Montgomery Co. Planning Board approves major Clarksburg retail development

July 18, 2013

The Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday approved a major mixed-use development for Clarksburg’s Cabin Branch community west of Interstate 270 that is expected to include specialty retail, restaurants and offices.

But the board added conditions intended to keep the project from damaging prospects for the eventual development of Clarksburg Town Center, on the other side of the interstate.

Clarksburg Premium Outlets at Cabin Branch is a venture of Bethesda-based Streetscape Partners, New England Development and Simon Property Group. The plan is for up to 450,000 square feet of outlet retail on land that was once earmarked for a new hospital. The owner of the site, Adventist HealthCare, could not secure a certificate of need from the state of Maryland.

The plan, which now goes to the County Council for final action, is one of three development proposals in the Clarksburg area that the board will scrutinize this summer. Two major projects east of I-270—a mixed use venture from The Peterson Companies and a residential community from Pulte—are on hold while the county completes a study of how they would impact the environmentally sensitive Ten Mile Creek.

The Cabin Branch project has received generally favorable reaction from residents in Clarksburg, where the planned Town Center—envisioned as a retail core and community hub of a walkable urban village—remains an empty field nearly 20 years after completion of the area’s master plan.

Barry Fantle, president of the Clarksburg Civic Association but speaking Thursday as a resident, said the Cabin Branch project would provide badly needed restaurants and specialty shopping but without posing a threat to the Town Center site, especially because there were no plans for a supermarket. A grocery store is considered a critical component for the village hub.

“To me, this is just a no-brainer,” Fantle said.

To protect Town Center from being squeezed competitively, Cabin Branch developers agreed to cap any single retail outlet at 50,000 square feet, precluding the possibility that “big box” retailers such as Target or Wal-Mart would be attracted.

The progress of the Cabin Branch project through the county’s regulatory hoops raises new questions about the future of the Peterson venture, Streamside at Clarksburg. In an interview last week Peterson retail division president Taylor Chess said there was “room for only one outlet center.”

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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