned about losing the vitality of the already existing community as well as the maintenance and safety of the walkways.
Bland told The Gazette on Thursday that he has sent letters to the County Council and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) regarding his concerns.
Bland, who is an architect for Silver Spring-based architecture and planning firm Ernest Bland Associates P.C., said he felt the development appeared to turn its back on the community, noting the location of the open, public space located on the inside of the development.
He said some community members are concerned that their access to light and air will be reduced with the new, 11-story project.
Although a few residents were concerned the building was still too big and too close to the streets, some said they were satisfied with the latest version of the project.
Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board member Dan Morales said he was pleased with the changes to the facade of the building.
“The street looks a lot nicer [and] well-defined. I like that big green space, it just looks like people can gather there,” said Morales, who said before the meeting that he had reservations about the architecture of the building after the first presentation.
“I think [they've] definitely made some improvements on the streetscape and the plan. And on the architecture, I think it's improved in general,” he added.
Dimi Kalivas, of Rockville, said she grew up in the Silver Spring area and also thinks the plan has improved. She hopes there is still a demand for all of the residential units going up around the downtown area.
“At first, I hated the project. It was horrible. It was awful looking,” Kalivas said. “Today, I like the windows, I like the openness. I don't think it looks any different than anything else that's going up in Silver Spring. I think it's progress.”
Ali Sohrab, of Silver Spring, is the owner of Grand Design building, next door to the future development. He said the alley between Studio Plaza and the Grand Design building is too narrow, but was otherwise satisfied with the design.
“I think it's very good for the area. I think it will elevate the style of living and the type of people that live in that area,” he said.
The 415 residential units will range from one- and two-bedroom apartments and studio apartments, as well as the townhouses. Developers said the units' monthly rents will range from the low to mid $2,000's and 15 percent of the development will be affordable housing, a topic the Citizens Advisory Board took up in their Dec. 10 meeting.
The developers presented only the first phase of the project. The second phase will reduce the building heights, to 90 feet and 60 feet high, to be more in keeping with nearby homes.
The project plans that were presented on Thursday night will be taken to the planning board for approval on Jan. 24.
A previous version of this incorrectly identified how many units the Studio Plaza project has and when the project was first presented to the public. There are 415 units planned for the project, which was first discussed with the public in July 2012. Also, office space will be included in Phase 2 of the development.