Some of the other projects planned for the area
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Rock Spring Centre
This proposal would create a 1 million-square-foot, mixed-use development with residential, office, hotel, retail and movie theater space in the northeast quadrant of Rockledge Drive and Rock Spring Drive, close to Walter Johnson High School. It’s currently open space, along with a town house development built in an early phase of the project.
Where it stands: It was approved by the county planning board in February 2011.
Future: In 2006, Canyon Ranch, the luxury health resort chain, announced plans to build a residential community on the site, then suspended activity later that year, citing a slowdown in the condo market. The project’s new developer, DRI Development Services, submitted a revised plan a few years ago without any serious objections being raised, according to Neil Braunstein of the Montgomery County Planning Department. Braunstein is reviewing the proposal. The developer now needs to submit a certified site plan before seeking building permits, he says. When construction might begin or end is uncertain.
The county’s Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan lays the groundwork for an expanded medical center, new research facilities, academic institutions and other life-sciences resources at and around Shady Grove Adventist Hospital and Johns Hopkins University-Montgomery County Campus, along I-270 near Gaithersburg. It would be anchored by a new Johns Hopkins University research facility on the current site of the 107-acre “Belward Farm,” owned by the university at the intersection of Darnestown Road and Muddy Branch Road. Planners envision mixed-use developments with housing and other resources for workers, all built around the Corridor Cities Transitway, a proposed bus or light rail corridor in upper Montgomery County.
Where it stands: The Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan was approved in May 2010, with implementation plans approved in 2011 that set the stage for development proposals. Steve Findley, the planner/coordinator working on the master plan, says Johns Hopkins University has county approval to build up to 1.4 million square feet at Belward Farm, but the deed granting the land to the university is the subject of a lawsuit.
Controversy: During discussions about the county master plan, residents complained that the development could add traffic to already-clogged roads. And heirs of the late Elizabeth Beall Banks, who sold Johns Hopkins her farm at a fraction of market value with stipulations that it be used primarily as a research campus, say the university’s plans fail to meet the stipulations of the deed. They claim Banks’ intent was to make the land more of a bucolic university campus than an urban mixed-use development.
Future: Much of the development allowed by the master plan is contingent upon the Corridor Cities Transitway being funded and built, the timing of which is uncertain, Findley says.
SunBrook Partners plans to build restaurants, a fitness center, shops and other retail, including a grocery store, and 2,250 homes (a mix of apartments, town houses and single-family houses) in an undeveloped area off I-270 in Gaithersburg, roughly bordered by Sam Eig Highway, Omega Drive and Fields Road. Plans call for land to be set aside for a public high school to be built in the future, and for a historic farmhouse and log cabin to be restored and preserved. Construction has begun, and the first homes are expected to start selling in June, with the grocery store slated to open in 2013 and other retail outlets following in 2014. The entire project could take 10 years to complete.
Other Hot Spots
A county sector plan approved in late 2011 aims to encourage new mixed-use redevelopment projects around Wheaton’s central business district over the next two decades, especially in the area bordered by Georgia Avenue, University Boulevard and Veirs Mill Road, around the Wheaton Metro station.
Planners envision a mixed-use biotech community for the area along Twinbrook Parkway, just north of the Beltway and east of Rockville Pike, within walking distance of the Twinbrook Metro. It’s currently home to U.S. Pharmacopeia, Food and Drug Administration offices and National Institutes of Health satellite labs. Upcoming developments include the revitalization of the 18-story Parklawn Building, which will house the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Twinbrook Station, a massive mixed-use project, the first phase of which was completed in 2010. n
Amy Reinink’s work has appeared in The Washington Post, Entrepreneur and Women’s Running. She lives in Silver Spring.