Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Ever-Shrinking Galaxy

Silver Spring commercial real estate newsA long time ago (2005), in The Galaxy far, far away (Silver Spring), Scott Copeland, owner of RST Development, began RST Development, Silver Spring real estate, commercial property newspushing the idea for a 328-unit, 700-parking space condominium development through the Montgomery County application process.
The Galaxy isn't the first project undertaken by RST Development in the Silver Spring neighborhood bounded by Eastern Avenue, 13th and King Streets. In 2004, RST converted the vacant, 15 story office building at 8060 13th St into Gramax Towers, a 182 unit apartment complex. Copeland's company began planning the renovation of the Williams and Willste buildings—two abandoned office buildings on the north side of Eastern Avenue, into the Aurora Condominiums that same year.AR Meyers architect, Silver Spring
In 2005, in the wake of these successful projects, The Galaxy of downtown Silver Spring was born. But by early 2008, the condo market in Silver Springs was not what it used to be and the A.R. Meyer's & Associates - designed condo project shrunk in to a more modest, 241-unit complex with 430 underground parking spaces.

Fast forward to the not-so-distant future date of December 3rd, 2009 and the Montgomery County Planning board is expected to approve two new amendments to The Galaxy development plan - the first splits the project into two phases and the second reduces the number of parking spaces.

The good news, according to Montgomery County Senior Planner, Sandra Pereira, is that "there will still be 3,366 s.f. of ground floor retail." She adds that Phase 1 of the project will not only include "a five story building, but also recreation and public use space" which adds up to 25,816 square feet of space for the public.
A public parking component has been at the center of The Galaxy plans from its beginning. But RST's newest amendment will once again reduce the amount of available parking spaces - this time from 430 spaces to 368. Pereira assures us that this change is quite minor when compared to past amendments and that public parking will still be a component of the development but will now be "divided so that 160 spaces Washington DC real estate newsare public and 208 are private."
Despite the assurances, it's noteworthy that the only feature of the Galaxy project to experience a growth spurt in the recent months is the percentage of available moderately priced dwellings units (MPDUs).
In an effort to strengthen an application for 9% tax credits, RST Development went before the Montgomery Housing Opportunities Commission (MHOC) in September for approval to transfer 27 project-based vouchers from the Gramax Towers to The Galaxy. Susan Yancy from the MHOC confirms that "101 Galaxy units" available in Phase 1 of the development "will be offered at an affordable, 30% AMI rate," meaning that roughly 42% of Galaxy's 241 rental units will be available as MPDUs. That's quite a jump, considering RST's original 2005 plan only met the minimum MPDU requirement of 12.5%. And what was once being billed as a swanky new condo development is now going all rental.
Whether or not construction will ever begin on the four story, 46-unit second phase of development remains to be seen. No date for Phase 2's construction has been set. That said, RST Development is pushing forward into the subcontracting stage of Phase 1 despite the setbacks in the market so far. 

Silver Spring commercial real estate news


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