The Montgomery County Council voted to push the public-private partnership with developer B.F. Saul and County Executive Isiah Leggett’s plans for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority bus bay site into the background.
The Council held a straw vote, and unanimously acted on the recommendation of council staff and the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee in favor of a plan for Wheaton’s downtown – that funds a headquarters for Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and a new town square on Parking Lot 13.
“The bus bays are a significant site, but they are the most challenging and expensive redevelopment site in downtown Wheaton,” Senior Legislative Analyst Jacob Sesker said. “The redevelopment of Parking Lot 13 and the town center, with an office building headquarters for Park and Planning, along with what is going on with the Safeway project, the Lowes building…will change the market downtown, and it may make getting a platform cheaper for us at some point in the future. It may not.”
Building the M-NCPPC headquarters would be a more predictable and controllable investment in Wheaton, he added. “There are far fewer unknowns when it comes to the public sector building a building that the public sector will occupy (occupy alone and presumably own) than there are with a complex public-private partnership that involves WMATA and involves several pieces of property and several different conveyances,” Sesker said.
Although Sesker told the council repeatedly that his proposal does not preclude development of the WMATA site or partnership with B.F. Saul, Department of General Services Director David Dise said that “without the platform, there will be no possibility of enticing a private sector tenant or a federal tenant” because of the timeframe. But the council would rather see “feet on the ground” in Wheaton sooner than later, and perhaps wait for market conditions to improve before working with a private developer on the WMATA site.
Parking Lot 13 – The County Council approved the FY13-18 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget for the Wheaton Redevelopment Program. The $66.2 million CIP provides for a multi-user government building on Parking Lot 13 to include a new headquarters for the Montgomery Regional Office of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC); underground or structured parking; and a Town Square at least 1/3 the size of Parking Lot 13. The CIP also includes a study to evaluate the financial feasibility of redeveloping the Metro bus bay site; a parking study to include the effects of redevelopment on parking supply and demand and planning studies that review potential models for creating local jobs, job training and small business protection.
The CIP directs the County and M-NCPPC to update the County Council on the project’s progress once they have completed their respective programs of requirements, i.e. facility needs for the proposed project. This update is scheduled before the full Council at its January 29, 2013 session, which is open to the public. See Agenda specifics here. View the Wheaton Redevelopment CIP here.
Construction progresses on The Exchange – Developed by Patriot Realty Co. and Foulger Pratt Development, this 880,000 square foot, $88 million dollar project is directly across from the Wheaton Metro. It features a new 59,000 square foot Safeway with 486 residential apartments above. With the exterior shell of the Safeway Store well underway, the full building exterior is expected to be completed by summer 2013. Safeway is anticipated to open late summer 2013 with the residential project completed in fall 2013.
Allaire at Wheaton (10914 Georgia Ave.) – Washington Property Company is currently constructing a 6-story, 232-unit residential apartment on the former site of the First Baptist Church of Wheaton. Concrete operations are in full swing and the building will be coming out of the ground shortly. The project should be fully completed by March 2014.
11141 Georgia Avenue – Acquired by Lowe Enterprises, this 7-story commercial office building and will convert into residential apartments. In September, the Planing Board approved the Preliminary Plan and Site Plan for this project – a 14-story residential apartment building with approximately 195 units. Lowe is currently finalizing entitlements and recording the Record Plat. Construction is anticipated to begin early 2013.
BB&T Bank – The Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road operations will consolidate into a new branch office to be located at the intersection of University Boulevard and Valley View Avenue, across from Westfield Wheaton Mall. The plans call for a 4,080 square foot bank branch with a detached 4-lane drive through canopy and 23 parking spaces. The project received Preliminary and Site Plan approval in February. Record plan recordation is anticipated in early December and building permits are anticipated shortly thereafter. Dependent upon weather, construction should start early 2013.