Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wheaton Plans Rearranged


Ask anyone involved in Montgomery County's Wheaton Redevelopment Program (WRP) and you will hear how the new Wheaton Safeway will lie at the heart of the County's pedestrian-friendly, retail-oriented vision. And it will, though the original plans to include it in the AvalonBay development are now defunct with Safeway opting to renovate the current location and add up to 18 stories of residential. More of a challenge than the developers of Avalon at Wheaton were bargaining for, the project is now on hold, much to the surprise of county officials. Just when Wheaton's development was at risk of becoming ho-hum, the county has stepped in with its own share of development melodrama rife with project delays, excess residential units and a fickle Safeway.

Having cornered the market on apartment complexes from Bethesda to McLean, the Alexandria-based AvalonBay developers set their sights on a new Wheaton community. With County approval, the $100 million, mixed-use Avalon at Wheaton community at the corner of Blueridge and Georgia Avenue, the site of the former BB&T building, was to include the newly revamped, state-of-the-art Safeway. The residential portion of the Avalon project is designed by SK&I. That was before Safeway began working with developer Patriot Realty. Now, the Wheaton Safeway, a joint venture between Patriot and Safeway, will more than double its 23,000 s.f. store while remaining at the same 11201 Georgia Avenue spot.

According to Steven A. Robins, Patriot Realty’s attorney from Bethesda- based law firm Lerch Early & Brewer, keeping the Safeway in its original location made good sense as “Safeway already owns the land.” And because the current Safeway is situated across from the Wheaton Metro at what Robins describes as “the Ground Zero so to speak [of the Wheaton Redevelopment Plan],” it will be conveniently incorporated into the new pedestrian-friendly promenades designated in the WRP's plans. The group is looking for approvals as soon as possible for their Safeway project. “We’d like to be under construction within the next 18 months,” Robins tells DCMud.

Robins explained that Patriot's newly developed Safeway will be LEED certified in accordance with Montgomery County standards, and will include 57,500 s.f. of retail, 140 underground parking spaces for Safeway customers, upwards of 500 apartment units on top of that, and additional 411 residential parking spaces. The Wheaton store will resemble DC’s 14-story City Vista Safeway at 5th & K Streets NW. The architects for the Wheaton store are Hord Coplan Macht.

So what’s to become of the Avalon at Wheaton Community without its intended anchor? And really, will there be a market for the hundreds of extra AvalonBay apartment units now that Patriot Realty is adding upwards of 18-stories of rental units across from the Metro?

When asked about their future Avalon at Wheaton plans, AvalonBay spokesman, Adam Davis replied by email explaining that the Wheaton development “is still in our pipeline,” but “has been delayed for the foreseeable future.” He added that 2011 might be a more realistic year than 2010 for construction to begin on any new Avalon at Wheaton community.

When Rob Klein, Director of Wheaton's Redevelopment, was presented with news of AvalonBay's delays, he commented that the delayed status was "new to him." According to Peter McGinnity, WRP Business Development & Intergovernmental Program Manager, as far as their staff knows, the AvalonBay project "is moving forward," and they were under the impression that AvalonBay planned to "increase the number of apartment units and include less ground floor retail" now that the Safeway was out of the picture.

5 comments:

dave on Oct 15, 2009, 12:50:00 PM said...

It will be pretty ironic if the Safeway/Patriot plans kill AvalonBay. First AvalonBay can't go forward w/o a zoning change. That gets done by way of an amendment supported by the community. Then the economy tanks. Now Safeway wants to build a much larger apartment building on their own land. Amazing.

I hope Safeway/Patriot can get this done. It would be a huge first step towards redevelopment for Wheaton. And in the long run, if it lifts Wheaton generally it could benefit the rental rates at AvalonBay's community. Certainly AvalonBay weren't banking on being the only piece of redevelopment.

Best case scenario - AvalonBay replaces grocery on first floor w/ a Borders Books.
Worst case scenario (and more likely I fear) - Safeway/Patriot project delays AvalonBay a few more years and ultimately never gets built.

Anonymous said...

Patriot's building in Silver Spring is an architectural abortion. There's no likelyhood that this will be any better. They should be stopped from building any other community atrocities.

Safeway will sully their name partnering with these losers.

Anonymous said...

Rob Klein didn't know AvalonBay is on hold. Are you kidding me!?! His job is Director of Wheaton's Redevelopment. That's his only full time job as far as I know. I guess we're to assume that AvalonBay was giving him and Peter McGinnity a different story than they gave you. Either way, it seems like someone is not doing their job very well.

Anonymous said...

So, this is "smart" growth. Another 411 owner/occupant parking spaces right next to a METRO station. The reason we should put development next to METRO is so apartment owners will use the subway, not their cars. Georgia Ave, Viers Mill Rd and University Blvd are already way over capacity. Let's build a city, not gridlock.

Eric on Oct 16, 2009, 12:08:00 AM said...

This is smart growth as it can and should be done in the suburbs. If it weren't there would be TWO parking spaces for every proposed unit. Even in DC it is expected that large projects like this provide at least one parking space per unit since not everybody is going to just give up their car suddenly. It is Wheaton Metro. It is expected that most people will still own cars considering not everything is as accessible as, say, downtown Silver Spring, Bethesda, or Pentagon City. But just because they own cars doesn't mean that they will be using them to drive EVERYWHERE. Many people in the DC area that live on Metro own cars, but only use them every now and then. Also, most of the people going to that Safeway are going to be driving. They're coming from the neighborhoods around Wheaton which are accessible only by car for most (or a VERY long walk). I should know, I live quite nearby.

 

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