Will it be the tallest building in MoCo?

In case you missed this in yesterday’s weekly e-newsletter (and if you don’t want to miss our weekly informative e-blast, you can sign up at www.whiteflint.org) here’s the skinny on Saul Centers West.

Yippee and yahoo!! Saul Centers West will take the final step of the Planning Board approval process at the Planning Board’s June 2 meeting. Planning staff recommended approval with conditions of the Preliminary and Site Plans. The Planning Board approved the Sketch Plan for this project in May 2014.

The 300′ tall Saul Centers West will have 740,000 square feet of residential development for up to 655 apartments. 12.5% of them will be MPDUs. There will be up to 204,000 square feet for non-residential uses Seventeen percent of the land will be open space or space for public use including a Capital Bikeshare station, trees and greenery to buffer pedestrians from cars on Route 355, outdoor seating, and a cool fountain.

The building features retail and other nonresidential uses on the ground floor and a four-story underground garage with 415 parking spaces. An “L” shaped tower will be built on top of a six-story base to minimize obstruction to views of those who live in the The Grand which is next to Saul Centers West.

Saul Centers is also hoping for preliminary plan approval June 2 for Phases 2 and 3 of the project. Those phases include a residential high-rise south of the first building and an office building at the intersection of Rockville Pike and Nicholson Lane (The Porcelanosa store is not part Saul Centers West, and there are no current plans to redevelop that site.)

But enough words about Saul Centers West. Here’s what you really want — photos of this exciting and gorgeous project. (If you want more words — many more words — you can review the 81-page staff report by clicking here.)

How gorgeous is BF Saul’s Building A?

Last week at a public meeting and a couple of days ago at the White Flint Implementation Committee meeting, BF Saul introduced the public to their plans for their site located on the west side of Rockville Pike between Marinelli and Nicholson (where the McDonald’s currently offers Big Macs and nuggets.) And now, we’re happy to share these drawings with you.

Building A is heading for site plan approval and boasts 330 dwelling units (rental units) as well as 15,000 square feet of non-residential space. The architects aimed to maximize pedestrian feel with an iconic pedestrian plaza. Building A features a green roof and neutral colors. A low water feature will create white noise so outdoor diners won’t be disturbed by the cars driving on the Pike. The water feature is designed to be equally attractive in the winter when it’s too cold to run water. Building A will be anywhere from 210′ to 260′ away from the Grand.

And now, without further delay, the drawings of Building A!


What you missed at last night’s White Flint Implementation Committee Meeting

It was a rainy night so you wisely decided to stay home, throw on sweats, and catch up on an old series on Netflix rather than attend yesterday’s Implementation Committee Meeting.  No worries — here’s what you missed.
  1. An amendment to Pike and Rose Phase 2 concerning the addition of solar panels on their garage was approved.
  2. The Planning Board has not received any new applications. “It’s very quiet,” said Nkosi Yearwood.
  3. The Planning Board reviewed the Western Workaround Mandatory Referral and received a positive response from Department of Transportation.
  4. There is Master Bicycle Plan meeting October 6.
  5. White Flint 2 sector planning has kicked off with a meeting at Luxmanor and a meeting about school issues at WJ.  There will be many more WF2 planning meetings in the future.
  6. October 10 is the next meeting of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee
  7. The County Executive’s office will soon release the DOT traffic study for the Pike District.
  8. On October 19, there will be a Transportation Update/Open House, including the Western Workaround, bikeways, BRT, and the Conference Center garage.  (We’ll give you more details as they are available.)
  9. BF Saul presented their plans for Building A on the East Side on Route 355.  We’ll do a whole blog post on their plans, including drawings very soon.

MCDOT wants Saul Centers to scale their project back

Yesterday, BethesdaNow.com reported that the Maryland State Highway Administration and the County Department of Transportation have expressed concern about Saul Center’s proposed project on Rockville Pike.  The redevelopment of the Metro-Pike Plaza would offer three mixed-use buildings on the west side of Rockville Pike, between Nicholson Lane and Marinelli Drive.  Woodglen Drive is slated to extend north, between the Saul Property and The Grand apartment building to connect with Marinelli.

The concern stems from three streets that would run east-west from the extended Woodglen Drive to Rockville Pike – transportation officials are balking at building out these additional intersections when only one was designated in the White Flint Sector Plan.  Both county and state agencies are involved because Rockville Pike, or MD355, is a state road while the others are governed by the county.  Read the full piece on BethesdaNow.com here and see our history and information on the proposed project here.



So, we want to know what you think.  The added access between Woodglen and Executive could come at a hefty price tag – millions of dollars per intersection.  Is it worth it?  Let us know.


BF Saul presents improved design for Metro Pike Center

BF Saul proposes a pedestrian plaza along the west side of Rockville Pike.

BF Saul proposes a pedestrian plaza along the west side of Rockville Pike.

After public outcry over their earlier proposal, developer BF Saul is back with a new design for a mixed-use complex that will replace the Metro Pike Center shopping center and Staples at the intersection of Rockville Pike and Nicholson Lane. Over 60 people came to the monthly White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee meeting at the Shriver Aquatic Center to see it, though concerns remain about how the pedestrian-friendly the new buildings will be.

The Bethesda-based developer first revealed their plans to build 5 towers containing 1.4 million square feet of housing and 200,000 square feet of office and retail space on the combined 12-acre site in May. Residents complained that there was little street-level retail, discouraging people from walking around.

This time, however, 4 of the 5 towers will have ground-floor shops and restaurants, putting it along both sides of Rockville Pike and parts of Marinelli Road and Nicholson Lane. The developers hope this will create more sidewalk activity.

“We received a lot of good, constructive criticism about how to activate those public spaces,” said lawyer Robert Dalrymple from Linowes and Blocher. “One of the best ways to do that is through street level retail, which we are proposing.”

Site plan of BF Saul's proposal to replace Metro Pike Center with 5 mixed-use towers.

Site plan of BF Saul’s proposal to replace Metro Pike Center with 5 mixed-use towers.

BF Saul proposes creating a grand promenade along the west side of Rockville Pike, complimenting a linear park on the east side above the Red Line, which runs so close to the surface that buildings can’t be built directly above it. It will contain a plaza with fountains, gardens, trees, benches for sitting and gathering, and outdoor seating for restaurants.

The promenade will have an “active, lively urbane” feel, “attracting people to come and encouraging them to linger,” says Michael Vergason, landscape architect. It will get wider closer to the Metro, taking advantage of a high point on Rockville Pike with long views.

Beyond the plaza will be 2 300-foot residential towers closer to the White Flint Metro station that share underground parking. A third, 200-foot office tower closer to Nicholson Lane will sit atop a “podium” of parking that will make it appear taller.

In keeping with the White Flint Sector Plan’s call for a new street grid, BF Saul will extend Woodglen Drive north from Nicholson to Marinelli, with 2 smaller streets linking it to Rockville Pike. Woodglen will be lined with street trees and apartments with “real doors,” giving it a quiet, residential feel while masking the above-ground parking garages.

“There are going to be steps and stoops and pots and plants to make Woodglen a nice residential street,” says Daniel Ashtary, architect with Silver Spring-based Torti Gallas and Partners, who is also designing the Gables development next to Wall Park.

On the east side, there will be 2 residential towers measuring 300 and 240 feet tall with underground parking surrounding a shared driveway. A new street will run behind them, connecting the Pike to Citadel Avenue.

Residents had many questions about traffic, pedestrian safety, and the need for larger, family-sized apartments in the area. One man asked if current businesses, like Staples and Kinko’s, will be able to come back after the shopping center is demolished.

Brian Downie, Senior Vice President of Development for BF Saul, didn’t rule it out but said the new development will emphasize more restaurants “because that’s what activates the street.”

Neighboring property owners expressed concerns about the extension of Woodglen Drive, which would connect this project to JBG’s North Bethesda Market to the south and Federal Realty’s Pike + Rose to the north.

“It’s a really important street,” added Evan Goldman of Federal Realty. “I’d like to see some focus on that.” He recommended that BF Saul work with the Grand Apartments, which is directly behind their project, to nudge Woodglen to the west so it could connect with streets in Pike + Rose.

Greg Trimmer of JBG suggested making the promenade a little narrower and giving the extra width to Woodglen so it could accommodate wider bike lanes or sidewalks. This would also make the promenade more attractive to retailers. In downtown Silver Spring, there’s no shortage of empty retail spaces behind gorgeous pocket parks, simply because the distance from the street discourages pedestrians from walking over.

However, the new design has promise, and it’ll be exciting to see how it continues to evolve. Downie says the “market will dictate” when construction begins. BF Saul will file a sketch plan with the Montgomery County Planning Board later this summer; if the approval process goes smoothly, construction could begin within 2 years, and the first building could open within 5 years.