Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Silver Spring project gets retail boost

Planners OK downtown development amendment

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An amended project planned for downtown Silver Spring that planners hope will revitalize the Ripley District with high-density development and concentrated retail was approved Thursday by the Montgomery County Planning Board.

The original project plan for the development at 1050 Ripley St. was approved by the board in May 2007. Since then, the Washington Property Company of Bethesda has more than doubled the retail space planned for the 200-foot-tall building from 3,068 to 7,460 square feet, and increased the number of residential units from 305 to 318 multifamily dwellings.

Commissioner John Robinson called the project a ‘‘key to the further development of Silver Spring.” Chairman Royce Hanson said the project improved on the initial plan and was a good building design for the layout of the Ripley District, a neighborhood located between Georgia Avenue and the CSX rail lines.

Jonathan Meyers, vice president of development and acquisitions for the Washington Property Company, said after the meeting that his company would break ground on the project as early as the end of this year. The increase in retail does not represent new space for the project, he said, but a change in the use of existing amenities space. Retail would be divided between two spaces in the project.

‘‘It’s largely the same project,” said C. Robert Dalrymple, a Bethesda attorney representing the developer.

Projects in the area are typically capped at 143 feet, unless a developer pursuing a project near a Metro station includes public use space and amenities within the project. The Ripley Street building, set less than 800 feet from the proposed Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center, was approved for the additional height because the project will include an extension of Ripley Street to Bonifant Street.

Additional public amenity space includes a bicycle-themed plaza with awnings, benches and shade trees, and streetscape improvements. A parking garage on the north side of the project will include 309 spaces.

Before the vote Thursday, Planning Board members, planning staff and the developer agreed that the project should pursue the highest certification possible in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System. The parties also agreed that the developer should work with the county’s department of public works and transportation on designing a parking garage that would accommodate a future traffic light.

Elza Hisel-McCoy, a senior planner with the Development Review Division at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said the developer also has worked with the Maryland Transit Administration to ensure that the project does not conflict with potential Purple Line alignments. If the site or surrounding area is not used by the MTA, the developer would return to the Planning Board for any plans of further development.