Gaithersburg council approves plan to build apartments, health club at Washingtonian North -- Gazette.Net


Hundreds of apartments and a health club may come to Washingtonian North after the Gaithersburg City Council approved changes to an old annexation agreement Monday.

The mayor and council unanimously passed the proposed amendment to the annexation agreement that will allow Camden Property Trust of McLean, Va., to construct up to 400 apartments and a health club on a 27-acre parcel in Washingtonian North. The parcel, located off of Sam Eig Highway near Fields Road, once was the proposed site of Manuguistics Group’s headquarters, with about 850,000 square feet of office space planned there, but has been vacant since the deal went bad in 2000.

The next step for the applicant, Washingtonian North Associates LLC, is to give a signed copy of the annexation agreement to the city manager for final review, according to Community Planning Division Chief Trudy Schwarz. A schematic development plan submission will follow.

Councilman Mike Sesma said that he was glad plans for the site were moving forward, but he is concerned about the overbuilding of multi-family units in the city and the potential for vacancies.

“Since about 2006, this council and the planning commission has approved almost two multi-family units for every one single-family unit throughout the city,” he said.

Under the proposal, a 320,000-square-foot office pad will remain available for a future user. However, about six acres of property will be sold to Camden Properties for apartments renting in $1,600-per-month range, according to Jay Johnson, director of new development for Camden.

In addition, Lifetime Fitness has proposed building a 127,000-square-foot fitness complex on 8 acres of the site, complete with indoor and outdoor pools, a salon and a café.

Schwarz presented the updated proposed amendment to the city council after several residents brought up concerns about pedestrian access and connectivity at a Sept. 16 meeting.

The annexation agreement now requires a pedestrian and bicycle connectivity plan in conjunction with the schematic development plan submission. The plan will also include details about landscape and hardscape use to create entrances to adjacent Malcolm King Park.

In response to citizen concerns that more apartments and a health club are unnecessary additions, a public memo from Schwarz to the mayor and council explained the decision to proceed with both of the structures.

“Growth trends nationally and especially regionally reflect a strong market for mixed-use, transit-oriented, walkable communities with close proximity to amenities,” the memo said. “Fewer and fewer of the younger generations are seeking single-family neighborhoods in favor of a 24/7 amenitized environment where one can work, live and play within a one-mile radius.”

Aside from office, residential and health club use, the annexation agreement does not allow for any other retail uses, according to the memo.

The parcel has been owned by Boston Properties since 1998.