Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rock Spring Centre developer wants to "begin construction as soon as possible" (Photos)

One of Bethesda's longest-stalled developments may start moving forward soon. Steve Robins of Lerch, Early & Brewer, representing developer DRI, says the company wants to "begin construction as soon as possible" on the 1,050,000 SF mixed-use center. He outlined the firm's plans at a public meeting on the Rock Spring master plan held at Walter Johnson High School last night.

Located on a now partially-wooded site bordered by Rock Spring Drive to the south, Rockledge Drive to the west, the I-270 spur to the north, and Old Georgetown Road to the east, the project is almost identical to the one that former development partner Peterson Cos. backed out of in the fall of 2012.

There will be 549,900 SF of office space, 210,000 SF of retail, 90,000 SF of below-ground entertainment space (minus the Silverspot Theatres, which were no longer viable after ArcLight Cinemas and iPic Theatres opened nearby), a 200-room hotel, and 161 apartments. This means that the project remains truly mixed-use, in comparison to the not-so-smart-growth trend of deleting office space in Montgomery County.

One resident in the crowd asked if Walter Johnson students would skip class to patronize the entertainment options at Rock Spring Centre. "We hope they will," Chuck Irish of the engineering firm VIKA joked to laughter. Robins used the light moment to segue into a serious discussion of the pedestrian safety aspects of the plan, particularly how they relate to WJ. The median on Rock Spring Drive will be extended the length of the street to Rockledge, and a pedestrian barrier will prevent any crossing other than at controlled intersections.
Michael Perucci of DRI (far left) and
attorney Steve Robins (right) present
Rock Spring Centre plans
Robins also said that an easement for a future Bus Rapid Transit line is already built-in to their plan.

The time frame for that plan has been the question on the minds of many of my readers.

Michael Perucci, Development Manager at DRI, said, "We're in talks with an investor" who will take the place of the now-departed partner Peterson. Perucci said he expects that unnamed investor will be on-board in about a month. The company will then go to the building design phase, he said.

Robins noted that the delay can't go on forever, because DRI has existing approvals that will expire if the development isn't built within their time frame.

"Where are those kids going to school," one resident asked of the 161 apartments. "We're already at 120%" of capacity, she said. Perucci told several concerned residents after the meeting that he has attended all of the Rock Spring meetings, and fully understands their concerns about school overcrowding, having attended Montgomery County schools in portable classrooms himself. He said that even though developers have to pay fees for school construction, they have no control over where the County ultimately spends those dollars.

I asked Perucci about the future of the 90,000 SF entertainment space, now that the theater won't happen. He said it is too early to predict what type of tenants might end up down there, or if the company will even build out the full 90,000 SF. He did say DRI expects "a mix of national retailers and mom-and-pops. A mixture of restaurants, apparel, [and] maybe a grocer."

The renderings of this project, created by the Boston firm Arrowstreet, look fantastic. Let's hope the final designs resemble this, or are even better.

It would be great if they got a tenant like Dave and Buster's or a bowling alley for the underground entertainment space. Neither type of business requires windows. (Although it couldn't likely be D&B, as they've already signed on at Ellsworth Place in Silver Spring.) Pinstripes is going to open up the road at Pike & Rose. I believe Jillian's is down to a couple of California locations at this point. Lucky Strike?

Add your suggestions for entertainment tenants in the comments below.

Later in the meeting, McLean Quinn, Vice President of Land Acquisition and Development at EYA, announced that 19 of the 168 luxury townhomes at the firm's Montgomery Row development have been sold. He said you can expect to see the first homes rising out of the ground at the site at Fernwood Road and Rock Spring Drive in the next 2-3 weeks.

The site had previously been slated for a 439,063 SF office building under an out-of-state owner, before being purchased by EYA.

Renderings courtesy DRI/Arrowstreet
All rights reserved

Photo by Robert Dyer


Flynn said...

Only 161 apartments? Look at Pike & Rose dead all the time because there's really only the one apartment building servicing the retail. They need more housing to be truly mixed use. It's great they are sticking to the office space. but it's not truly live/work/play without housing. :(

Weren't there all those studies showing how few children apartment buildings put into the school system? Especially compared to SFH?

Anonymous said...

This will hopefully bring a few decent restaurants too. Plus, the ancient center across the street where Giant and Not Your Average Joe's is desperately needs to be blown up. It's mostly crappy stores and is starting to look like the center next to Westlake PO across from Home Depot. Not very attractive put it that way.
The Camalier family, who owns this site which is nearly 80 acres are smart and wealthy. They had the financial wherewithal to wait for the best deal for the site that was their summer home/farm. Plus, when the developer backed out before, they sued and won. Traffic of course becomes a real problem. Another mini town center. Too bad Marriott can't move around the corner to this site. It's just a little shy of what they need space wise.

G. Money said...

I don't really get this project - isn't that right near some already failing (or at least empty) office space? And not exactly Metro accessible. Who knows though, maybe with all the residential development along 355 this can work?

I like the bowling alley idea, since the Westbard lanes seem to be under threat of extinction. Of course, I'd rather have a bowling alley stay in Westbard, but what can you do?

Robert Dyer said...

5:08: I think PerSei is probably drawing fewer families with children initially because the full build-out of Pike & Rose isn't complete. There isn't much park or recreation space right now for young kids on the site. I would anticipate more kids in PerSei and Pallas once Phase 2 is built out. In contrast, Westwood Towers, Kenwood Place, etc. in 20816 generate higher numbers of students than the average apartment building. Interestingly, the EYA presentation made it sound like they are getting more kids in the Montgomery Row development (Walter Johnson cluster) than their Little Falls Place project (BCC cluster). Is there more demand for WJ than BCC? That's an interesting question.

Robert Dyer said...

G. Money, I did ask Michael Berfield of Equity One about the potential of keeping Bowlmor at "The New Westwood". He said they would definitely be open to having Bowlmor return in the new retail space. Obviously, it's too early to know, but it sounded like they haven't necessarily ruled out keeping that kind of large entertainment tenant.

Anonymous said...

Pike & Rose is already dying. Do we really need another?

Anonymous said...

6:02 You a truly brain dead. P&R is on the upswing as it is still under-development. If you'd take your head out the sand you would see that it is a work in progress. Show me one other new development that is still under construction that's dead. Crown was lack luster when it started, but raise your head and look at it now.

Anonymous said...

The concept drawings are shades of Reston Town Center. Still not a magnet for Marriott.

Anonymous said...

there's a reason this seemingly premier location has been passed on by several developers (remember Canyon Ranch?)...there's no demand for new office space in moco and certainly little need for more retail/entertainment areas with the mall down the street and 14 other town centers up the pike.

A replacement for Giant (one of the worst grocery shopping experiences around) would be nice however.

Anonymous said...

Mixed-use development, with high-rises, proposed for an area that is 2.2 miles from the nearest Metro station (Grosvenor).

This is a very good sign for the redevelopment of Westbard, which is only 1.2 miles away from the Friendship Heights Metro station, and 1.9 miles away from the Bethesda Metro station.

Anonymous said...

It's the price point on the TH affecting families vs not so many families. These start at 800 vs. 1.1 million. If you want a comparison in the same school cluster, ask EYA how the Grosvenor Heights THIS are selling.

Robert Dyer said...

10:08: No, it's not a good sign for Westbard, adjacent to single-family homes on every border, and over a mile from any Metro station as you acknowledge. Wake up and smell the zoning code.

Anonymous said...

So this is 2 miles away from metro. So it's worse right?

Anonymous said...

They need to build a shortcut road between River Road in the vicinity of Little Falls Parkway, and the big curve on the western portion of Willard Avenue. That would bring down the distance between Westbard and the Friendship Heights Metro station to about 0.7 to 0.9 miles.

Robert Dyer said...

1:15: No it's not near Metro, but remember this is an already approved plan that came from a time when the County was actually serious about extending rail transit into the Rock Spring area. It is also not an area as residential in character as "Westbard", has direct access to the Interstate, and is in a office park.

Anonymous said...

"In talks with an investor" and "begin construction as soon as possible" seem to be a bit at odds. :(. Hopefully they secure financing and start soon!

peter said...

re: Anon @7:44 -- a point I would argue here is that there is a fairly large portion of office space in MoCo that is not within reasonable walking distance of Metro, that is probably pending replacement in the next 5-10 years already. I would cast an eye at the office buildings centering on Executive Blvd as the logical next targets in that neighborhood.

GSA for example scores this very highly when looking at its space requirements. Example 1: the massive redevelopment of 5600 Fishers Lane by JBG, which is also going to bring AHRQ and SAMHSA into the space HHS already rents. Example 2: the equally-massive development of the new NIH space across the street from 5600 that consolidated a lot of off-campus NIH stuff.

If anything, all the development centered around Metro is what will keep, say, Marriott in MoCo. Frankly it will not surprise me if that new space lands in White Flint close to the Metro, or even in downtown Bethesda.