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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, here it is. All news pertaining to economic development within the Washington, DC CSA should be posted under this thread.

Tall order. I know. After all, the capital of the Free World has yet to see its own development thread while cities containing half its importance are up to their second and third thread. I don't want to sit here and be philosophical, but I think this might have something to do with the fact that very few residents of DC and its surrounding area are passionate about this city. Those that are, it seems, are not the kind of people to post messages on a development forum.

But Washington and its burgeoning have much to offer. Truth be told, Washington should probably be combined with Baltimore and given its own section alongside Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Florida and Miami.

Here is a guide to the Washington Region


The city proper is the seat of the most powerful government the world has ever known. Beyond the Mall, though, lies more than federal buildings and world-class museums. Downtown DC is the third largest in the country, trailing only Midtown New York and the Loop in Chicago. In the market to buy space in one of these low-rise buildings? Be prepared to pay prices rivaling and in most cases (Midtown, New York, being the foremost exception) surpassing those of the top markets in the country.

For a long time that was all there was to Washington. Sure, there was always bucolic, west-of-Rock Creek Park Northwest Washington, with its Mansions and McMansions and eclectic neighborhoods. But the area lying immediately east of the park and on to the eastern boundaries of the city plunked down into a seemingly interminable funk. Some bright spots, like chic and diverse Adams Morgan, managed to beat the depression, but overall the area experienced vicious and long-lived decline. There are conflicting sources of blame for this meltdown. Most, however, track it back to the '68 riots, which rampaged formerly picturesque and thriving neighborhoods with violence. Left in utter chaos, little was done to replace what was destroyed by this epic urban disaster. Most whites living in these tracts of newly formed urban blight shut down their businesses and left the city altogether. What was left was brown, black, and broke. Drugs predominated, especially in the crack-cocaine laden '80s. And Mayor Marion Barry was often focused on his own misdeeds, leaving the city without a true leader to shepherd it through the thicket of mismanagement, decay and decline.

The turnaround, like so many other turnarounds, came with the booming economy of the '90s and, perhaps most importantly, a new mayor. The economy picked up pace around '94 and took off in '95, and Anthony Williams, CFO officer at the time, became mayor in 1999. Drafted by upper-middle class Hillcrest residents (a southeast Washington community now intent on transforming a typically urban-ghetto shopping center into a shopping destination with national retailers, such as Target) and other reformers, Williams took the reins of the city out of the hands of Congress and into his own.

Since then, communities all around Washington have boomed. In particular, those areas just east of Rock Creek Park, and situated slightly north of Downtown have reinvented and redeveloped rapidly. The 14th street corridor, once the token urban wasteland, has transformed into a condominium strip, with new, gleaming-glass condos going up quicker than paint can dry on ones just finished. U St, has also seen an explosion of residential development, as well as chic small businesses, a definite relief from all-too-common national chains. Further down the development list are the communities of Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, LeDetroit Park, Shaw, and Petworth- located all in the city's Northwest quadrant.

Downtown is expanding. As rental rates and space squeeze out tenants in the traditional and established Downtown DC, newer sections are added on. NoMA, or North of Massachusetts Avenue, behind Union Station and in most estimations bordered to the north by New York Avenue, is seeing plan after plan for residential and commercial properties come into fruition. Located here will be the new ATF and SEC headquarters. Mount Vernon Square, the area currently only comprising of the massive Convention Center and some residential units, is being rediscovered. Plans for several commercial properties have been submitted and the area just a few blocks west has at least 5 condos under construction. The building boom has even stretched across the national Mall into formerly staid Southwest and Southeast (WEST of the Anacostia River) Washington. The planned stadium for the Nationals (Washington's baseball team) will be located in that vicinity. Generally, areas to the west (Georgetown, West End, Foggy Bottom) and the Northwest (Adams Morgan, Kalorama, Dupont Circle) are already built-out and therefore generally unavailable to developers (though there are still many condo projects under construction in these neighborhoods).

The Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest quadrants of Washington lag behind pricey Northwest, but are still seeing a massive wave of frenetic economic development.

Included in this thread is the region surrounding Washington. The inner counties of Arlington and Alexandria in Virginia used to be counties Washington proper, but both were given autonomy in the 19th century. Currently home to well-established neighborhoods and commercial corridors, each has appreciated so much in value that, to live here, one should expect to pay well in excess of 400,000 for housing. A new single family home would fetch, in most cases, at least a million dollars.

There are two mega-counties that stretch from close-to-DC to nearly exurban, by virtue of size. Fairfax county, in Northern Virginia, has over 1 million residents and houses the bursting-at-the-seams Tysons Corner and Reston. While the county depends on the federal government a great deal (and its principle Congressman, Rep. Tom Davis, is highly influential) for its prosperity, an even larger contributor is the private sector, including high-tech companies Oracle, AOL-Time Warner, and Sprint-Nextel. Housing here is ideal- with excellent schools, an extensive roadway system (traffic is still extremely poor), fantastic retail anchored by Tysons Corner, and a growing public transportation system. The cost fits the amenities, with an average house selling in the mid-400s. A new or newer single family home is usually in excess of 800,000. Sitting to its north is Montgomery County, Maryland. Comprised of about 950,000 residents (predicted to top 1,000,000 in a scant 5 years or less) Montgomery County is one of the premier biotech centers in the nation. The National Institutes of Health drives this statistic, as many of its employees leave to form for-profit companies nearby. Third only to Washington, DC, and Tysons Corner, VA in regional importance is Bethesda, MD. Home to the hotelier Marriott and Lockheed Martin, among others, Bethesda is perhaps the crown jewel of the Washington area for fine dining and shopping. Its main corridor, located along Wisconsin Avenue (which stretches from Georgetown in lower-Washington to Rockville, MD) has attracted Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Neiman Marcus, Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Saks Fifth Avenue, Burberry, Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano's, and many more. A new project has signed on more pricey names and is scheduled for completion within the next two years. As a whole, Montgomery County real estate booms along, erecting tall condominium projects, townhouses-with-elevators, and single family homes indistinguishable from each other and large enough for two or three families. Mansions rise in Bethesda, Potomac, and Darnestown. McMansions rise in Olney, Burtonsville, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, and many other communites. The council in Montgomery County has done a good job of planning growth. Large, well-planned communities are popular here. There's Kentlands, Lakelands, Arora Hills and Clarksburg. Housing prices vary a bit in the county, but expect to spend, on average, 400,000 for a new home. New and newer homes fetch far more, on average 650,000. In a predicted 5 years, average pricing on new single family units is expected to hit the million-dollar benchmark.

Prince Georges County, Maryland, east of Washington, suffered the same problems as east-of-the-river Washington. A majority-black county with the highest average household income in any majority-black county in the country, it nevertheless had image problems that tended to keep national developers out. Recently, however, development has picked up. Housing units are going up fast, especially in Laurel, Bowie, Upper Marlboro, and other eastern county communites. Toll Brothers began its McMansion expansion into the county with Cheltenham Estates in Upper Marlboro, and has more communities in planning. Large, planned communities are popping up. Oak Creek and Beech Tree in Upper Marlboro, are only two examples. To anchor all this residential growth, there is the new National Harbor development on the banks of the Potomac River in south county, a 2 billion dollar project. And, in north county, Konterra- a planned oasis of residential neighborhoods, a town center resembling Reston Town Center in Fairfax, and an upscale mall.
Houses here are among the most affordable in the region, though inner-beltway communities depress the average score- about 250,000. Outside the beltway, houses usually run about 300,000 for an older home, 400,000+ for a new or newer home.

Further to the north, between Washington and Baltimore, is Howard County. With the highest household income in the country (though this changes from survey to survey- another stated Prince William County as having the highest household income) Howard is centered primarily around the planned city of Columbia, MD. Howard County is principally a residential region interspersed with national security firms. Houses range from affordable to exorbitant, with an average at 375,000. The western end of the county includes exurban communities of Washington.

Prince William and Loudoun Counties in NoVA benefit from both Washington and the job centers in other parts of northern Virginia. Both are exurban communities. A key aspect of exurban communities is affordability. And neither meets this goal. With houses ranging from 400,000 for a townhouse to 1,000,000+ for single family homes, prices here are among the steepest in the region, esp. in Loudon. Picture-perfect planned communities are most popular. Strip malls stretch for miles with virtually every national retailer (especially big-boxes) well represented. Both are criticized for unending McMansionvilles but that doesn't stop people from moving in. Loudon County topped the list of high-growth counties in the latest census, and Prince William was close behind.

Other counties included but not covered are Anne Arundel, Charles and Frederick in Maryland. Stafford, King George, and Fauqier in Virginia. Clarke in West Virginia.

AND.......WE'RE OFF!!!!!!!!!!!11 :runaway:
 

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Soaring View Of Tysons Centers on A Downtown
New Coalition Wants Even More Growth
Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post
Friday, April 22, 2005

Tysons Corner, in many ways already the second city of the Washington metropolis, is poised to become much bigger.

The volume of building in Northern Virginia's jumbled suburban hub of offices and malls could grow by half under existing county rules if a proposed Metrorail line is built. Assuming recent growth rates hold, that seems likely to continue the area's rapid ascendance as a commercial hub second only to downtown Washington.

Now a powerful coalition of developers and civic leaders has formed to make the case for allowing Tysons Corner to expand beyond existing limits and become more like a traditional downtown, possibly doubling again its development potential.

If proponents of expansion are successful, the area would be altered not only in size but in character, with its largest developer, West Group, proposing to carve its sprawling holdings up into city blocks modeled after downtown Chicago.

Height limits around Metro stops could allow buildings up to 250 feet, which is lower than in Chicago but higher than in much of downtown Washington, where 160 feet is a typical maximum.

By virtue of Tysons Corner's size and prominence, the incipient debate over the expansion represents what may be the region's most significant test of the "smart growth" movement, which calls for focusing development into urban clusters around transit stops.

"Right now, Tysons Corner is the world's most successful office park," said William D. Lecos, president of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. "What we want is a downtown."

The effort is already being challenged by some neighborhood groups, who fear that more building will exacerbate congestion on Northern Virginia's roads.

"What's going to happen to the surrounding communities when 10,000 new condominiums are built there?" asked Susan Turner, president of the McLean Citizens Association, who emphasized that the group's board had not taken a position. "Our roads are already absolutely jampacked."

She is skeptical that building near Metro stops would lessen traffic troubles, arguing that Metro's Orange Line in Northern Virginia, one of its most crowded, may not be able to accommodate more riders.

"Smart growth assumes that you have a high-functioning, high-capacity Metro system," she said. "We have an overloaded line that will only be overtaxed by the new development."

But the push to expand Tysons Corner has political momentum, with developers and civic leaders considering new roads and a grid pattern of streets intended to ease bottlenecks.

On Tuesday night, three members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and a new Tysons committee, a citizens group, met to coordinate a study to determine how much more development can fit once the proposed Metro line reaches the crossroads that 50 years ago was largely pasture. The effort was initiated after a rush of 21 developer applications in the area.

And today, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce is convening a meeting of business and civic leaders at George Mason University to discuss what Tysons might become.

"We support more density in Tysons Corner and more homes in Tysons Corner, because that is the only way we can create a walkable, transit-friendly community," said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a consortium of environmental groups.

Many developers, businesses and civic leaders consider Tysons Corner the cornerstone of the Northern Virginia economy and that, as such, its fate should be carefully considered. "It is the goose that lays the golden eggs," Kenneth A. Lawrence, a Fairfax planning board member, said at Tuesday's meeting.

Once touted as a prototypical suburban office market with cheap rents, empty roads and easy parking, Tysons has become more costly and its roads more congested.

It faces competition from Arlington, which offers a more urban setting with convenient Metrorail access, and Loudoun County, which offers suburban advantages.

Tysons Corner could be "out-citied" by Arlington and "out-countried" by Loudoun, warned Robert E. Lang, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

West Group executive Tom Fleury agreed. "If we don't plan Tysons Corner as a city, the epicenter [of development] will move westward."

Lang advocates building more densely despite the opposing political forces.

Even if the slate of developer-proposed expansions wins approval, however, Tysons Corner seems unlikely to be changed into a traditional American downtown.

Although the proposals would together permit millions of square feet of additional construction, that is largely because Tysons Corner, at about 1,700 acres, is larger than many traditional downtowns.

Moreover, even the most aggressive of the building proposals calls for a density far below that permitted in downtown Washington or even the Ballston area of Arlington. The "floor-area ratio" -- basically a measure of how much building can be erected on a given piece of land -- is roughly 10 in Washington and 6 in Ballston; the proposals at Tysons Corner range from 3 to 5.

For those who believe in creating what they call Northern Virginia's "downtown" at Tysons Corner, the timing is critical.

"Once there are more residents -- voters -- in Tysons Corner, you will never again raise the ceiling," Lecos said. "There are no do overs after this point."

Staff writer Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.
 

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Boston Props to develop final piece of Reston Town Center
Eleni Kretikos
Washington Business Journal
April 8, 2005

Boston Properties plans to build 500,000 square feet of office space and 60,000 square feet of retail at Reston Town Center on the last undeveloped block in the complex.

"We've not made any decisions as to when to go forward with the project," says Pete Otteni, senior project manager at Boston Properties. "It really is market-driven."

The office space likely would go up in three separate buildings. The area is now a surface parking lot bounded by Market, Library and Explorer streets, and Bluemont Way.

Homes also are a possibility for the project. Boston Properties has filed a development-plan amendment with Fairfax County. The company expects approval later this year.

Reston Town Center is the region's best example of integrating housing, offices, retail shops, restaurants, public spaces and parking in a vibrant environment.

"If you look around America, we're suffering 'generica' -- everyone has the same tenants," says broker John Asadoorian, who is leasing the retail space. "In Reston, the opportunity exists to respond to the demand for more unique retail."

Though Boston Properties is not in active talks with anyone for the retail or office space, that should change before long. Meetings about marketing the retail space are expected soon. The most likely mix of tenants for a new building will be in fashion and home furnishings, Asadoorian says.

In addition, KSI (www.ketsco.com) has two high-rise condominium buildings with hundreds of units coming to Reston Town Center. The first is already under construction. Between the two, 50,000 square feet of retail will be added, offering another opportunity for those who thus far have been shut out of the hugely successful development.

Part of the center is owned by Boston Properties, which bought it from Terrabrook in 2003, and part is owned by Equity Office.
 

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Welcome to Fairfax -- if You Vote Red
Marc Fisher
Washington Post Columnist
Sunday, April 24, 2005

Just when you thought the political polarization of this country had gone as far as it could, here comes Rep. Tom Davis with a whole new frontier for the Red-Blue wars: The Republican congressman from Fairfax seems to believe that the only way he can guarantee himself reelection till the end of time is to prevent Democrats from moving into his district.

Davis last week announced his intent to use Congress's authority over the Metro system to force a downsizing of a huge, 2,250-unit condo, townhouse and commercial development planned for 56 acres next to the Vienna Metro station.


The congressman says he's deeply concerned that at the Vienna station, "smart growth" -- the slogan of those who favor building more densely around transit stations to funnel population growth there rather than letting it seep deeper into the countryside -- is really dumb growth, overly congesting both roads and rails.

But while he buddies up to residents of Vienna who are aghast at the thought of thousands of new neighbors, Davis -- who supported transit-oriented development when he was chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors -- really has a different concern.

Three Fairfax elected officials told me that Davis explained his opposition to the MetroWest development to them as a matter of party politics: The congressman believes that the people most likely to move into condos and townhouses near a Metro station are -- oh, the horror! -- Democrats.

One politician who spoke to Davis says the congressman told him straight-out that he opposes Pulte Homes' MetroWest project because "all it does is produce Democrats."

Davis won reelection last year with a solid 60 percent of the vote against a largely unknown opponent, but he saw frightening cracks in his electoral foundation. "He lost Merrifield, the area around the Dunn Loring Metro station, and he's convinced that it turned blue because of development around the station," says Democrat Gerry Connolly, the Fairfax board chairman.

Davis scoffs at the idea that he is motivated by politics. He says Vienna is simply unsuited to a project of this magnitude. The Orange Line is already full in the morning rush, and Interstate 66 is way over capacity.

The congressman says he still supports denser development at Tysons, "but if you extend smart growth out past Tysons, you're turning the county into a city, which is not what most people want."

Davis's alternative to density at such suburban Metro stations as Vienna is not more sprawl, but rather a push to repopulate the District. "Culturally, the people who would move into this project in Vienna are urban kind of people. A lot of them are single, and they would be happy living closer in."

Which would put those people where they belong, either in Democratic Washington or in suburbs in Rep. Jim Moran's Democratic district.

"Could this be a new form of redlining?" wonders T. Dana Kauffman, a Fairfax supervisor who also is chairman of Metro's board. "Should I be concerned because I have all these starter castles coming in on Route 1 and the people who buy them are likely to be Republican?"

Davis says party politics has nothing to do with his power play. "I don't know who's going to move in there," he says, one minute after describing exactly who he expects will live at MetroWest. (Davis himself provided insight into his motives: After John Kerry won Fairfax in November, Davis fretted to The Post's Lisa Rein that "the city is moving out to the suburbs.")

Fairfax politicians are livid that Davis is interfering in local land-use decisions. "Tom knows better -- he's exercising raw power because he can," Connolly says.

Nonsense, says the congressman. "Everybody who gets elected has a say in this stuff. This is my community, which elects me."

By blocking Metro from selling its three acres of land near the station to Pulte Homes, Davis says he can press the builder to cut the project's size. Pulte Vice President Stan Settle says he can charge ahead no matter what Davis does. Kauffman says: "We could end up with a Metro-dependent development with no direct connection to Metro."

"I'm in shock," Settle says. "We listened to the community for a solid year and never heard from Tom Davis. When we greet people, we don't ask if they're Republican or Democrat."

Developers may need a new line on homebuyer applications: job, income, party affiliation.
 

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Planners try to build Main Street appeal in Cheverly
Joe Coombs
Washington Business Journal
April 22, 2005

The auto shops and vacant lots in Cheverly could soon be replaced by a much-desired mixed-use project.

Prince George's County has approved a plan to rezone land surrounding Cheverly's Metro station and Arbor Street. Office, retail and residential uses will get top priority.

The Tuxedo Road/Arbor Street corridor -- home mostly to old industrial buildings and car repair businesses -- and the neighboring Metro station hold plenty of potential for development.

"It's a very accessible location, very close to D.C.," says Chidy Umeozulu, a project planner with Prince George's County Planning Department (www.mncppc.org/pgco). "Arbor Street has to be looked at as a potential Main Street attraction, because Cheverly residents really don't have any place to go. The planning department isn't in the business of developing land, but we can make policies that would make it possible."

With the new zoning in place, the hard part for Cheverly (www.cheverly.com), a community of 6,000, is to find a developer willing to take the first step, says Dave DiNardo, a senior vice president with Grubb & Ellis (www.grubb-ellis.com).

Republic Properties is backing a condominium project not far from the Cheverly station. The plans call for a 200-unit complex at the juncture of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 450.

D.C.-based Republic (www.republicpropertiescorp.com) will team with developer Joel Youngblood to build the condos. Construction could start in early 2006 if the project gets approval.

"We like the site's access to the parkway and downtown," says David Peter, senior vice president and president of land development at Republic. "There are a lot of revitalization efforts in Cheverly right now. We want to be a part of bringing that to fruition."
 

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Metro, hired consultants call for streetcar
Metro, hired consultants call for streetcar
CHRISTY GOODMAN
Washington Examiner
April 26, 2005

Arlington residents have been presented with a plan to help them zip into the future.

Metro, along with hired consultants, recommended a high-capacity, environmentally friendly modified streetcar to run from Bailey's Crossroads to Pentagon City on Columbia Pike at a public meeting Monday night at the Arlington Career Center.

The meeting was held to update residents on the "Columbia Pike Initiative," a study on ways to improve transit on Columbia Pike to meet future transportation demands.


By 2015 the new transit, a mix between streetcars and clean fuel-burning buses, would run swiftly along the right lane with vehicular traffic in the left lane.

"I'm excited because it will happen within my lifetime," said Judith Richter, a 17-year resident of the western end of Columbia Pike, who said she thinks with the new transit proposal there will be less traffic on the road.



The proposed plan would cost some $120 million to build, a cost to be shared between Fairfax and Arlington counties.

Creativity in funding

Arlington Board Member Chris Zimmerman said both boards would have to approve the project individually then look at creative funding options.



Zimmerman, who called the investment "modest" compared to the cost of a new school, said, "It is big enough that it is not easy, but it is small enough that it is plausible."

Most residents were concerned that current traffic woes would be exacerbated with streetcars or buses dominating the right lane.

The Columbia Pike Street Space Plan, adopted by the Arlington Board in 2003, would create dedicated left-turn lanes, add greenery, smooth manhole covers and make transportation improvements along Arlington's main street.

James R. Hamre of Arlington's Department of Environmental Services' Transportation division said, "All of that is assumed to be in place before this scenario."

Metro's Robin McElhenny explained that the modified streetcar would make stops between a third of a mile and a half-mile apart, with closer stops in high-density areas.

Jill Lewis, a Columbia Pike resident since 1986, said the plan would encourage pedestrian traffic.

Martin Chadzynski of Arlington Heights, an officer formerly stationed at the Pentagon, expressed concern over the additional transit adding to the Pentagon's "mob scene" of traffic.

renderings
http://www.piketransit.com/downloads/04-2005-Public-Open-Presentation.pdf
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter is moving aggressively into the Washington area market, especially NOVA. Has anyone heard anything about potential store sites, specifically in DC & MD? I'm already aware of the Adams Morgan and Capitol Hill sites.


What about Wegman's? There's that one out in Sterling they're starting on and one up in Hunt Valley.

ALSO: Can someone let me know HOW to post pictures on these threads? I have literally hundreds of pictures of Washington proper and its suburbs that I'd love to post, but I can't figure out for the life of me how to do it. It took a long time to take those pictures, LOL. SOMEONE is going to see them! :weirdo:
 

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NovaWolverine said:
Welcome to Fairfax -- if You Vote Red
Marc Fisher
Washington Post Columnist
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Ususally I don't find Washinton Post Columnists to be the most objective or fair commentators. :p
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Tom Davis

Generally I find Tom Davis to be a fair and helpful Congressman. But in this instance he revealed his partisan, NIMBY stripes. He took a good development and derailed it simply because he did not like the design and density. Truth be told, he probably would have suffered, politically, by this project. But only marginally, as the proposed development could not overturn a 60% majority by any means.

Davis also has to face the fact that Fairfaix is becoming more moderate and Democratic-leaning. Gone are the days when good ole Fairfax voted reliably Republican. Increased immigration, the high-tech industry, and the decline in living standards is driving the county now. And its driving the county closer to the Dems, not the GOP. Trying to stop that now would do no good. Davis is an institution in Fairfax county so he really has no need to worry. But, once his seat becomes open (likely within the next 4-10 years) it will probably go to a Democrat.
 

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This is a great thread. I'm glad someone created it. :)
I'd love to hear about some SilverSpring, Bethesda, Rockville development news. :D
Wasn't there a big downtown development plan for Rockville? What has happened with it? :? Anyone know??
 

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Downtown project getting closer to approval by council
Noelle Barton
Rockville Gazette
Apr. 13, 2005

The developer of the land in front of the Regal Cinemas in downtown Rockville is getting closer to what Mayor Larry Giammo and the City Council want to see built on that site.

This week, Akridge returned to a council worksession with revised plans for the mixed-use project that will include a total of 500 residential units, first-floor retail and parking garages. City leaders had expressed concern about the heights of the project and a cavernous feeling that may have resulted along a north-south street connecting East Montgomery Avenue and Middle Lane in front of the movie theaters.

Akridge redesigned the site to have the buildings at a height of 85 feet at the street front, with additional height set back 30 feet, to form a wedding cake style of building masses.

The west parcel, being proposed for development with 235 residential units, would have a maximum height of 154 feet and the east parcel would have a maximum height of 185 feet.

Councilwoman Susan R. Hoffmann and Councilman Robert E. Dorsey indicated they would support the revised proposal, and Councilman John F. Hall Jr. was leaning toward a "yes" vote as well.

Giammo remained on the fence about the density and heights in the project. Councilwoman Anne M. Robbins was against it, saying she was concerned the massing could overwhelm Town Center.

The council agreed it would like the project to adhere to design guidelines set forth for the rest of Town Center, and raised concerns about the timing of the project regarding available parking. Akridge agreed to provide a parking coordinator to help patrons of the downtown businesses find parking once construction begins.

Nancy Regelin, attorney for Akridge, said as of April 1 the parking garage on Monroe Street at the intersection of East Montgomery Avenue is free after 5 p.m. and on weekends. That move is to help encourage people to use that garage, which tends to be underused.

City staff will bring the item back to the council in the near future for action. Construction is slated to begin next spring.
 

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I agree with that assessment about Davis, he doesn't have much to worry about at all and he is a relatively moderate republican on social issues. I think that this is just a painful way to prolong something that has been hurting the area for a while. That corridor will become more urban, and I wish that a better compromise would have been made, like limiting development on the side of I-66 where he lives, opposite of the planned development.
 

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D.C. Shifts Light-Rail Plan From Waterfront to Streets in SE
Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post
Thursday, April 28, 2005

District transportation officials said yesterday that they want to run a planned light-rail line through neighborhood streets rather than along the Anacostia waterfront because they are unhappy with a deal to purchase land for the project.

District officials had agreed to pay CSX Transportation Inc. $16 million for 2.7 miles of right of way between the foot of the John Philip Sousa Bridge, which carries Pennsylvania Avenue SE, and Bolling Air Force Base.

But city officials said yesterday that a thorough inspection of the property revealed that CSX does not own all of the right of way -- in fact, the District is among the property owners -- raising concerns about what the city was paying for and what it was getting.

Dan Tangherlini, the District's director of transportation, said a detailed analysis "showed us that we weren't really getting what we thought we were getting. We're not getting enough to actually build the line on."

Tangherlini said that the city is willing to fight CSX over the deal and that he believes the line can still be built along its original route, although it probably would not open in fall 2006 as projected. But he said he prefers to shift the line onto city streets, many of which are scheduled to be rebuilt, to bring it closer to the residents and businesses that would use it and to get it running by next year.

"Why not save the $16 million and really do it where we eventually want to do it anyway?" Tangherlini said, adding, "We've got to sell the community on this option or maybe put the thing on hold while we fight with CSX."

District officials said that they have set aside $36 million for the project and that they are unsure how much the new proposal would cost.

CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan maintained that his company has "the ability to sell the property to the District for its intended use."

The light-rail line has been hailed as an economic boon for one of the city's struggling sectors by serving existing businesses and spurring development of new ones.

The line also has been touted as a showcase project for a light-rail system that D.C. officials hope to eventually build in corridors across the city. It would be the first new transit system in the District in a generation and would represent a return to street-level rail that disappeared with the trolleys in the early 1960s.

The neighborhood route would run 2.2 miles from Pennsylvania and Minnesota avenues SE along Minnesota to Good Hope Road to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to Howard Road to Firth Sterling Avenue, where it would end at Bolling. Officials said they haven't worked out all the details of the line, including whether it should go in the median or alongside streets.

Tangherlini said that planners have always wanted the line on neighborhood streets but that they chose the CSX route because it appeared to be a quicker, easier way to get the project done.

"Our preference would actually be in the road," he said. "We just didn't want to take on the questions of parking and traffic. Now, we might as well, because we have to deal with these questions anyway."

Another question the city has to address is how residents feel about the change. City officials are holding a preliminary meeting with community leaders Saturday to discuss the new plans.

"That seems crazy to take up the streets," said Lendia Johnson, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Anacostia. "We have bus service that serves those streets quite well. I just don't see disrupting what we currently have that is working to replace it with something we're not sure about."

Resident Hannah Hawkins said that a light-rail line would take away space from crowded streets. "We are trying to get away from congestion, and I think it would add more to it."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company
 

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Developer Infuses Historic Properties With Commerce
TERRY PRISTIN
New York Times
April 27, 2005

WASHINGTON - Over the last seven years, Anthony M. Lanier has transformed a group of industrial buildings along a rat-infested alley on the western edge of Georgetown into an elegant cluster of small shops that specialize in high-end furniture and design.

But although his widely praised project, Cady's Alley, was able to attract national tenants like Baker Furniture and Waterworks, which sells designer bathroom fixtures, Mr. Lanier could not find a restaurateur willing to move into space that was tucked away behind M Street and thus not visible from Georgetown's main retail street.

Convinced that a restaurant was critical to Cady's Alley's success, Mr. Lanier recently took a bold step that people who have watched him become a leading retail developer in Georgetown say was very much in character: he decided to open his own cafe and patisserie. "A number of people in the restaurant business thought he should have his head examined," said Richard H. Levy, the president of the Levy Group, another large property owner in Georgetown.

Last month, however, Mr. Lanier's restaurant, Leopold's Kafe Konditorei, began serving sauerbraten and Sacher torte in a 3,800-square-foot space that opens onto a brick courtyard.

In an industry in which the word "visionary" is tossed around so casually that it has lost its meaning, Mr. Lanier, 53, who was raised in Vienna and moved to Georgetown in the early 1980's, is often described as an authentic pioneer, someone who anticipated not only the resurgence of this city's real estate market but also the growing popularity of pedestrian-friendly shopping.

In 1996, Mr. Lanier, backed by German capital, began buying and renovating small commercial buildings in his own village-like neighborhood, where the streets are narrow and walkable. Using local architects, he enlarged and updated dark and dingy storefronts that once housed fast-food restaurants and struggling independent retailers, turning them into airy spaces in which century-old brick walls coexist with modern staircases and skylights, and often adding upstairs rental units.

John A. Asadoorian, a local retail real estate broker, said that Mr. Lanier's European background might have given him the perspective to see the possibilities in a long-neglected retail district. "Sometimes people are too far into the forest to see the trees, and they react to opportunities rather than being proactive," Mr. Asadoorian said. "He had the confidence, the bravado, the vision and the tenacity."

Mr. Lanier said he and his partners had invested almost $1 billion in Georgetown and the West End, the neighborhood that borders on the central business district. His projects include two Ritz-Carlton hotel and condominium developments (built with Millennium Partners) - one on 31st and South Streets and the other on 23rd and M Streets - and a third condominium building at 3303 Water Street. He said his company, EastBanc, now owned 300,000 square feet of retail space in Georgetown, about 10 percent of the total and an amount equivalent to the rentable space at Georgetown Park, the neighborhood's vertical mall.

Though he is sometimes criticized for replacing independently owned stores with chain retailers, Mr. Lanier is also known for being very picky about his tenants. He turned down a lucrative offer from Chipotle Mexican Grill, a fast-food chain restaurant, which opened on M Street anyway. "I've never talked to the broker again who put them there," he said.

Mr. Lanier does not always get his way with the various preservationists who are authorized to review his plans. Recently, they rejected a proposal to create a two-level glass entryway for a 19th-century building on M Street. And he was once fined after an administrative hearing for destroying part of a structure's original building material. (He blames the contractor.) But he said the painstaking process required in Georgetown has been good for the neighborhood. "Many times," he said, "I think our buildings have become better."

Situated to the west of Rock Creek Park and to the north of the Potomac River, Georgetown was an independent port city until 1871. Although many powerful figures have made their homes and held their storied dinner parties in Georgetown's Federal-style houses, they, like other Washingtonians, did most of their shopping in the suburbs. In the 1970's, the retail district along M Street and Wisconsin Avenue began declining as T-shirt shops replaced antique shops, and landlords stopped putting money into their properties.

The sloping waterfront district south of M Street, where warehouses and factories had flourished until the rise of rail transport, also fell into disrepair. In the 1940's, this neighborhood was cut off from the channel by the elevated Whitehurst Freeway, causing further deterioration.

Just behind M Street, between 33rd and 34th Streets, was Cady's Alley, named for a late 19th-century family, which was lined with 16 separately owned buildings. In 1998, Mr. Lanier bought his first building on the M Street side of the alley, but he could not find a retailer willing to venture to that part of Georgetown. Then he met Rachel D. Kohler, the president of Kohler Interiors, who was seeking to open the first retail store for Baker, an upscale furniture line.

"We had come upon one sanitized cement box in a mall after another," Ms. Kohler recalled. She found herself drawn to Mr. Lanier's idea of a European-style shopping street, even though the space he showed her was next to a tattoo parlor. Meeting Ms. Kohler inspired Mr. Lanier to try to create a design district that would serve as an alternative to the Washington Design Center in Southwest Washington, which caters to developers rather than the general public, he said.

Ms. Kohler signed a deal with Mr. Lanier, giving him a prestigious tenant and enabling him to lure other compatible retailers. "We said, 'we're willing to support your vision, but we need to mutually share the risk,' " Ms. Kohler said. "He was very willing to put his money where his mouth was."

Mr. Lanier agreed to buy the other buildings along the alley, whose tenants included several ethnic restaurants, a bridal shop and a Jennifer Convertibles store. The last owner he approached was Zed Wondemu, whose Ethiopian restaurant was situated precisely in the spot where Mr. Lanier intended to put a passageway from M Street to the alley. He let her name her price, which she asked not be published. "She knew she had me, and I knew she had me," he said.

He also made a deal with city preservationists, who allowed him to treat the eight buildings facing M Street as one structure so that he could use the space more efficiently without having to meet all the code requirements that apply to separate structures. In exchange, he agreed to preserve 70 percent of the original exterior walls, said Barbara Zartman, who chairs the historic preservation committee of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, a civic group.

In developing Cady's Alley, Mr. Lanier worked with five local architects to avoid the uniformity of a shopping center. "He wanted creativity," said one of the architects, Suman Sorg. "He didn't want to give us too much direction." The result is a blending of different styles and materials. One building, designed by Mark McInturff, where Gore Dean, an antique store, opened last month, has a facade made partly of corrugated metal.

Cady's Alley has 125,000 square feet of rentable space and occupies three levels because the alley is actually one full grade below M Street. An exterior staircase and the passageway encourage meandering. In a March 2004 review, Benjamin Forgey, the architecture critic for The Washington Post, praised Cady's Alley as a model for new construction in an historic urban neighborhood. "The architecture is fresh, varied and up-to-date," he wrote. "The individual pieces are connected in ways that are welcoming and make sense."

Even Ms. Zartman, who has frequently objected to Mr. Lanier's plans, is impressed by Cady's Alley and some of his other projects. "You can't but be pleased with the restoration quality of the properties," she said.
 

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Beltway To Get Va. Toll Lanes
Two Private Firms Will Fund Widening To Ease Congestion

By Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 29, 2005; Page A01

Construction of the first major expansion of the Capital Beltway in a generation could start as soon as next year, Virginia transportation officials said yesterday after signing a deal with two private firms to build toll lanes for a speedier ride on 14 miles of the chronically clogged highway.

The deal calls for adding two lanes in each direction of the Beltway, separated from other traffic, between Springfield and Georgetown Pike near the Maryland border. The high-occupancy toll -- or HOT -- lanes would be free for vehicles containing three or more people; other drivers would pay to use them. To keep the lanes from clogging, tolls would increase with the amount of traffic.

The state would not have to pay anything for the new lanes. The private companies would invest the entire $900 million cost of the project in exchange for all or part of the toll revenue.

"For drivers in Northern Virginia, it'll mean new capacity, which is something that has not been offered in a long time," said Transportation Commissioner Philip A. Shucet. "It means a new opportunity for HOV and transit, and it means a choice for drivers who want to pay for a faster commute."

The lanes represent the first step in what regional leaders hope is an extensive network of toll lanes across the region. Virginia officials are considering additional HOT lanes on parts of Interstates 95 and 395, and Maryland officials are exploring express toll lanes on the Beltway, I-270, the Baltimore Beltway and I-95 north of Baltimore.

Maryland officials said yesterday that they are in the early stage of studying Beltway toll lanes. "We're a few steps behind Virginia," said Valerie Burnette Edgar, spokeswoman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Critics once derided such lanes as "Lexus lanes" -- arguing that they favor the wealthy and were a double tax on roads that motorists already pay for -- but have changed their minds because studies have shown that they are used by people of all incomes and, in this case, because no state money is being used.

The concept is in use in California and Texas and is being considered in several other states as governments look for ways to finance roads when most budgets are shrinking. HOT lanes are scheduled to open in Minneapolis and Denver this year.

Local officials said they envision a limited number of people paying what could be several dollars a day to use the lanes but a greater number of people using them when they urgently need to get to work, a child's ballgame or elsewhere.

State officials said that Fluor Enterprises Inc. and Transurban Group will pay to build the lanes, which could open in 2010. They will also operate and maintain them. State and company officials said they haven't worked out how the firms will recoup their investment, but a likely scenario is that they will receive revenue through 2065. State officials added that there would be a cap to prevent "obscene" profits.

Tolls would rise during the morning and evening rush hours when traffic balloons. State officials said they're not sure how much the tolls will be. In other states, tolls start at 25 cents and can hit $8 for a one-way trip.

The lanes will be in the middle of the Beltway and will have several access points, including one at Tysons Corner. Through drivers would merge back into the regular lanes at either end.

State officials said that a minimal amount of property is needed and that six homes would have to be purchased to widen the Beltway.

Transportation experts said there are concerns that come with this type of deal, especially because so much money is involved. For the firms to make a profit, they have an incentive to reduce the number of free users. The easiest way to do that is to raise the number of people required for free access, which the state can do.

"If you're expecting to get HOV-3 and ride for free, it's not clear that's going to be possible at this stage," said Ronald F. Kirby, transportation planning director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Herb Morgan, vice president of operations for Fluor, said his company is basing its calculations on vehicles containing three people.

Another concern is enforcement, which is a chronic problem in carpool lanes. Ken Daley of Transurban, which will manage the toll system, said that motorists will be monitored by video or police.

The deal marks a new standard in Virginia for private road investment. For the past several years, Virginia has partnered with private firms to build a handful of roads at substantial cost to the state. Other projects have stalled because the state doesn't have funds to make deals work.

In the case of the Beltway project, Virginia announced its intention to work with Fluor last summer but lacked roughly $200 million that was needed. So Fluor found another investor to share the cost.
 

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Proposals expected for downtown redevelopment
Kali Schumitz
Herndon Times
04/27/2005

The Town of Herndon may receive one or more proposals for a public-private partnership to redevelop its downtown area sooner than it is fully prepared to analyze it.


An unsolicited proposal may be submitted to the town within three months, Mayor Michael O'Reilly said. He has been talking with several different development companies that have been involved in other public-private partnerships in Northern Virginia, he said.


Councilman Steven Mitchell said that, from his discussions with people in the development community, he is expecting three to five proposals to come forward from different entities.

"The momentum that I see, I would expect that, by the end of the year, we'll have something that we can sink our teeth into," Mitchell said. "I have a better feeling about the town moving forward on this than I have in the past 20 years."

A public-private partnership in southern Fairfax County, on the former Lorton Prison site, helped expedite construction of a needed school there, South County High School, which will open this year. Developers Clark and KSI partnered for that project, which also included housing and a golf course.

Under the rules of the Virginia Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act, if a proposal is submitted, the town would have time to negotiate conditions of the development before the Town Council would hold hearings or take a vote on the proposal.

Before anything is approved, the town is required to notify other developers that it is considering the proposal, allowing time for someone else to propose a competing proposal.

The town is in the process of hiring a consultant to help with the review process.

O'Reilly said he has told everyone he has met with that the town would like to see proposals that feature the Cultural Arts Center as "an integral part" of redevelopment. Redevelopment, he added, should incorporate the car dealership property on the corner of Elden and Center streets, a parking garage with ground-floor retail, some housing and possibly office space.

"This mix of development is not unusual for the companies that we have talked to," O'Reilly said. "It gets them excited as well as getting us excited about it."

Mitchell said it is not a question of if the town will get proposals that include all the elements it wants, but how much it will cost the town and how much density the town would have to allow to make redevelopment financially viable. Though he has no idea what that would be, his general sense is that "it's doable to a scale that will enhance the downtown."

The Town of Herndon owns much of the downtown land that would likely be incorporated in a large-scale redevelopment project and has had conversations with neighboring property owners about potential redevelopment.

©Times Community Newspapers 2005
 

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MetroWest Builders Undeterred By Davis
Vienna Plan Poised To Face Loss of Land
Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post
Monday, May 2, 2005

The developers seeking to build a cluster of mid-rises at the Vienna Metro station say they can push ahead with the controversial project even if Rep. Thomas M. Davis III carries through on an attempt to block it.

The Pulte Homes developers have been planning to erect 13 residential and office buildings on a 56-acre parcel near the station. They say most of their proposal can withstand the pledge by Davis (R-Va.) to persuade Metro to withhold a small but critical parcel of land.

Davis's intervention "dented the car and made it ugly -- but didn't total it," Stan Settle, a Pulte Homes vice president, said last week. "Some people think this thing is going to get killed. [But] we're moving forward."

The long-running MetroWest project battle, which took another turn two weeks ago when Davis announced he would try to hold it up, has become one of the region's most heated debates over what is known as "smart growth," which calls for concentrating homes and offices near transit stops.

Davis's role has lent the debate a high-profile partisan angle, with the congressman squaring off against the Democrat-controlled Fairfax Board of Supervisors, which approved the project.

The MetroWest plan, one of the largest of its kind in the region, won accolades from a coalition of business and environmental groups. And in December, after months of debate, the concept received the unanimous approval of the county board.

Advocates of "smart growth" argue that it makes sense to concentrate development near transit stops because that encourages train ridership and accommodates the demand for housing without consuming as much land as conventional suburban development.

Some residents, however, disagree. And at a community meeting April 19, Davis told a group of opponents that he would amend a Metro funding bill to block the sale or lease of the 3.2-acre parcel that the agency owns next to the station. Metro had been negotiating to sell the property to Pulte Homes in exchange for about $6 million and $9 million worth of improvements to the station.

Davis is chairman of the House committee that handles Metro funding. As a result, the Metro agency appears likely to yield to any request he might make to withhold the property.

"I don't see us picking a fight with a man who can help us down the road," said T. Dana Kauffman, chairman of the Metro board and a Fairfax supervisor.

The land in question is a small part of the 56-acre Pulte plan, but because it sits closest to the station, it is considered crucial to connecting potential workers and residents at MetroWest to the transit system.

Davis has said that by blocking the land sale, he hopes to bring the developers back to the negotiating table to alter their plan.

"This is the only leverage that we have," Davis said last week. "Hopefully, we can sit down and work something out.

"I'm not a no-growther, but I have a strong opinion on this case."

Like the neighborhood opponents, Davis says he considers the project too dense. He also says that in approving the project, the county board focused too much on developing housing -- which the county says is necessary to accommodate new workers -- and too little on mitigating the traffic impact that would be created by new residents.

"They have just missed the whole transportation aspect," Davis said. "I think that's a mistake."

Davis has dismissed the charges from some county leaders that it is improper for a member of Congress to intervene to undermine a local government decision. He similarly rejects the idea that he did so because he fears that more Democrats than Republicans will fill the new housing at MetroWest.

"We represent the same people they represent -- sometimes better I think," he said of the county board members. "That issue has no credibility. We can't get involved in who moves in. It's a free country."

His wife, state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-Fairfax), had inquired about ways to slow the project, according to Michael L. Toalson, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Virginia.

Toalson says Devolites Davis approached him in late December and said she wanted to scale back or eliminate the project -- but she wanted to know whether this could be done by the General Assembly without violating property rights.

"I said, 'Jeannemarie, for the life of me, I can't think of a way your involvement or the state legislature's involvement could be enacted that wouldn't affect one's property rights," Toalson recalls. "I never heard another word from her."

Devolites Davis has said she tried to get involved after hearing constituents' fears about development.

"I represent the Town of Vienna, and they are very concerned about the growth they are seeing at Tysons Corner and at Vienna Metro -- they're being squeezed."

The project's outcome hinges on the legal and political leverage the two sides bring to negotiations.

The leverage for the project's opponents lies with Davis and his control over the Metro-owned parcel of land. The parcel is about 150 feet wide, but because it is mostly occupied by a massive berm, it could stand as a significant barrier between the proposed development and the train station.

Settle says that although building the project without the Metro parcel would be a "travesty," the development is not dependent on it. Under his reading of county approvals, the developers simply could shift the planned buildings off the Metro parcel and onto the remainder of the property, losing less than 5 percent of its volume.

County officials are studying the legal effects of losing the Metro property, but say they haven't come to any conclusions.

"I'm not ruling anything in and I'm not ruling anything out," Fairfax Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said. "I haven't seen a proposal."

Although some neighborhood groups approve of the project, some opponents say they are glad Davis has come to the rescue.

"I don't think it necessarily means the death knell for the project," said Will Elliott, one of the neighbors who has organized the opposition. "But we're certainly pleased that someone has said: 'Hey guys -- time out. This project might not be the greatest thing since sliced bread.' "

Staff writer Lisa Rein contributed to this report.
 

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Planners approve 13-story hotel for downtown Bethesda
Building opening set for 2007
Charlotte Tucker
Bethesda Gazette
May 4, 2005

More than 20 years have passed since downtown Bethesda had a new hotel, but a decision Thursday by the Montgomery County Planning Board to allow the construction of a 13-story building will end the dry spell in 2007.

The 216-room Hilton Garden Inn will be built at the intersection of Montgomery Avenue and Waverly Street, just north of Chevy Chase. Chris Bruch, vice president at Donohoe Development Companies, Inc., the site's developer, said the company worked closely with residents of the Town of Chevy Chase to make sure they were happy with the proposed hotel.

"We spent a lot of time with the neighborhood," he said. "Over several months we held several workshops. At the end of the day, our building has changed [because of feedback from Chevy Chase residents]."

Bruch said the plan is for construction to begin early next year and for the hotel to open in the second half of 2007. He would not discuss the cost of the hotel.

One of the biggest changes made at the request of Chevy Chase residents was in the design of the building. Though at its tallest point the building is 116 feet, or 13 stories, it drops to 90 feet, or about 10 stories, closer to the neighborhoods.

"We stepped it down to the south, which gave us the opportunity to differentiate it from some of the surrounding buildings," Bruch said. Other buildings in the area include the Air Rights office building, a Chinese grocery and carry-out restaurant and a parking garage.

The 116-foot height was the question before the Planning Board at Thursday's hearing. The building is located in a zone that limits building heights to 90 feet. But several buildings in the area, including a Marriott Residence Inn to the west of the site, exceed the 90-foot limit. The Residence Inn, built in 1986 and the newest hotel in the area, is 13 stories and 124 feet tall. Donohoe representatives asked the board to make an exception to the 90-foot limit. Bruch said that in order for the hotel to make money, it has to have at least 200 rooms or "keys."

"The quick answer is at 90 feet, or 10 floors, we have 166 keys and the project is not economically viable," Bruch said.

Despite the increased height of the building, Chevy Chase residents support the project. If forced to build only to 90 feet, the hotel would have to be wider and would be too close to the homes on the periphery of town. That wider version of the project is similar to a plan under consideration in 1999 to build a 182-unit residential building on the site. That plan was scrapped when it became clear that the buildings would come very close to homes in Chevy Chase.

"What we're asking you to do is employ your common sense over this sort of a proposal," said Chevy Chase Vice Mayor Mier Wolf testifying before the board.

Wolf said he generally opposes attempts to exceed the height limit, but given the height of the surrounding buildings, the need for hotel rooms and the town's desire that the hotel project not come too close to its homes, he supports the plans. He added that this is the first project in his 21 years as a town leader that the town has come forward to support.

"The horse is out of the barn," he said. "This is not going to open any terrible new scenario in that area."

Planning Board Commissioner Allison Bryant said one role of the board is to protect residents from intrusive construction projects, but Wolf's testimony assured him that wasn't necessary.

"I'm always in support of a project that makes sense, especially when the protectee comes and says, 'I don't need the kind of protection that you afford me,'" he said.
 

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Giammo votes against Akridge, but majority endorses proposal
Noelle Barton
Rockville Gazette
May 4, 2005

For the second time in recent weeks, Mayor Larry Giammo voted against a major development and lost against a City Council willing to welcome developers who have conceded some height and density in a plan that might otherwise be unfavorable.

This week it was the proposal to build a mix of condominiums and retail space on what is now the parking lot in front of the Regal Cinemas in downtown Rockville.

With a 3-2 vote -- Councilwoman Anne M. Robbins joined the mayor in the negative -- the council approved changes to an already approved plan that would allow the change from office space to residential on the site.

The project, planned by developer Akridge, will include ground-floor retail, a new north-south street cutting the block in half, and a total of 485 residential units on the two halves of the project.

Building heights will range from 85 to 144 feet on Maryland Avenue and 173 feet on Monroe Street. The height will be stepped back 30 feet at the 85-foot level so people at the street level will not see much of the upper floors of the buildings.

The project was originally approved in the mid-1990s for office development at heights of 212 to 235 feet.

Hall said that if city leaders did not approve the shorter, less dense plan on Monday, the owner of the property could build much taller buildings under its previous approval.

He said he wanted to stand by his earlier statements that with reductions in height and density he would vote for the project.

Giammo said he was not going to vote for a project unless he thought it was "great," adding he did not want to spend the rest of his life in Rockville regretting voting for a project.

He recently voted against the Twinbrook Commons development with many of the same concerns -- heights, density and sidewalk widths.

Endorsing an "urban village" concept, he said, the city should be aiming for "something different and better."

Councilwoman Susan R. Hoffmann called Giammo's urban village ideals "imprecise" and took issue with his concern that the City Council might not be shooting for the highest standards.

"None of us are compromising on our standards if we don't necessarily agree with your concept," she said.

Hoffmann said it was unfair for Giammo to suggest the rest of the council was simply throwing up its hands and voting for the project.

"I think you are seeking the ideal. There is no such thing," she said.

Robbins called the development way too massive, said it creates a cavernous feel for pedestrians and suggested it lacked small-town ambience.
 
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