Sunday, September 28, 2008

Planners approve apartments for Ripley District - Gazette

Designs for Midtown Silver Spring call for 314 units, retail space with two multi-level towers

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008

The Montgomery County Planning Board unanimously approved plans Thursday for a 314-unit mixed–use apartment complex in Silver Spring's Ripley District, furthering the neighborhood's revitalization around the nearby transit center.

Approval for Midtown Silver Spring, which will be located on 1.8 acres at the northwest corner of Ripley Street and Dixon Avenue, was the final step in the site review process. The developer, New York-based Home Properties, will now finalize engineering and construction plans before seeking building permits. Construction is expected to begin late next year.

Of the 314 units, 40 will be moderately-priced. Units will be divided between a 19-story tower and a 20-story tower. Of the moderately-priced units, plans call for two studio apartments, 16 one-bedroom apartments and 22 two-bedroom apartments.

"Your plan is a well thought out plan, it's well-designed, it looks like it's being well-executed," said board member Joe Alfandre of the project, which received little opposition or concerns from the board. "It's a type of standard for me to look at."

About 5,380 square feet of retail, located mostly on Ripley and spanning to Dixon, will be included on the site. According to the site plan, the project is "a five-minute walk" from the Silver Spring Metro station on Colesville Road.

On-site plans for Midtown also include bike paths, a swimming pool and indoor fitness facility. Currently, Dixon Avenue connects Wayne Avenue and Bonifant Street just north of the site, but the site plans calls for a one-block extension of Dixon to an intersection with Ripley.

The extension will go through the first floor of the county-owned, 1,776-space Bonifant-Dixon parking garage between Wayne and Bonifant, separating the residential towers and a proposed park on Dixon. An agreement with the county Department of Transportation will allow the public parking garage to extend beneath the Dixon Avenue extension.

An underground parking garage for the Midtown complex will include a maximum 389 parking spaces.

Given the high costs of underground parking facilities and the project's proximity to the Metro station, Home Properties will consider reducing the number of spaces at the site, which will delay an estimate on the cost of the project, said Donald Hague, vice president of development for Home Properties.

"We think there will be more people drawn to an urban life where they don't have a car," Hague said.

Board Chairman Royce Hanson said with projects near transit centers, selecting suitable parking options is important.

"From a marketing point of view, would fewer spaces be marketable and work?" he asked the applicant. "We are not trying to change the site plan but we are interested in this because we are looking at parking issues as a way of reducing building costs."

Midtown Silver Spring will be built across from another planned high-rise apartment complex at 1050 Ripley Street developed by Bethesda-based Washington Property Company. Plans for the project include 305 units, 46 moderately-priced dwelling units and 3,068 square feet of street-level retail.

Construction of Midtown should roughly coincide with construction of the $91 million Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center, construction on which will begin shortly (see related story) at the Metro site. The transit center, which should completed in about two years, is expected to significantly increase ridership of the Metro and other transit alternatives downtown.

As part of the site plan, Home Properties must achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and conduct noise mitigation tests for units near WMATA and CSX train tracks as well as Georgia Avenue.

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