MoCo Goes Urban
It ain’t your mom’s Montgomery County anymore. Now it's competing with the enticements of the city—bright lights and action. A huge shift is on its way, with enormous real estate implications. That’s why we’re excited to be holding our summit tomorrow morning on the future of MoCo. Please join us!
A sneak preview from our panelists:
MoCo Planning Director Gwen Wright says the county’s new zoning code, introduced in October, is the biggest change in 50 years, encouraging more density, infill, TOD, mixed-use, and even better looking architecture. She says MoCo is try to shed its reputation as a “bedroom community” and zeroing in on urban earmarks like street-front retail.
Cooper Carry architect David Kitchens (in his Alexandria office Monday) agrees MoCo is a “former suburb” being urbanized—via the kind of walkability he’s helping infuse into a 1950s strip mall area at Chevy Chase Lake. He says the Purple Line, which depending on political decisions could break ground in 2018 and add 16 stations from Bethesda to New Carrollton, would make the region more interactive.
With numerous TOD projects to his firm’s name in Bethesda and Rockville, JBG’s Tony Greenberg says the challenge for developers is creating well-located suburban infill yet maintaining affordability.
JBGR Retail Managing Partner Grant Ehat (in his snow day open collar yesterday) will be talking about how his firm developed the curbside retail at Downtown Crown in Gaithersburg, creating an urban sensibility without being near a Metro. The market validated the accomplishment: last month, Retail Properties of America purchased Crown’s 258k SF retail component for $162M. Next up: JBG and JBGR a are back to building near a Metro: the Galvan and Terano apartments and retail at Twinbrook Metro.
Monument Realty’s Doug Olson (also valiantly in the office yesterday) agrees that smart growth doesn’t mean you have to be next to a Metro station. For those in search of an established community with green space, Monument is entitling 400 to 600 residential units (mainly townhomes) to be developed on the former Montgomery Village Golf Club site three miles east of 270, where they’ll reserve more than 80 acres as parkland. He calls it “smart infill,” limiting sprawl and promoting property values.
New Chevy Chase Land Co president Tom Regnell, snapped at ICSC’s National Harbor conference yesterday, notes that MoCo gained 100,000 residents in the last 10 years: “Any other county in America would be pining for this.” Their own 1M SF MoCo office portfolio is well-stabilized because it’s close-in on Wisconsin and Connecticut with easy Metro access and walkable amenities. And they’re planning for another 700k to 1.5M SF of retail and multifamily, depending on the fate of the Purple Line.
Foulger Pratt development president Brigg Bunker has another example of a smart growth, mixed-use community not on top of Metro: the latest phase of Park Potomac, 120k SF of traditional office and 25k retail, where you can avoid Rockville Pike and have easy access to a lifestyle center for people who choose to drive.
Just to make us feel warmer, here's EYA's Bob Youngentob, right, celebrating the firm's 20th anniversary three years ago. He'll be on hand tomorrow, with more layers of clothes, to explain the infill strategy they’ve followed in developing 4,600 townhomes in and around MoCo.
Chesapeake Public Strategies’ Ellen Bogage (center, with Maryland Secretary of Management and Budget David Brinkley and MoCo Council member Nancy Floreen) will talk about how businesses can best work with local government and communities to change and energize landscape and culture. Other stars will join us from Percontee, Wormald and Shulman Rogers. We hope you will, too. Last call for tomorrow!