Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lowe Enterprises to Convert Wheaton Office Building to Residential High-Rise

Continuing Wheaton's rapid transformation from a withering suburb to a residential development hotspot, California-based Lowe Enterprises submitted a sketch plan to Montgomery County planners at the end of January that would transform the 5-story Computer Building at 11411 Georgia Avenue in Wheaton from a modest five-story office building into a 14-story residential high-rise.

The site, which Lowe purchased last fall for just over $8.2 million, is nestled between the Archstone Wheaton Station Apartments and the Metro Point Apartments, and across Reedie from the already approved 17-story Safeway/residential project from Patriot Realty. Two blocks down, Washington Property Co. is building 221 units on the former site of the First Baptist Church of Wheaton. Up a block is the Wheaton Metro station, whose bus bays are to be converted by B.F. Saul into an office complex. B.F. Saul is also consulting with the county about converting Wheaton Triangle, right across Georgia, into a massive mixed-use development that would bring nearly a million square feet of office space, retail, a hotel, and a public plaza to the area.

Interestingly, developers plan to build onto the existing building 11411 Georgia, rather than demolish and start from scratch.

"The building has very good bones," says Mark Rivers, Senior Vice President at Lowe Enterprises, by way of explanation. "The concrete structure can easily support the additional floors. It would just be a waste of time, money, and landfill space to tear it down and rebuild. Also, this building is narrow for an office building - about 60 feet wide. Residential buildings are generally narrower than office buildings, so that was a nice bit of luck."

The sketch plan application promises to "substantially transform the building aesthetic through comprehensive facade changes," listing balconies, vertical bays, and a "strong vertical element" at the northwest corner of the building, to lend it a "distinguishable identity." Developers intend to convert the building from glazed brick and boxy to "a contemporary slender tower clad in composite panels, glass and masonry." The Bonstra Haresign-designed tower will include up to 200 studios and one-bedroom dwellings, as well as 60-plus parking spaces on-site (though zoning doesn't require any).

Developers haven't yet decided if they'll include retail space on the ground floor, though they have plenty of time to decide, as construction is targeted for the beginning of next year. Though another residential tower in the area might seem excessive, developers, following a familiar blueprint, are confident that the expanding housing market in Wheaton will organically lead to an increase in demand for retail. Since county planners adopted the new, updated Wheaton Sector Plan in 2010, which aimed to revitalize the moribund area, development in Wheaton has revved up to high gear, even leading local uberdeveloper Leonard Greenberg to compare the area to Adams Morgan.

Wheaton, Maryland real estate development news


Dan Reed on Mar 13, 2012, 5:54:00 PM said...

Great post, but how is Wheaton an "exurb"? We're not talking about Leesburg, here. Perhaps "suburb" would've been more appropriate?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this development is like a mile outside the beltway, not the middle of VA.

Critically Urban on Mar 14, 2012, 10:44:00 AM said...

Looks like they changed it to "suburb" by the time I read. Growing up in Silver Spring two miles south, I certainly am familiar with this building and am glad to see it being adapted for reuse as a residential highrise.

Payton on Mar 15, 2012, 12:11:00 AM said...

Wow, good on them to actually consider adding the floors above instead of just scraping. Maintaining the existing structure truly is the environmentally superior choice.

Anonymous said...

Amazing that the original building's structure (especially the foundations) can support such a large addition, but if so, all the more cheers to Lowe for keeping it.

Anonymous said...


chesterfield va real estate on May 16, 2012, 6:45:00 AM said...

It is informative post. A better option would have been to encourage low rise attached homes such as town homes. Everything is perfect in this post.

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