Thursday, November 20, 2008

Committee to review Silver Spring Library options - Gazette

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008 | by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer

County officials will continue their review of designs for the proposed Silver Spring Library project Thursday after County Executive Isiah Leggett last week indicated preference for an option that would allow construction of a library building independent of apartments proposed for the site.

Three design options for the library will be presented 10:30 a.m. Thursday to the Montgomery County Council's Health and Human Services Committee, with a specific design to be chosen shortly. The same three options were submitted to Leggett Nov. 12 for review.

Under Leggett's recommendation, a five-story library would front along Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street and a 12-story, 176-unit apartment building would front on Bonifant. This design would provide more housing units than any other proposed and would put the library closer to the nearby Wayne Avenue garage, said Diane Schwartz Jones, an assistant chief administrative officer for Leggett (D).

Leggett wants the library to be built before the residential building to ensure Silver Spring residents would soon get a library that was already "overdue," Schwartz Jones said.

"The library project is ready to go forward and the housing project is not ready to go forward," Schwartz Jones said. "To put them together as a single project, it will take a lot more time."

Schwartz Jones cited failed negotiations between a developer and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission for the residential portion of the SilverPlace, another mixed-use project on Georgia Avenue, as an example of the challenges facing public-private partnerships.

The project's architect, Washington, D.C.-based RTKL also recommended independent construction of the library and apartment building.

The project will also include an art center, public-use space and potentially a Purple Line stop at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Fenton and Bonifant streets.

Another option preferred by residents at a Nov. 6 community meeting would place the library along Bonifant and the apartment building along Wayne. This option would include 140 residential units and would put the taller residential building closer to the Central Business District to the north. The smaller library building would fit better with Fenton Village to the south of the site, according to residents.

The council requested one design option in which the library and apartment building would be built together. In that design, a four-story library would front on Bonifant but half of a 10-story residential building would extend on top of the library. The 164-unit residential building would be U-shaped, with one end fronting on Wayne.

"If we built the library as a freestanding structure and waited to build the housing when the market was right, it could be a long wait," said Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park. However, Leventhal does not expect the committee to make a recommendation Thursday because it is the first time the council will be able to review the designs.

After Leggett and the council agree on a design option, RTKL will draft a more detailed design. Once 30 percent of the design is finished, a budget should be set and the site can go before the Planning Board for mandatory referral, said Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Center.

"Once we get far enough in the design … we will really know how much it will cost," Stith said.

For all design options, Leggett has recommended 30 percent of housing units as workforce housing, 30 percent moderately-priced dwelling units and 40 percent sold at market rate. All designs will include an art center of about 23,000 square feet, about 12,500 square feet of public-use space and library of about 63,000 square feet.

The Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board has sent a letter to Leggett and the council urging them to increase the size of the library to accommodate a growing Silver Spring population. Advisory Board chairman Darian Unger said the proposed Silver Spring library would not be big enough to serve residents living within a one-mile radius of the site.

Unger said he favors the design that would put the library on Bonifant because it includes 40,000 square feet of office space which could potentially be made into additional library space.

"In that same space we can have … more library to serve the community," Unger said.

The Montgomery County Council's Health and Human Services Committee will review designs for the new Silver Spring Library project 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the fifth-floor conference room of the Stella B. Werner Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville.

For illustrations and information on the new Silver Spring library project, visit

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