County seeks residential, retail space near Wheaton planning HQ -- Gazette.Net



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Montgomery County officials hope to include residential and retail space in a Wheaton town square complex as part of plans to relocate parks and planning offices from Silver Spring, according to a memorandum of understanding on the move.

The nonbinding agreement between the county and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission lists the planning headquarters as the anchor to stimulate Wheaton development plans, instead of the hoped-for federal or private office tenants under the original plan.

The project also might include “additional private development such as stand-alone residential development (which may have a ground floor retail component) and/or retail development integrated into the ground floor of the government complex.”

“We’re very fortunate the county has invited us to participate in the revitalization of Wheaton,” Mike Riley, deputy director of the parks department, said before the planning board approved the memorandum Thursday.

As passed by the county council in May, the redevelopment program provides $66.2 million in partial funding during six years for the planning and construction of a multi-user government complex and a town square on Parking Lot 13 in the Wheaton central business district.

The memorandum outlines the county’s role as developer of the mixed-use project, which would provide a new headquarters for the park and planning commission’s Montgomery regional office. The complex “will consist of, at a minimum, a multi-user government underground parking, and a new town square,” the document says.

The memorandum adds some concrete detail to a scaled-down plan passed by the council last year to kick-start the long-stalled effort to redevelop government property surrounding the Wheaton Metrorail station. The move scrapped a more ambitious joint venture with Bethesda developer B.F. Saul that would have included building a hotel and multiple office buildings on a planned platform on top of the existing Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority bus bays at Viers Mill Road and Georgia Avenue.

The memorandum follows the planning board’s approval in November of its own program of requirements for the new 150,000-square-foot county building. Parks and planning alone would need 138,000 gross square feet for 388 employees, which includes an initial staff of 337 people and a 15 percent projected growth over the next 15 to 20 years. There is also room for the park and planning commmission’s credit union, and 6,000 square feet for a possible day care center.

As part of the shuffle of office space, the park and planning commission will hand over ownership to the county of its existing 3.24-acre office building at 8787 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring. That could put in play a prime property at the northern edge of downtown Silver Spring, an area where private developers in recent years have dropped plans for office projects in favor of apartment buildings.

Under an earlier proposal for new planning headquarters, the property would have been redeveloped as SilverPlace, a mixed-use complex that also would have included a multifamily residential building.

Greenbelt building scheduled for foreclosure auction

Commerce Center 1 in Greenbelt has been scheduled for a courthouse foreclosure sale Feb. 1, according to auctioneer Alex Cooper.

The 123,592-square-foot building at 7701 Greenbelt Road is on 7.7 acres next to the Greenway Shopping Center. The class A, five-story building had 37,721 square feet of space available in November, according to a leasing flier from broker NAI Michael.

The property, completed in 1988, sold for $18.8 million in 2008, according to state tax records.

St. John plans speculative project in Annapolis

St. John Properties of Baltimore announced that it started construction on Annapolis Commons, a 28-acre mixed-use business community in Annapolis comprising five class A speculative buildings.

The first phase of the development plan, consisting of a two-story, 63,000-square foot office building and a single-story, 32,000-square foot office building, is expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2014. Plans in future phases call for a total of 227,000 square feet.

“Our research shows an emerging demand for class A office space within the Annapolis marketplace due to the lack of new construction projects over the past several years, coupled with the emergence of new economic drivers including cybersecurity initiatives,” Jerry Wit, St. John’s senior vice president for marketing, said in a news release. “The initiation of Annapolis Commons demonstrates our confidence in the long-term commercial office environment in Anne Arundel County, and responds to the requirements of corporate end-users for highly flexible, professional and strategically positioned office product.”

Located directly off Harry S Truman Parkway near the intersection of Riva Road, and immediately south of U.S. 50, the business park will be next to the Anne Arundel County government office complex.

Upon final build-out, Annapolis Commons is configured to support two single-story office buildings, each consisting of about 30,000 square feet of class A office space, plus three two-story office buildings, cumulatively containing more than 160,000 square feet of class A office space. The two-story product consists of two 52,000-square-foot buildings and one 63,000-square-foot building.

All five Annapolis Commons buildings are designed to be certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

Apartment conversion planned for former Fed building

UC Funding of Boston announced the closing of a $18.3 million bridge loan to acquire the historic former Federal Reserve building in the heart of downtown Baltimore, which will be converted into a 102-unit luxury apartment building.

The vacant 10-story building, completed in 1928, is about seven blocks north of the Inner Harbor at the intersection of Lexington and Calvert streets. The 144,000-square-foot project, at 114 E. Lexington St., is to include 10,500 square feet of retail space, according to the city’s Board of Estimates, which approved a property tax abatement subsidy for Gaithersburg developer Baybridge Property Group in November.

The firm will receive an 80 percent cut in taxes for 10 years after completing the conversion. There will be a 50 percent abatement from years 11 to 15, with declining reductions through year 20.

The conversion to apartments marks an important trend that could help absorb a lot of vacant space in downtown Baltimore, according to a recent report by Jones Lang LaSalle. The sale follows deals last year that will convert almost 445,000 square feet of empty office space to residential use.

That includes the sale of 10 Light St., a 360,000-square-foot buidling, and 301 N. Charles Street, an 84,974-square-foot property, both of which have been planned for residential conversions.

The report noted that the city’s central business district has an office vacancy rate of 18.5 percent. It concluded that if another three chronically vacant buildings totaling 900,898 square feet were converted to residential use, that could reduce the downtown vacancy rate to 13 percent.

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.