Demolition of Anchor Inn may signal redevelopment at site

Wheaton landmark had been a restaurant for 50 years

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Click here to enlarge this photo
Photo courtesy of Andy Bobrow
Crews on Monday demolish the former Anchor Inn, a landmark seafood restaurant that had stood at 2509 University Blvd. in Wheaton for more than 50 years.

Crews on Monday demolished a landmark seafood restaurant in Wheaton, ending a more than 50-year history for the University Boulevard eatery, but opening possible redevelopment opportunities on the site.

Demolition of the Anchor Inn, located at 2509 University Blvd., began about 10 a.m., said Andy Bobrow, whose family owns Elbe’s Beer & Wine of Wheaton, located across the street at 2522 University Blvd.

‘‘By 4 p.m., the majority of the building was on the ground,” said Bobrow, who took several before-and-after pictures of the demolition project.

Anchor Inn, known for its family atmosphere and close relationship with the community, had closed Aug. 11, 2004, after being sold to Bethesda-based Greenhill Capital Corporation. The original owner, Harry ‘‘Selby” Scaggs, said poor business in the months after Montgomery County banned smoking in restaurants prompted the sale.

In September 2004, Greenhill said it planned to build a mixed-use complex of at least 600,000 feet on the Anchor Inn site with street-level retail under residential and office space. The project required zoning changes that would allow for a building of that scope.

In the meantime, Anthony Fahey, the owner of The Last Mango, an American restaurant and bar in the Kentlands neighborhood of Gaithersburg, reopened the restaurant Jan. 19, 2005, with plans to retained the classic platters, select fish dishes, the family atmosphere and the community relationship that characterized Anchor Inn.

Fahey tried to make a go of it and remained open for several months, but it did not work out and the restaurant closed, said Joe Davis, director of the Wheaton Redevelopment Program.

In a February news release, Greenhill said it donated the contents of the restaurant to Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County Maryland Inc., a nonprofit organization that works with families to build affordable housing in Montgomery County.

Greenhill had also given the local fire and rescue service permission to conduct emergency training on the Anchor Inn site, and a demolition was planned.

Davis said Greenhill Capital then filed a subdivision plan several months ago calling for a one-story retail building. ‘‘The question is: ‘What will [Greenhill] do next?’ ” Davis said. ‘‘[Greenhill] may be waiting for the overlay zoning amendment.”

In early April, County Council members Thomas E. Perez (D-Dist. 5) of Takoma Park and Marilyn J. Praisner (D-Dist. 4) of Calverton proposed an amendment that would loosen restrictions in the downtown overlay zone to allow developers to construct taller buildings near the Metro station and make it easier for downtown small businesses to expand.

The proposal goes before the County Council for a public hearing June 13. Davis expects the county to take action on the amendment by the end of July and hopes the owner would take advantage of a zoning amendment at what he calls a key site for Wheaton redevelopment.

‘‘My hope is that they’d do more than a one-story building on that corner,” he said. ‘‘That’s an important corner” for redevelopment.

‘‘The good news is it creates an opportunity for small business space, if he takes advantage of high density,” he said, noting that one of the provisions of the proposed amendment calls for a certain percentage of space to be set aside for small business.

Calls to Greenhill Capital Corporation were directed to Steven J. Karr, an architect and president of the Rockville-based Steven J. Karr, AIA Inc. Karr did not return a call placed to his office by The Gazette’s Tuesday afternoon deadline.