Planning Board OKs Mixed-Use Project That Will Bring Public Aquatic Center to Silver Spring

County director says center will be “landmark achievement in Montgomery County”


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View of the aquatic center from across the plaza.

Via KGD Architecture

A public-private effort to build housing and a fitness and aquatic center in Silver Spring made significant headway Thursday.

The Montgomery County Planning Board unanimously approved plans for overhauling the Elizabeth Square site by building a government-operated center with an 11-lane competition pool, two other pools, a gymnasium and other public amenities.

Building the center is estimated to cost the county $55 million over the next six years, officials have said. They aim to have the center finished by 2020.

The project partners also want to renovate an apartment building on the property near the intersection of Apple and Second avenues and build two other residential high-rises, including one dedicated to senior housing.

Before signing off on the proposal, planning board members were treated to a “virtual tour” of the mixed-use project, swooping through the residential and recreational space. Board members praised the development team for the designs, and county representatives were brimming with enthusiasm about seeing the project take shape.

Virtual tour of Elizabeth Square project. Courtesy of Cornerstone Development LLC.

“The combination of a recreation and an aquatic center … will be something that is a landmark achievement in Montgomery County and throughout the region and even the Eastern Seaboard,” said David Dise, director of the county’s Department of General Services.

County government, the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission and Lee Development Group have partnered for the roughly 996,000-square-foot development, which is scheduled to happen in phases, according to the planning staff report.

Images of proposed Elizabeth Square development. Via KGD Architecture.

The first step is to build Elizabeth House III, a 16-story apartment building that will hold up to 267 units and will include the South County Regional Recreation and Aquatic Center.

The apartment high-rise will be the new home of the roughly 200 seniors who currently live in Elizabeth House, a 160-unit complex that will be torn down after the move.

In place of the demolished building, the developers will construct Elizabeth House IV, a 23-story building with 334 housing units. This complex will provide 51 moderately priced units and 33 workforce housing units, according to project plans.

While the construction is taking place, renovations also will take place at the existing Alexander House. The improvements will reduce the number of dwelling units from 311 to 305 and include adding new windows and balconies and creating digital arts and education spaces, a planning staff report states.

The renovations have already started, and the project team hopes to complete them by the end of 2018.

When all is said and done, the proposed Elizabeth Square project will add about 435 new units to the property, a county planner said.

In addition to the pool space, the recreation and aquatic center will have a sauna and spa, a high-school-sized basketball court, a social hall with a teaching kitchen, a fitness area with exercise rooms, activity and game rooms, and a community lounge. There will also be a senior wellness center run through a partnership with Holy Cross Hospital.

The county’s recreation department will lease the center at the HOC and will handle day-to-day operations.

The buildings will open into a central plaza that will provide space for informal gatherings and occasional events, according to the staff report.

Planning board member Natali Fani-Gonzalez said she was pleased with the outdoor design.

“I love the green,” she said. “And also, the inside … remarkable.”

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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