Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Planning Board grants extension for Traville site

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A mixed-use property in Traville that houses the headquarters for pharmaceutical company Human Genome Sciences was given the go ahead to continue building out the property until 2015 at a Montgomery County Planning Board hearing last week.

The preliminary plan for the 192.1-acre site, located at the intersection of Darnestown Road and Travilah Road in Rockville, was approved in 1997, and then amended in 2001, according to the planning staff report. About 1.5 million square feet of the more than 2 million square feet of approved development — about 70 percent — has already been built. The site is approved for mixed retail, office and research and development uses, as well as 750 residences.

The property’s limit on the amount of time allowed for projects to receive building permits was initially slated to expire in 2009.

The owner of the site, life sciences realty company BioMed Realty Trust, applied for more time to build in order for the site to be more compatible with the Gaithersburg West Master Plan update, a study that is examining the larger area, tentatively expected to be submitted to the County Council by the end of the year.

‘‘The developer felt that the master plan might make recommendations that may make changes to their development; they wanted to be able to respond the that in a coordinated fashion,” said Neil Braunstein, a planner coordinator in the development review division at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Much of the land in the area has been designated for health-related uses, according to Nancy Sturgeon, community-based planner with the county Planning Board staff. The Human Genome Sciences building is part of a larger area that includes John Hopkins’ Belward Campus and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital that are being examined in the master plan update, Sturgeon said.

‘‘What the master plan update is doing is looking at the next phase of development — what could the future of the area be?” Sturgeon said.

In light of the pending update, the developers hoped to ‘‘take a more methodical and reasoned approach to the development, and opposed having to design and build it all in the next year and a half,” said Stephen Marshall, Director of Acquisitions and Leasing at BioMed Realty Trust, at the hearing.

However, most of the focus for the master plan update is on potential development at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital and Johns Hopkins’ proposed plans for a large-scale research facility at the former Belward farm, Sturgeon said.

‘‘At the Traville HGS site, because they have significant approved development and much of it is unbuilt, it’s probably not the focus for future growth,” Sturgeon said. ‘‘They have room to grow and they aren’t the immediate focus or concern.”

At the Planning Board hearing, Marshall said the company hoped to continue to build research and development properties on the land.

‘‘We are very excited about this property and the potential to develop more bio-tech type research and development real estate in the area,” Marshall said.