Silver Spring Tries to Juggle Development And Livability

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By Aruna Jain
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 12, 2006

Over the past six years, redevelopment efforts in downtown Silver Spring have led to construction of 891 residences and plans for an additional 3,100, plus the development of more than 1.8 million square feet of commercial space, including restaurants, bars and shops, according to county planners.

"Silver Spring is a hot market, and everyone wants to cash in on its success," said planner Glenn Kreger, who monitors development in the area. "But there is a lot of additional work to be done, so it's still a work in progress."

Planners recently provided an update about what is happening in downtown Silver Spring and its surroundings to members of the Montgomery County Planning Board.

The new development includes two major public projects.

Officials are still reviewing plans for a $20 million civic building and public space that could be the site of an ice rink in winter months and a space for concerts and festivals the rest of the year. It would replace the synthetic-turf field along Ellsworth Drive.

Its construction, expected to start in the spring, is contingent on final approval by the Planning Board, said Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Service Center.

Work on the $74.7 million Silver Spring Transit Center is slated to start next summer.

The transit center would reshape the Silver Spring Metro station by adding commercial bus lines and hiker-biker trails and by allowing space for the Purple Line, a proposed 14-mile rail line. The Metro stop now provides Ride On and Metrobus service in addition to Red Line Metrorail service. The transit center is to be finished in 2009.

"The transit center is a much-needed upgrade," said Bruce Johnston, who works with the county's department of public works and transportation. "It's one of the heaviest-used Metro stations in the transit corridor."

Next to the transit center, developer Silver Spring Metro LLC plans to build a 200-room hotel and two residential towers with a total of 450 units. There would also be 25,000 square feet of retail space and landscaped open space.

During construction of the transit center, bus operations will be moved southeast of the current location. Construction of the interim location will start in the next few weeks.

Restaurants continue to open in downtown Silver Spring. Some new offerings include Zpizza, off Ellsworth; Ray's the Classics, a steakhouse on Colesville, across from the AFI Silver Theatre; and Piratz Tavern, across Georgia Avenue from the Quarry House. A Fuddruckers is scheduled to open this year.

Other ongoing projects include the Silver Spring Gateway, at Blair Mill Road and East-West Highway, and the Midtown Silver Spring Ripley Project between Georgia Avenue and the railroad tracks.

The Silver Spring Gateway is a 130,000-square-foot development that will include about 450 residences, 14,000 square feet of retail space and more than 600 parking spaces.

The planned Ripley Project calls for 317 residential units, more than 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and nearly 400 parking spaces.

During the recent discussion of downtown Silver Spring, Planning Board members said there is a need to improve other areas in Silver Spring, such as Long Branch, Montgomery Hills and the area known as Takoma-Langley Crossroads, around University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue, Kreger said.

Planning officials also discussed the transitions needed from the dense central business district to surrounding residential areas. Kreger said the idea is to decrease density and building heights toward the edges of the business district to create a "tent effect."

For a more complete list of ongoing and upcoming projects in Silver Spring, go to http://www.mc-mncppc.org/silverspring .


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