First Crane Rises to Build a Shiny New Pearl in Silver Spring's Blairs Redevelopment

A site not seen in nearly 60 years: grassy fields and wide-open spaces in the foreground as highrise towers create a dramatic backdrop. This is the scene at the site of the first phase of the Blairs redevelopment in downtown Silver Spring.

Low-rise residential buildings built in 1959 have given way to what will become a pair of residential towers reaching 18 and 14 stories high.

The developer, Rockville-based The Tower Companies has owned the 28 acre Blairs site since 1958. The development's name comes from the family who founded Silver Spring back in 1842 and the land is where their estate once stood, so there is plenty of history behind the name Blairs. The area is also getting a modern makeover like it did when it first opened decades ago. To stay competitive against a flurry of residential units that have been recently built in downtown Silver Spring, Tower Comapanies is moving at a fast clip. The company was issued a permit in October 2014 to demolish what used to be four cross-shaped residential buildings. Less than a year later, a crane rises 160 feet from a hole a two floors below grade.

The Pearl Site at the Blairs Redevelopment in Silver-Spring

In proper urban form, the below grade space will become an underground parking garage, out-of-sight and out of mind of pedestrians and residents who will really enjoy walking between the new gleaming towers that will create visual interest from above and contain street activating amenity spaces below. More importantly, the car won't be necessary with office jobs and innovative businesses nearby. That’s why the Tower Companies reduced the amount of parking spaces. It's the only way to go into the high-density urban district that makes up downtown Silver Spring.

Tower Companies has teamed up with another Montgomery County firm to build the first of two residential buildings to be called The Pearl. Bethesda-based construction giant, Clark Construction is the lead contractor in what will become 284 rental units. According to Sri Velamati, Vice President – Development at Tower Companies it will also contain a 33,000 square foot interior and exterior amenity space for residents and guests according. The crown jewel amenity for the building will include a floating wellness center. While the project is aiming for LEED Gold Certification, residents' needs are at the top of the list for the Tower Companies.

“Our approach is more wellness related than trying to hit some points on a LEED score card. Frankly we don't really think that addresses how people live, so we're trying to modify the approach to lean more towards really classifying what people need and providing those types of amenities” said Velamati.

The building designed by Baltimore-based architectural firm, the Design Collective, will have expansive views of both Rock Creek Park and Washington, D.C.

The Pearl will actually be the anchor of the existing development until all of the other structures are built. It will be the “go to” spot for the community that will eventually contain 2,800 residential units but don't expect mirco-units. Mr. Velamati also said that “the [units] will be larger than the competitive market in Montgomery County and Silver Spring. So on average they will be about a 100 square feet larger than most of the properties in the area.”

The Pearl at Silver Spring is expected to be completed in late 2016.

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