Developer Reveals Plan For 300-Foot Towers on Rockville Pike
From Bethesda Now – By Aaron Kraut
[gallery ids="8188,8189,8190,8191,8192"] Saul Centers, a part of Bethesda-based development company B.F. Saul, on Tuesday revealed its plans for three 300-foot residential towers and two 200-foot buildings on its two properties near the White Flint Metro station. Saul Centers purchased the two-level shopping center at Metro Pike Center (across from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) and the Staples-anchored shopping center at 11503 Rockville Pike two years ago with the intent of developing the site under the new zoning codes of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan. The buildings would likely be built in phases over a number of years, Saul Centers Vice President of Development Brian Downie told attendees of the required public meeting at the Bethesda North Conference Center. The company would begin building its first tower in about two years, if everything goes smoothly in the approval process. Saul Centers will submit its sketch plan to the Montgomery County Planning Board by the end of May. It is not releasing the renderings it showed on Tuesday until that submission. Metro Pike Center would be torn down and redeveloped with a 300-foot residential tower on the spot of the existing McDonald's at Marinelli Road and Rockville Pike. Just to the south, Saul Centers would build a matching 300-foot residential tower with a new east-to-west street in between. South of that, across another new east-to-west street, would be a roughly 200-foot predominantly office building. Woodglen Drive is to be extended behind the property to Marinelli Road under the Sector Plan. It currently cuts off at Nicholson Lane. At the Staples site, Saul Centers would build a 300-foot, L-Shaped residential tower along Rockville Pike and another 200-foot residential tower to the east with a public plaza in between. All the buildings would include some ground-floor retail, but Downie said the company didn't see demand for much more than a few retail spots because of the larger redevelopment projects going on around the Metro Pike Center. The property does not include the site of the Porcelenosa store (11500 Rockville Pike). In total, the redevelopment on both sides of the Pike would mean 1.4 million square feet of new residential space with roughly 1,400 rental units and 200,000 square feet of office and commercial space. The plan goes right up to the 300-foot limit, though the towers would have parts built lower. "The place is growing up. The place is filling in with larger, taller buildings," Downie said. "What we are doing along this section of the Pike is infilling this section with development." If the proposal makes it through the Planning Board and County Council intact, it would serve to connect the four major redevelopment projects of White Flint with high-density buildings along both sides of Rockville Pike. The roughly 200-foot office building would run up against Nicholson Lane. On the south side of that intersection, JBG Cos. is planning an almost 300-foot North Bethesda Market II apartment building. Just south of that is JBG's North Bethesda Market I, a 289-foot apartment tower that today is the tallest building in Montgomery County. North of Marinelli Road is the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, built in 2004. North of that will be Federal Realty's mixed-use Pike & Rose project. On the east side of the Pike, the Saul Centers' plan for the Staples building would connect the NRC complex, including its 266-foot One White Flint North building, with planned increased density along the south side of Nicholson Lane and at White Flint Mall. Parking and increased traffic were an initial concern of some who attended the meeting. In the sketch plan, the office building would have about four floors of above-ground parking. The residential tower to the north would have four floors of above-ground parking on floors two through six. Tom Gallas, one of the project's architects, said above-ground parking at another building is being studied. Underground parking is included for other buildings. Attorney Bob Dalrymple, from Bethesda-based firm Linowes and Blocher, said it's possible there will be less than one parking spot per residential unit when the entire site is built out. The 2010 White Flint Sector Plan emphasized the need to get people using transit, imposing an allocation that will halt development in the Sector until the area sees 34 percent of people coming and going using means other than their cars. The area's current rate of people who use alternative forms of transportation is 26 percent, according to Dee Metz, the Montgomery County government's point person on White Flint redevelopment. One attendee said many will have no choice but to drive, calling the Red Line "next to non-functional." "There's only so much that the market can absorb. It's not all going to happen at once," Dalrymple said. "It is a great deal of change envisioned in the Sector Plan. Human behavior is going to have to change tremendously along with the buildings to make this city a successful city."