Developer looks to build new apartments in Wheaton -- Gazette.Net


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Tenants have been emptying out of two office buildings on a block of Blueridge Avenue between Georgia Avenue and Elkin St. And the handful that remain - a BB&T bank, a doctor’s office, a attorney’s office, a State Farm Insurance office, and an art studio - will all vacate by the end of the year to make way for a proposed new apartment complex aimed at attracting the millenial generation.

AVA, a brand of AvalonBay Communities, Inc. which owns the land, plans to build up to 325 apartment units in a four-story building, to open to renters in 2016.

The project is still in the concept planning phase, Chris Helsabeck, vice president of development for AvalonBay, said. But the development will be entirely residential, with studios and one, two, and possibly three-bedroom apartments. On Tuesday, Helsabeck presented preliminary plans for a contemporary-style building with corrugated metal accents to the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Board. Chairman of the Board Henriot St. Gerard said thought the board was generally supportive.

AvalonBay purchased the land in 2004, which Helsabeck said is now about 75 percent vacant, still housing about a dozen small businesses.

BB&T Bank is moving to a new location on University Boulevard, a decision they had made prior to learning about the new development, market leader for the bank Tavarious Butts said. Armando Punsalan, an agent at the State Farm, said the company is still looking for a new location.

The project falls under AvalonBay’s new brand, AVA, aimed at building housing for millenials. AVA has built several similar complexes already, including one in the H Street, NE area of D.C. AVA focuses on walkable, social communities with access to mass transit. New residents would have easy access to several bus lines on Georgia Avenue, as well as the Wheaton Metro Station, only .3 miles away. The development seems in line with Montgomery County’s goal of keeping the younger generation in the county, which also prompted officials to establish a nighttime economy task force to look into boosting nightlife.

“We’re in the process of doing public outreach in advance of submitting the sketch plan,” to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Helsabeck said. And so far, they’ve received a lot of positive feedback. AVA plans to submit a proposal to the county in November, he said. Once the development is approved, construction is expected to take about 20 months.

sscully@gazette.net