Developer Q&A: Elm Street Vice President Doug Flanagan
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The upper Montgomery County area features a host of master-planned communities that combine multifamily buildings, townhouses, commercial space and public amenities. One of those developments is underway on Century Boulevard in Germantown.
The 55-acre site, formerly the Orbital Sciences Campus, received county approval in 2016 for nearly 500 residential units, 300K SF of office space and a hotel. Trammell Crow in 2016 sold the residential portion of the site to Elm Street Development.
Elm Street, an active residential developer with projects throughout the D.C. region, has now completed two of the five apartment buildings planned for the site, with the remainder set to deliver in the coming months. Bisnow caught up with Elm Street Vice President Doug Flanagan to hear the latest on the project.
Bisnow: I saw that Trammell Crow had previously owned this Century Boulevard site but sold it to Elm Street before construction began. When exactly did you acquire it?
Flanagan: We actually bought it in the spring of 2016. We bought the residential portion of it, the part that was planned for townhomes and apartments.
Bisnow: What drew Elm Street to this site? What attributes did you find attractive for this type of development?
Flanagan: We think that area of Germantown, that Century Boulevard area, is going to see some serious redevelopment. This is the first big project to lead that phase of redevelopment. It is an interesting opportunity from a development standpoint to put in residential. Having both apartments and townhome projects is a good mix, a good way to bring some different product to the area. It's a great location just off I-270, which makes it easy for people commuting to get off one of the two exits right there. You also have Germantown Town Center nearby.
Bisnow: Has Elm Street developed any projects in that area before?
Flanagan: We've done a couple projects in Clarksburg, which is about 10 minutes away. Elm Street did all of Clarksburg Village, which was a huge, master-planned community. I did The Elms at Clarksburg Village. This one is called The Elms at Century, so it's a similar apartment project.
Bisnow: What exactly is planned for the Century Boulevard site? How many apartments and townhouses are you building?
Flanagan: It's 168 townhouses and 28 two-over-two condos on one side of the project, the for-sale side. On the other side of the project, we have 300 apartment units. Both of those parcels run along Century Boulevard. On the back of the job, there is a 10-acre commercial site.
Bisnow: Is a separate developer working on the commercial portion?
Flanagan: Trammell Crow sold that piece separately from us to someone who’s going to be doing commercial development. It’s not a developer per se. From my understanding, it was a gentleman who had a lot of money and is making an investment.
Bisnow: Does your site have any retail or public spaces?
Flanagan: There’s no retail on the residential sites. There’s some public amenities, like a park and things like that. There’s a little bit of open space in the front of the project.
The community also has a nature trail, an exercise trail that runs along the back. Part of it is in the woods, a wood chip trail, and part of it is asphalt and not in the woods. Along the asphalt trail we’re going to have exercise stations where you can do workouts, along with two music stations.
Bisnow: What are music stations?
Flanagan: It’s like large musical instruments people can go and play music. It's for kids like built-in xylophones and drums and things like that.
Bisnow: What is the timeline for this development? Is any of the residential under construction now?
Flanagan: Actually the apartment community is open right now, we’ve got people living there already. It’s not completely finished, but two of the five buildings in the apartment complex are completed, and we should be finishing up apartment construction in January. So we'll have all 300 opened by that point.
As far as townhouse construction, they’re probably close to halfway done or under construction. We sold about 112 lots already to Pulte, who is doing the building, who is building all the for-sale townhouses and two-over-twos.
Bisnow: What is the unit makeup of your apartment buildings?
Flanagan: For the apartments, roughly we have about 100 one-bedrooms, 50 three-bedrooms and 150 two-bedrooms. That’s all rounded numbers. Then we have a number of units that have loft options and bonus rooms and things like that. They're not all standard one-bedrooms, they've got some other add-ons.
Bisnow: What types of amenities do the buildings have?
Flanagan: It's got a clubroom, fitness center, yoga studio, swimming pool, outdoor living space, fire pit and grills. There is storage available and garages available for the residents to rent, and there's a tot lot.
Bisnow: What are the typical demographics of the residents who have rented apartments at the project thus far?
Flanagan: From the rental standpoint we have all sorts, the whole spectrum. A lot of families, a lot of singles, all the types of renters you could think of in the apartments. From what I understand, the homebuyers on the townhouse side is a little different, more first-time homebuyers. That’s what we’re seeing there. The price point in Germantown is appealing compared to Gaithersburg, so we’re getting a lot of people who are renting in Rockville or Gaithersburg going out on the 270 corridor until they get a price point they’re happy with.
Bisnow: Does this part of the I-270 corridor also have community amenities that are attracting people?
Flanagan: Yeah, especially in the Germantown area, you’ve got huge, area-wide attractions like Topgolf. That's opening this month or next month across the street from our project. That’s a huge sign the area is growing and can be an attraction rather than just a bedroom community. And the whole Germantown Town Center there’s a lot there for people to enjoy.
Bisnow: I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on the Corridor Cities Transitway. This bus rapid transit system was planned to go right past your site, but Maryland in September removed the project from its transportation budget, essentially killing it for the foreseeable future. Do you think this transitway would have been valuable for your site, and what were your thoughts on the state's decision not to fund it?
Flanagan: Any time you’re able to add dedicated transit to an area, it’s going to be a benefit to everyone there. So yeah, it would be great to have it, but it’s not something we were counting on to make or break the project. Whenever it does come, we’ll have the apartments built so it will be a boost for those, but until then, we’ll wait patiently for it. We were prepared when we were doing this project for it to not happen right now. We did dedicate a substantial piece of property on our site to accommodate that transitway, but so far right now it’s just going to be a nice green space for anybody in the community, so there’s a benefit for that too.
Bisnow: So without transit I take it most of your residents will rely on cars, right? Do you have sufficient parking to accommodate that?
Flanagan: We’ve got plenty of parking for the apartments, more than 1.6 spaces per unit, and the townhouses have space for at least two cars per house.