Developers Have Less Than Two Months To Respond to Silver Spring Arena Proposal

Montgomery County released more information this month about its pitch for a 5,000-seat arena downtown


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Developers have about a month and a half to finish proposals for an arena on a lucrative piece of Montgomery County land where two underused parking garages currently sit in downtown Silver Spring.

The county first pitched the idea for a 5,000-seat arena at the site next to the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center in December. Earlier this month, county transportation officials held a meeting to give developers more details about what they’re looking for in a project proposal. Developers have until April 10 to submit proposals.

At the Feb. 1 meeting, the county indicated it was looking for a developer to build the arena—possibly with a mixed-use residential and commercial building—without using any county funds. The developer would be responsible for replacing parking at the site with a garage that would continue to be owned and operated by the county, according to minutes from the meeting posted online.

“We believe the location is ideal,” Jose Thommana, chief of the county’s Division of Parking Management, said Thursday. He said the downtown spot’s proximity to the transit center and Silver Spring Metro station would provide a future arena with accessibility “without having a large impact on our transportation network.”

He said the county has not received any proposals yet.

The Bonifant-Dixon garages, which are connected by a bridge over Bonifant Street, include 1,770 parking spaces. They are typically at 40 percent capacity during weekdays and at 12 percent capacity on weekends, according to county statistics. The combined site separated by Bonifant Street is about 120,000 square feet and is zoned for buildings as tall as 200 feet.

Images of the Bonifant-Dixon Garage via MCDOT

The site presents some challenges; the Bonifant Street right-of-way will need to remain because the Purple Line will pass through it between the transit center and Silver Spring Library stations. However, the site has significant potential for a transit-oriented development project because of its Purple Line, Metro and transit center connections, according to county officials.

The county says it’s interested in an arena that could house a semi-professional hockey team or other sports team as well as serving as a place for high school graduations and concerts.

In the transportation department’s February presentation, officials put forth two options for developers:

  • Build an arena and/or mixed-use development above the parking garage; or
  • Demolish the parking garage and replace the parking as part of an arena and/or mixed-use development on the site.

Thommana said the county also would accept proposals for a project without an arena.

“That could be a proposal,” Thommana said. “But we’re really looking to get the arena as part of the deal.”

He said initial proposals should include details about how the arena will be operated and financed. A timeline for the project to be built has not been set and Thommana said “this is not something that’s going to happen right away. We’re in the initial stages.” He said the garages are structurally sound and could likely support buildings on top of them.

The meeting minutes note the project could be similar to the Lot 31 project near Bethesda Row, where the county partnered with Stonebridge Carras to redevelop a public parking lot. The developer constructed an underground parking garage next to the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues, and also built two residential buildings—The Darcy and The Flats—that are now home to street-level restaurants and shops such as the PassionFish and Silver restaurants as well as Pottery Barn.

Redeveloping the Silver Spring site also has the potential to enliven an already growing hot spot in the southern portion of downtown Silver Spring, where popular restaurants such as Quarry House Tavern, Olazzo, Urban Butcher and Kaldi’s Social House draw crowds and craft beer fans sip brews at Denizens Brewing Co.

Significant development projects are also under construction or planned nearby the garage site. Washington Property Co. is building Solaire 8250 Georgia Ave., a 20-story high-rise with 338 residential units and 15,000 square feet of ground floor retail at Georgia Avenue and Bonifant Street. And in two or three years, the company plans to begin construction a block away from the garage site on the 440-unit Solaire Ripley II next to its Solaire Silver Spring apartment building that was completed in 2012.

Solaire projects in downtown Silver Spring. Via Washington Property Co.

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