More Intense Development Likely With Md. Connector
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Developers and economic development officials in suburban Maryland say the 18-mile intercounty connector highway that would stretch from Gaithersburg to Laurel is likely to speed several commercial projects planned along the corridor, intensify growth in underdeveloped areas and spur new growth farther out.
The announcement by Maryland officials on Monday that they plan to proceed with the $2.4 billion road came as welcome news to those in the business community who, as part of a long-standing debate, have argued that an east-west thoroughfare is needed to ease commuting and open development in northern Montgomery, Howard and parts of Prince George's counties.
Construction of the road would not prompt a land rush, developers and officials said, as much as it would cement and accelerate plans that are already in place and allow owners of existing buildings to push for denser redevelopment.
"You're not necessarily going to see tons more development right along the route of the intercounty connector," said John Shooshan, a major developer of office buildings in the area. "But it's going to free up the spokes to go forward in other areas."
Transportation ranks alongside the high cost of housing as one of the major problems cited by regional business leaders. But major projects such as the intercounty connector are inevitably divisive. While addressing a pressing need, they also generate more growth, more traffic and a push for even larger roads in the future. The connector, indeed, would serve in part as a sort of outer Beltway, relieving pressure on that older road near one of its more congested sections.
The biggest impact of building the new corridor, land-use lawyers and developers said, would probably come as property owners push for more intense uses of already developed land, particularly near the proposed highway's interchanges with major roads such as Georgia Avenue, New Hampshire Avenue and Shady Grove Road in Montgomery County.
"You'll see development happen at a faster pace once the ICC actually happens, and it's going to happen around the exits," said Stewart J. Greenebaum, president of Greenebaum & Rose Associates, a large office and housing developer in the area.
For the few swaths of undeveloped land that remain along the proposed highway, development officials say that they expect building to follow right alongside road construction. The project must still pass a federal review and is likely to meet opposition from local residents and environmental groups. State officials want to begin construction next year.
Along the intercounty highway in Montgomery, "there are some 10- or 15-acre parcels where there are development plans in place, and the road could help some of them get started because now they'll be able to say there's adequate [roads to handle] more development," said Robert R. Harris, a land-use lawyer for Holland & Knight LLP who represents several landowners with parcels along the corridor.
Other development hot spots are expected along Route 29, a major thoroughfare through Montgomery County into Howard County, and along the portions of Interstate 95 that run through Prince George's and Howard counties.
The connector "brings the high-tech communities in Howard County 30 minutes closer to the major economic engines of Bethesda and Montgomery County," said Richard W. Story, chief executive of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. He expects more companies will want to locate in the cheaper areas of western Prince George's and southern Howard. For instance, "if a company wants to be close to [the National Institutes of Health] but also close to Johns Hopkins, now it can be central to the two and get back and forth," he said.
One big winner with the highway project would be District-based developer Kingdon Gould III and his family, who own roughly 2,000 acres of land where the proposed highway intersects I-95 in Calverton. Gould's property is likely to have a major interchange on it or leading into it, although he stressed that he has come to no deal with state or county officials to sell parts of his land.