Third Frederick Walmart closely tied to ‘Golden Mile’ redevelopment -- Gazette.Net






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The Frederick Mayor and Board of Aldermen got about an hour into their latest meeting on a proposed third Walmart for the city when they realized they were reviewing a detailed site plan for the controversial project rather than discussing general conditions for comprehensive rezoning of Frederick Towne Mall, as the work session was planned.

The aldermen should not be deciding “there has to be a traffic circle here and this bush here,” Saundra Nickols, Frederick’s city attorney, said during the meeting Wednesday.

David Severn, a Frederick lawyer who represents the mall’s developers, New York-based DLC Management, replied that the overload of detail was only intended to allow the public to openly debate plans for the Walmart.

“What I’ve heard numerous times is we want to see a site plan. That’s what the Planning Commission wanted,” he said.

The exchange demonstrated how developers will have to jump through a number of hoops, then circle around and jump through them again as city officials consider whether to allow a new Walmart at the same time that they are trying to devise a broader plan to revive the “Golden Mile” retail district on U.S. 40, anchored by the nearly empty mall.

Central to both the Walmart proposal and the mall rezoning is the question of whether to change it to a general commercial area from a mixed-use zone, thereby abandoning the notion of somebody building housing there. That involves broad questions of density and pedestrian access from surrounding residential neighborhoods and stormwater management.

But the meeting bogged down in a long exchange with developers, lawyers and architects over minutiae such as providing space for a community center, parking lot landscaping, and whether cars should park parallel or perpendicular to the Walmart that would sit between the existing Boscov’s department store and Home Depot.

Developers say the Walmart is needed because nobody else has come forward with a plan to redevelop Frederick Towne Mall. Various representatives of the project offered new details designed to meet community concerns about building yet another big-box retailer.

Architects presented a red brick edifice with multiple heights and divisions of glass that create the illusion of several buildings instead of the usual suburban monolith that Walmart is known for around the world. The current vast, empty parking lot would be broken up with landscaped traffic islands, sidewalks and a circle. Even the rear of the building would include lots of glass.

As per the aldermen’s request, DLC chairman Stephen Ifshin embraced the goal of operating a seasonal farmers market next to the Walmart. But he said that would depend on the cooperation of the owners of the Boscov’s property, who control that part of the parking lot.

The aldermen agreed that such details should be left to the Planning Commission before it eventually considers a formal site plan.

Then they got back to debating granular details, such as a new avenue on the mall site and how many access points it will have as it runs parallel to U.S. 40 and whether it eventually will become a new public road.

The public will have a chance to comment on proposed conditions for redeveloping the mall at a hearing scheduled for July 10.

Industrial park plans in works

Bristol Capital Corp. of Bethesda is moving forward with plans to build a 450,000-square-foot industrial park on the former BP Solar site in Frederick, which will be reviewed Monday by the city’s Planning Commission.

Bristol paid $3 million for the 23-acre site, where the solar panel factory was demolished earlier this year.

The project has the potential to bring a significant number of jobs back to Frederick, where more than 500 people were thrown out of work in recent years by BP Solar, a division of oil giant BP. The manufacturer of solar panels closed its factory and North American headquarters as it shifted operations to China.

Now BP is getting out of the solar industry altogether and Bristol Capital plans to develop Vantage 70, a light industrial park with manufacturing, office and research space fronting I-70 at the intersection with I-270. The Planning Commission will consider a preliminary subdivision plat to split the BP site into four separate parcels.

The site offers potential tenants the benefit of high-profile signage directly on I-70, where the BP factory’s distinctive solar-panel roof faced the highway.

First Potomac completes $259M selloff

First Potomac Realty Trust of Bethesda announced that it completed selling 23 industrial buildings — including three in Frederick County — to Blackstone Real Estate Partners VII for $241.5 million.

Including the sale of a 236,000-square-foot property in Haymarket, Va., for $17.5 million last month, the firm now has sold off a portfolio of warehouse space for a total of $259 million.

First Potomac announced the plan to sell the majority of its industrial portfolio in January as part of a strategic and capital plan that focuses on office space. First Potomac’s portfolio now comprises primarily office and business park properties in the greater Washington market. The company still owns two industrial properties in Northern Virginia that were not included in the sale.

Blackstone acquired about 4 million square feet of space, including five properties in Maryland. It now owns three properties in the Frederick Industrial Park — 4451 Georgia Pacific Blvd., 4612 Navistar Drive and 6900 English Muffin Way — totaling 550,700 square feet.

Douglas Development signs Bethesda office tenants

Douglas Development Corp. of Washington announced that it signed two new office tenants at its 7979 Georgetown Road property in Bethesda.

The tenants include the digital research and design agency SPARK Experience, and the psychology practice Dr. Joel Adler and Assessment Associates.

The 52,237-square-foot property in downtown Bethesda is a Class B building within walking distance of the Bethesda Metro station. The 11-story property was renovated in 2007 with new HVAC systems.

SPARK relocated from Rockville and has signed a seven-year lease that will begin on July 1. The digital agency specializes in engaging, and user-friendly social media campaigns, websites and mobile applications.

Adler, a psychological treatment and therapy practice, signed a six-year lease.

Jones Lang LaSalle represented Douglas.