Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Planners OK elements of headquarters design

Staff members asked to focus on environmental standards, cut parking spaces

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The Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday agreed to a list of essentials in the design of its new headquarters in preparation for a series of June workshops where community members will be able to provide suggestions.

The program of requirements for SilverPlace, the proposed new headquarters for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to be constructed at Spring Street and Georgia Avenue, was initially put together by architectural firm RTKL.

Those requirements, based on site and space constraints, a potential for growth and current and future needs, were amended by planning staff and the board to include a greater emphasis on the high environmental standards they would like to see incorporated in the project and less of a reliance on parking spaces.

RTKL suggested that the project would require 290 parking spaces, including 70 commission vehicles. Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson said Thursday it would be irresponsible for the board to request so many spaces because the project would be adjacent to an existing underused garage and is located within a parking district.

‘‘We’re asking people who develop in the central business districts to mitigate travel, and we ought to hold ourselves to the highest standard we can,” said Hanson, adding that requiring a limited amount, or even no parking, would be appropriate.

‘‘It would almost be contradictory for this organization to talk about having 290 spaces when we’re next door to a parking garage,” Commissioner Allison Bryant said at the meeting.

Going into the public workshops, planning and project staff also will place an emphasis on an on-site day care center, which Hanson said would be useful to recruit new employees. The center would be open to both planning staff and the community. The project has always included a residential component, of which 30 percent will be affordable housing, and room for retail.

Preliminary plans call for a 125-seat hearing room – the current hearing room has 80 seats for visitors – an active public use space, and enough additional rooms to consolidate several satellite offices, according to the staff report.

‘‘These are decisions we felt were necessary before going into the charrette process,” Arthur C. Frye, senior vice president with Washington, D.C.-based Spaulding and Slye Investments, a co-developer in the project, said at the meeting Thursday. The Bozzuto Group and Harrison Development are also developers on the project.

The public workshops are expected to take place June 3-7, followed by further Planning Board review this summer and County Council review of the project in October. Neighbors have been vocal with their concerns, which include traffic, density, and a potential conflict of interest with the Planning Board approving its own headquarters.

More information on the times and locations of the public workshops will be available closer to the date