First Residential Project for Great Seneca Science Corridor Gets Early Nod

Image by KTGY Architects and Woodfield Investments

A Virginia residential developer is proposing to tear down an existing office building on Key West Avenue in Rockville, and replace it with as much as 650 multi-family residential units that would most likely end up as apartments.

The developer, Woodfield Investments of Arlington is experienced exclusively in multifamily residential developments and wants residential infill on the Bureau of National Affairs site. The project being marketed as Mallory Square, would be the first residential use in an area dominated by financial and medical institutions, including the National Cancer Institute Headquarters under construction on the site of Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

The $160 million project would sprawl across nearly 13 acres and maximize the allowed density of up to 837,147 square feet, leaving the remaining land for public-use open space requirements. The public-use space is being designed by Studio39 landscape architects of Alexandria. The project would also contribute $800,000 annually in property taxes and streetscape frontage design costs could be an estimated $2.73 million.

Issues arose when the Woodfield Investments requested a binding height agreement in its submitted sketch plan that could totally change the massing of the project when it goes up for final approval. The Planning Board approves the Sketch Plan prior to Preliminary Subdivision and final Site Plan review. Although the land is zoned for commercial residential (CR) -- allowing heights up to 100' feet -- the developer's plans showed renderings of four story structures that had a maximum height of 60'feet. Woodfield Investments included language that would allow the project to go as high as 90'feet for flexibly in project changes in the future. The planning staff later amended the plans to allow up to 70 feet for occupied space and as high as 90 feet for architectural design elements.

KTGY Architects of Irvine, Ca with regional office in Tysons Corner, designed the two neo-traditional four story buildings that are expected to only have 3,000 square feet of service retail intended for residents. To keep costs low Woodfield Investments would only build wood frame structures surrounding an above ground parking garage. Above five stories would change the dynamics of the project according to the developer.

Mr. Jody S. Kline with adjacent property owner Shady Grove Tech Center associates noted several problems about the project during public testimony. Not only would the Mallory Square block their drive way, it would create encumbrances for the smaller property by shifting the planned B-10 road way alignment between the two properties.

Kline most noticeably argued against Mallory Square by stating that the Great Seneca Science Corridor master plan emphasized mixed use in-fill development but that the project was monolithic in nature and provided very little in the form retail that qualifies the project as mix-use.

Despite the protest Mallory Square won unanimous approval from the planning board. Mallory Square is more than a 1/4 mile away from the planned Corridor Cities Transit Way mass transit system. The project could break ground within the next two years.

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