Development Planned Near Silver Spring Metro
By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 21, 2001
A $140 million development with office, retail and residential units is proposed for construction above and near the Silver Spring Metro station off Georgia Avenue.
The site will be developed through a public and private partnership between Metro and two area developers, Foulger Pratt and Mid-City Urban. Under the plan, about 30,000 square feet of retail stores and about 240,000 square feet of office space would be built above the station. Nearby, there would be a 150-room hotel and 250 apartments.
The development would complement Metro's plans to turn the Silver Spring station into a larger transit center serving riders of MARC trains, Metro, taxis and buses. The station, with more than 57,000 daily trips, now is the largest transit center in Maryland. Its ridership is expected to increase 70 percent in the next 20 years.
Bryant F. Foulger, one of the developers, said the proposed complex is designed under the guidelines of smart growth, in which density is concentrated near existing mass transit stops instead of creating more sprawl.
"This is a prototypical smart growth project," Foulger said. "It's putting density where transit services are available. It's bringing together different uses that are complementary to one another.
"The retail stores attract people," he said. "They come, they see there are apartments to rent. Having the hotel on the transit line is great because it connects to Reagan National Airport and downtown D.C. You can stay in the suburbs and get lower rates and then still use mass transit to get back and forth. It contributes to all of the features in downtown Silver Spring that will draw all kinds of people there."
For many Silver Spring residents, the proposal is welcome news reflecting continued revitalization of the downtown area.
"People in this area are overly anxious for some real sign that development is going on," said Francene Hill, a community activist who runs a Web site called SilverSpringCenter.com monitoring the development and advertising for businesses and community gatherings. "There's been small spurts of things opening, like the Fresh Fields, and people are eagerly anticipating Discovery Communications coming in with its headquarters, but they want to see more development."
Hill said many residents and business leaders in the area do not want to see just more dense development that will "attract mob scenes," but projects similar to the proposed one at the transit center where people will come to shop and meet and not "clog up the roads."
Gary Stith, who heads the Silver Spring redevelopment office, said the transit center project will become "a destination."
"The retail and the transit services there will make it a central part of Silver Spring," Stith said. "It really makes it a core of downtown."
Lori Gillen, special projects director at the Silver Spring Regional Center, added: "People are excited about [the Metro project]. It's smart growth in its best form. It's building density on top of the Metro stations. It's the epitome of what people in an urban revitalization want."
Foulger said he expects to submit development plans to the county in the fall for his project at the transit center and hopes to begin construction next year. The project must be approved by the county planning board.
Although the office market has been slowing as the economy cools, Foulger said he is confident there will not be any difficulties filling the office space. He said he already has a tenant to fill a "significant portion" of the proposed complex.
Foulger Pratt is the lead developer in the $300 million redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring. Developers will start construction on the retail section of the downtown area later this summer or early fall, Foulger said. The area will include a 170-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel, a 20-screen movie theater, a 3,200-space parking garage and restaurants.
This year, a hardware store, grocery chain, movie theater and restaurants have opened in a portion of the redeveloped downtown. Discovery Communications Inc. is moving its headquarters from Bethesda to a new, 550,000-square-foot headquarters at Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road in Silver Spring.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company