Rockville Pike Grocery Anchored Project Hits Road Block Over Parking

Images by Hord Coplan Macht

A planned residential and retail project by real estate developer JBG was met with mostly heavy opposition from community residents who live in the Twinbrook area of Rockville, where the project would be developed.

The site plan for 1800 Rockville Pike came before the City of Rockville planning board Wednesday night seeking approval from the commission. The approval of the site plan would have been the final step before permits are issued and construction starts for the urban style, low-rise project designed by architectural firm, Hord Coplan Macht.

Chevy Chase-based JBG plans to redevelop a site that currently consists of one-level retail shops including a furniture store. If construction moves forward and on schedule, by the 2nd half of 2014, 1800 Rockville Pike would have 356 residential units intended to be apartments, with four levels sitting on top of a brand new Safeway grocery store at the ground floor.

The Safeway would take over 65,000 square feet of the retail space that totals nearly 100,000 square feet.

Issues arose over the number of parking spaces; planning board members are at odds over a reduction waiver requested by JBG to cut the number of parking spaces by 45 percent. Some members were concerned that the reduction was too severe.  What would have been over 1,000 parking spaces is planned to be reduced to 639 under the waiver, about 180 of those spaces would be dedicated to the Safeway. 1800 Rockville Pike is within walking distance of the Twinbrook Metro station.

Tony Greenberg representative for JBG noted that projects close to metro stations often include an overbuilding of parking spaces, "we've overbuilt many many parking garages; in Silver Spring for example, we built a 480 residential unit project called the Veridian and parking occupancy there is 0.6, we started off with a base line of 1 per unit"

Joe McClean representative of a townhome community adjacent to the recently built Alair Apartments (also developed by JBG) said he supports the development and often times shops in D.C. before he goes home instead of dealing with traffic on Rockville Pike.

But most residents who testified were against the development, citing inadequate parking for the project.

One resident who testified against the project stated that the size and number of residential units was outrageous and would be a serious fire hazard. His fear was that there would be an increase in the apartment residents parking on his street and also noted an increase in crime from Mexican gangs coming from north of his residence.

Christina Ginsberg president of Twinbrook Citizens Association was also opposed to the project, she objected to the reduction in parking and highlighted that "dealing with JBG has been extremely difficult". She says instead she would not approve the parking waiver and had concerned of the mix of units as well as making sure that the environmental green roof covered the entire roof surface of the structure.

 The planning board at first moved forward to approve the project but came to a deadlock with 3 members for approval, 1 opposed and 2 abstained. The board rules require a majority vote for approval. It was later decided to defer the matter to review the parking waiver and vote again for approval at a future hearing, which passed in a 5 to 1 vote.

  

1800 Rockville Pike Specifications

  • 3.86 acres
  • Zoning: Mixed-Use Transit District (MXTD)
  • Total size: 475,457 square feet
  • Retail: 99,002 square feet
  • Grocery retail: 65,927 square feet
  • Other retail:  33,075 square feet
  • Residential: 356 units including 44 studios, 160 one-bedrooms, 66 one-bedrooms with den, 78 two bedrooms and 8 two bedrooms with den. Including 15% or 54 moderately priced dwelling units (MPDU's)
  • Height: 64'4" (Maximum allowed 120'ft)
  • 639 parking spaces underground and on surface.
  • Intended for LEED Gold certification 
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