Offices coming to Tower Oaks
Nov. 4, 1998

First commercial buildings seek city approval to build

by Manju Subramanya, Staff Writer

November 4, 1998

In 1987 the Rockville City Council approved a concept plan for development of a192-acre site, now known as Tower Oaks, as a major office park.

After a hiatus of 11 years, two offices are seeking city approval to put up the first commercial buildings on the site located in south Rockville off Wootton Parkway and Tower Oaks Boulevard.

Boston Properties, which purchased about 84 acres of the site, is proposing a seven-story-tall, 90-foot-high, 185,000-square-foot office building with a dramatic curved expanse of glass as its primary facade facing Interstate 270. The building will sit on a 12.27-acre site east of Tower Oaks Boulevard and south of Wootton Parkway.

Tower-Dawson Limited Partnership, the original developer of the Tower Oaks project, is planning a 10-story high, 125-foot-tall, 270,000-square-foot building which will also have a curved glass facade overlooking Interstate 270.

The site is already home to residential units -- 136 townhouses at the Villages at Tower Oaks -- which were built in 1996, according to city planner Jim Wasilak.

The downturn in the real estate market is probably why construction at Tower Oaks never took off in the intervening years after its approval, Wasilak said.

A plan for a 500,000-square-foot Marriott Corp. office building approved several years ago was never implemented.

The city's Planning Commission approved a detailed plan Oct. 21 submitted by Boston Properties, clearing the decks for construction of its office building, according to Wasilak.

Construction is likely to begin next spring and be completed by March 2000, a Boston Properties representative indicated to the commission, according to Wasilak.

The developer's plan calls for preserving many of the trees on site, Wasilak said.

The Tower-Dawson Limited Partnership has not yet submitted a detailed plan for its office building to the Planning Commission, Wasilak said Thursday.

The Tower Oaks building will be located on the "Northern Gateway" site north of the intersection of Wootton Parkway and Tower Oaks Boulevard North, adjacent to Interstate 270.

The building cleared its first hurdle when the City Council approved a schematic design plan Oct. 12.

At that time, Harvey Ptashek, representing an ad hoc committee of the homeowners association of the Villages at Tower Oaks, voiced concern about the proposed traffic patterns in the plan. The townhouses are located to the east of the office site.

The developer's plan proposes that office and townhouse traffic share the same road -- a four-lane Tower Oaks Boulevard that ends in a cul-de-sac on the site -- for egress and entrance.

"We are extremely concerned about the amount of traffic that will be created in close proximity to our homes," Ptashek told the council.

"This will cause safety and environmental issues as well as an excessive amount of congestion for the homeowners when entering and exiting our area," he said.

In response to the concern about traffic conflicts on Tower Oaks Boulevard, the developers are proposing a right in, right out entrance on Wootton Parkway.

Bill Kominers, an attorney with the law firm of Wilkes, Artis, Hedrick & Lane, representing Tower-Dawson Limited Partnership, told the council, "We don't think the right in, right out is necessary from a traffic capacity standpoint; we think it will be helpful in ameliorating the perception and reality of the traffic impact on the residential community."

Councilman Glennon Harrison urged the Planning Commission when it reviews the detailed plan to pay special attention to ensuring that the conflicts between office and residential traffic do not exist.

Kominers described the dramatic curved glass facade of the office building as a design that would represent "an introduction to the 21st century."

"We view it as a gateway to Rockville across Wootton Parkway," said Kominers of the site location. "At the same time it's a gateway to Interstate 270's technology corridor."

"The building design speaks to both these relationships," he said.

The concept plan also calls for more offices, a hotel, a health and recreation club, a residence inn and more residential units on the site.

Plans for a lake on site were deleted by the City Council in 1993. A stream valley park will take its place.