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.