The Montgomery County Council's traffic concerns may have put the brakes on—or at least stalled — a JBG Companies plan for Glenmont MetroCenter, a mixed-use development in Silver Spring. If approved, the project would be built on Glenallen Avenue between Layhill Road and Georgia Avenue, at the eastern end of the DC Metro's Red Line, the Glenmont Metro Station.
JBG intends to demolish Privacy World's 352 garden apartment units and replace them with new construction: 90,000 s.f. of retail space and 1,550 residential and live-work units. In June 2007, the Montgomery County Planning Board voted in favor of rezoning the project. But the MoCoCo gets the final say in whether the project can proceed, and it fears overburdening local roads; though JBG has offered to fund road overhauls, an agreement with the Council has not been reached. In January 2008, the Council remanded the project to the Hearing Examiner. A representative from the Council said it's now up to JBG to submit a revised proposal, at which point a new public hearing can be scheduled as early as June.
According to a representative from JBG, the company does not plan to make any fundamental changes to its proposal. Rather, they are putting together “additional traffic analysis,” which they will present to the County. JBG expects the public hearing to take place at some point this summer.
If it goes through, the proposed community would exhibit an urban street grid, with a central park and other public recreation spaces. Tantalizing features include pocket parks and, as the project website promises, the central plaza's "interactive water feature."
The pedestrian-, bike-, and Zip Car- friendly proposal was one of the Washington Smart Growth Alliance's 13 honorees in 2007 as a Smart Growth Project, meaning it is “both good for community and good for the environment.”
JBG confirms that they have not yet hired an architect for the project, which is still in the early stages of development. The company line? "While the architectural character of Glenmont MetroCenter has not been determined, the intent is for the architectural character to contribute in a significant manner to the quality of the streets, open spaces and neighborhood." Translation: The buildings will look lovely.
Very early estimates (the project isn't scheduled to be completed for at least eight years) put Glenmont MetroCenter’s townhouse costs at $500,000 to $600,000, condos at $300,000 and up, and rents at $1,500 to $2,000 per month. The tentative unit breakdown offers “about 1,300 apartments and condominiums and 250 town homes…including 3 to 4 story townhomes, 4 to 5 story multifamily dwellings, and up to 5 to 10 story dwellings over retail.”
JBG's other MoCo Metro-focused development projects in the works include Twinbrook Station and White Flint Crossing.
So, given the Council's traffic concerns, does the Glenmont MetroCenter stand a chance?
In JBG's favor is their emphasis on building a community designed for pedestrians and Metro users, with the county pushing for transit-oriented design. They also could benefit from the possibility that the county will build an interchange so that Georgia Avenue can run above Randolph Road. To the county's point: no matter how many sidewalks JBG builds, replacing 352 apartments with 1,500 residences and adding 90,000 s.f. of retail to boot will create more traffic at an intersection that is already a disaster at rush hour. But JBG might ask, if not at the Metro, where?