Thursday, August 20, 2009

Silver Spring's Fillmore negotiations drag on, developer hoping for deal in 30 to 60 days - Examiner

By: Alan Suderman Examiner Staff Writer August 20, 2009

A Montgomery County developer said he expects to reach a deal with the county within the next 30 to 60 days to build a long-awaited music hall in Silver Spring.

County Executive Ike Leggett announced a deal two years ago with California-based Live Nation that would bring a Fillmore Music Hall to a former J.C. Penney store site on Silver Spring's Colesville Road. The deal would preserve the historic facade of the store, which has sat empty for nearly 20 years. Leggett pushed the County Council last year to approve $4 million in funds and special land-use rule changes that were supposed to pave the way for a deal with the developer, Lee Development Group.

But the path to the deal has been long, and Lee and Leggett are still trying to hammer out a deal, with the sticking points in their debate being kept private.

"We're almost there," said Bruce Lee, head of Lee Development Group.

Lee said his company is being asked to donate a "very valuable" piece of land before it has created a plan to build up the rest of the adjacent property it owns. In return, Lee said he wants assurances that the current county's rules for development won't change when his company decides to develop the rest of its property.

"We're not asking for additional density, we're not asking for money," Lee said. "We're not asking for anything outside the box."

The county official who is Leggett's point person on the project could not be reached for comment.

The Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, which supports building the Fillmore, has complained about the negotiations' lack of openness. Chairman Darian Unger said he is pleased to hear that a deal may be close, adding that his group has spent a long time waiting on "pins and needles."

Efforts to get a live music hall in Silver Spring date several years, first with the county unsuccessfully trying to get Alexandria's Birchmere Music Hall to open a second venue in Silver Spring.

County Councilman Marc Elrich, D-At Large, who voted against the zoning changes, said he and other council members were told last year that approval for the project was "critical" and "couldn't afford delay." He said it's "frustrating" not to have heard any updates on the project since.

Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg, D-At Large, said it was "troubling" that the project hadn't moved forward faster and that the County Council would have a "robust conversation" about the project if a deal isn't reached soon.

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