Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Developer wants to build hotel downtown

If approved, 175-unit project could sit across from Regal Cinemas

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Downtown Rockville may get a hotel for the first time in decades.

Duball Rockville LLC, the developer set to build two mixed-use towers on the parking lot in front of Regal Cinemas on East Montgomery Avenue, is seeking city approval to incorporate a 175-unit hotel into plans for the west building.

City leaders are welcoming what would be the only downtown hotel — and be located across the street from the new $352 million Town Square mixed-use development as a bonus.

‘‘I think it would be a great fit for our community,” Mayor Larry Giammo said. ‘‘We’ve lacked a place for business travelers and the family and friends of folks living here. This would seem to complement Town Center.”

Duball plans to build the first of two high-rises in the first quarter of 2008, which could include the hotel, Marc Dubick, managing member and development partner in Duball Rockville, said.

The company is negotiating a franchise agreement with Aloft Hotels, a brand in the W Hotels family controlled by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

If approved by the city Planning Commission, the hotel would be located in the 15-story west building, the first scheduled for construction. It would be accompanied by about 20,000 square feet of street-level retail and 230 residential units.

Additional space needed for the hotel would be created by downsizing residential units, Dubick said, and would not impact ‘‘in any way” the building height or setbacks.

The use permit allows the west building to stand 15 stories and the east building 18 stories. In feet, that means 140- and 170-foot buildings will overlook Town Square. Underground parking will be available for residents, hotel guests and shoppers.

Duball LLC and CIM Urban Real Estate Fund bought the property from John Akridge Company in April 2006 for $34.5 million.

The project was approved under Akridge ownership by a narrow 3-2 council vote in 2005, with Giammo and Councilwoman Anne M. Robbins objecting to its size and density.

Before then, the buildings were planned as taller commercial office high-rises with street-level retail. Akridge amended that plan before selling, replacing the commercial space with a combined 485 residential units split between the two buildings.

No decision has been made about whether the planned residences would be owner-occupied condominiums or rental units, Dubick said.

Once started, the west building is expected to take about 30 months to complete, he added.

The east building would be constructed sometime after the west building is done. Like its counterpart, it would include about 20,000 square feet of ground-level retail and more than 200 residential units.

Both would include a tiered or wedding cake construction, leaving a maximum of 85 feet in building height facing street level.