Friday, May 23, 2008

$850M North Bethesda Center opens first building

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Rendering courtesy of Opus East LLC
Rockville real estate developer Opus East LLC has broken ground for Hastings Marketplace, a residential, retail, and commercial development in Manassas, Va. The 29-acre site, with the first phase to open next spring, will be anchored by grocery store Harris Teeter and will include restaurants, a bank and neighborhood retail. Residences will include an assortment of single-family homes, townhomes, lofts and live-work units. ‘‘We’re excited to bring smart growth to the city of Manassas with Hastings Marketplace,” said Scott Brody, vice president and general manager of Opus East, in a statement.
The Wentworth House luxury apartments have opened, marking the completion of the first buildings at the massive $850 million mixed-use North Bethesda Center under development at the White Flint Metro station.

New residents can move in as early as June 1, according to the Washington, D.C., regional office of developer LCOR. When completed, the 32-acre complex will add 930,000 square feet of office space, 202,000 square feet of retail space and 1,275 multifamily housing units.

‘‘The excitement is building at North Bethesda Center,” said LCOR vice president Michael J. Smith. ‘‘Ultimately residents of four apartment buildings will share the neighborhood with office tenants and together enjoy retail, restaurant and entertainment venues within steps of each other and the White Flint Metro station. Finally, North Bethesda has a city center.”

The ground floor of the 312-unit Wentworth apartment building will house a 65,200 square-foot Harris Teeter grocery store, the company’s largest in Maryland. Capping the grocery store will be an environmentally friendly green roof, which with landscaping and gardens will absorb much of the rainwater that otherwise would run off the building and help insulate the structure for more efficient heating and cooling.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority tapped LCOR in 2001 as master developer of North Bethesda Center, the largest joint-development project ever approved by Metro. The project, east of the intersection of Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road, is intended to be a pedestrian-friendly complex that will link the mix of residential and commercial space to the Metro station, which is expected to have an additional 6,500 daily commuters.

Bethesda condo project canceled

Bethesda-based Triumph Development has dropped plans for 4901 Hampden Lane, a 53-unit luxury condo project that won approval in February after a five-year battle over its height.

‘‘We’ve decided not to move forward with it,” said the firm’s development director Michael O’Connor. ‘‘We’ve been fighting an uphill battle for a long time now and our financial terms with the property owner are coming to an end.”

He said there was no assurance that construction could start by the middle of next year, when Triumph’s development option on the property expires. It made more sense to kill the project, McCormick said, citing the approval delays and the region’s ice-cold condo market,

Triumph’s Web site still has a tout for the project, which says ‘‘...while the residential real estate market as a whole is a bit challenging right now, we are still extremely excited about this project . . . the design and the location are that good.”

The project, designed by Shalom Baranes Associates has been applauded by the Washington Smart Growth Alliance for including the county’s mandated set aside for moderately priced dwelling units rather than Triumph paying into the affordable housing fund to build units at another site.

But neighboring condo and townhouse residents balked at plans for the 100-foot-tall project at the corner of Hampden Lane and Woodmont Avenue. Triumph struggled with planning staff recommendations to deny approval over sector plan height limits of 65 feet, even though buildings at the other three intersections are higher. That set off a round of zoning contests highlighted by several decisions being reversed at various levels of county government.

The planning board approved the building anyway only to be reversed by the County Council, which sent the issue to court.

Triumph ultimately settled with some neighbors and won planning board approval last June, only to have that appealed by townhouse owners.

That threatened lawsuit was dropped and the county granted final site plan approval in February but by then the region’s condo market was two years into a tailspin from which it has yet to recover.

Given the location, allowable density and financial terms of the project the site ‘‘is really begging for a condo building,” rather than switching plans to building apartments, McCormick said.

Towson apartmentssell for $58 million

United Dominion Realty Trust has acquired the 264-unit Dulaney Crescent Apartments Complex in Towson for $57.7 million, the Denver company disclosed in its first-quarter earnings report.

The deal with seller New Boston Fund was part of a busy quarter for United, which also snapped up two other apartment complexes in Northern Virginia with a combined 847 units for a total of $223.4 million.

‘‘These are great additions to our portfolio, consistent with our strategy to increase our presence in markets where job growth expectations are high and home affordability is low,” Mark Wallis, United senior executive vice president, said in a statement. ‘‘Each community affords us a unique opportunity to create value, and together, they strengthen our presence in our target markets, including the D.C. corridor.”

Ex-biotech exec Boothto head Edge BioRealty

Melvin D. Booth, former president, COO and director of both MedImmune and Human Genome Sciences, will become chairman of Edge BioRealty, a new division of Edge Commercial, a Bethesda real estate company.

Edge Commercial’s Robert J. Walden will be managing partner of Edge BioRealty, which will offer services ‘‘tailored to the life science industry.”

‘‘I am passionate about the life sciences industry and the Washington metropolitan area as a premier location for these companies,” Booth said in a statement. ‘‘Life science companies need the highest level of service due to the unique and strategic nature of their real estate requirements.”

NAI KLNB Managementbecomes Hearn Burkley

NAI KLNB Management of Baltimore will begin doing business as Hearn Burkley, with offices in Baltimore, Elkton, Washington, D.C. and Springfield, Va.

The move comes as a result of a strategic initiative by the company’s leaders to offer a full complement of services for its clients, who are some of the area’s largest property owners, developers and real estate investors, according to company information.

According to Hearn Burkley CEO, Timothy R. Hearn, the company’s success along the Interstate 95 corridor will allow it to create a ‘‘strategic advantage in servicing the needs of investors” focused on developing real estate as a result of the area’s expansion associated with the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure program. It will be involved with the current growth in eastern Hartford County and the entire growth corridor along U.S. Route 40 and I-95 in Cecil County to the Delaware line.

Hearn is joined by three other operating partners, including John K. Burkley II, a third-generation Cecil County real estate veteran who is president of John K. Burkley Co., founded by his grandfather in 1949 to specialize in commercial and industrial real estate brokerage and development.

Commercial real estate news items may be mailed to: Steve Monroe, The Business Gazette, 9030 Comprint Court, Gaithersburg, MD 20877; e-mailed to; or faxed to 301-670-7183.