Friday, September 05, 2008

Ripley District Inching Towards Reality

The first domino in Silver Spring's bid to create its' own boutique neighborhood - the so-called Ripley District - is finally falling into place. Formerly home to a derelict strip of parking garages and auto body shops, demolition has begun to make way for the Lessard Group-designed 1050 Ripley Street high-rise. Concepts for the mixed-use, 17-story tower have been bandied since 2006, but the developer behind the project, Washington Planning Company, is now shooting to break ground this coming fall (although a BID for contractors has yet to be issued). The project is currently slated for a late 2010 delivery.

The Ripley District is defined as the triangular parcel of downtown Silver Spring between Bonifant Street, Georgia Avenue and the B & O Railroad. 1050 Ripley marks the first major construction project within the district’s borders since 1993 and is to be the centerpiece of the forthcoming district. A Washington Planning Company press release illuminated some previously unknown but anticipated details about the 306,114 square foot apartment and retail center, including the inclusion of “a state-of-the-art fitness center and pool, a stadium-style movie room, billiards lounge, rooftop terrace, as well as an underground parking garage.”

While 1050 Ripley is certainly biggest thing headed to the neighborhood-in-training, it is by no means the only development underway to invigorate the area. According to the Silver Spring Central Business District Sector Plan released earlier this year, key touchstones of the Ripley District also include the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center and Metropolitan Branch Trail, which will begin in a new Ripley District plaza and run for 8 miles before ending at Union Station.

The plans on hand also call for the addition of more pedestrian and vehicular access to the Metro and the extension and/or widening of several thoroughfares, including Dixon Avenue and Ripley Street itself. Virginia developer Kettler had shuttered their own proposal for another high-rise residential and retail facility on Ripley Street. That project - the Midtown Silver Spring - has not gone forward, despite receiving preliminary approval.

For some, the slow gestation of the Ripley District is taking too much time. Pyramid Atlantic, a local print artisan, recently moved their storefront from the Ripley area to more high-visibility space on Wayne Avenue. It remains to be seen whether rebranding a once unappealing area – ala “North Bethesda” (Rockville) and the "Atlas District” (H Street NE) - will sink or swim as a marketing strategy for Silver Spring’s next emerging neighborhood.


Anonymous said...

Home Properties bought the Midtown project from Kettler so hopefully they will make that one a go and give this area the critical mass of residents to speed up redevelopment of the rest of the district. God knows it needs it.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, a key benefit proposed for the Ripley District in the Central Business District Sector Plan is to connect Georgia Avenue to E-W Hwy. None of the plans show any connections crossing the railroad/metro tracks so pedestrians in the future (as now) have no way of getting across the tracks for almost a mile. It is incredibly inconvenient for people living in the high rises on EW highway to get to, for example, the downtown Silver Spring revitalized area.

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