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Birchmere Out In Talks About Silver Spring Music Venue

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Lacefield said Montgomery County would still contribute funds to develop the site. A representative for David W. Edgerley, Maryland's secretary of business and economic development, said the state "will continue to work with the county to make this project work."

Alan Bowser, a local civic activist who sits on the county's Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, questioned yesterday whether residents would want a larger and potentially noisier venue downtown, where residents thwarted a proposal in the early 1990s to build the "American Dream" mall, complete with wave pool and skating rink.

"We though the Birchmere was an appropriate small hall venue that would fit into downtown Silver Spring," Bowser said. "My guess is that neighbors would be less enamored of and not as supportive of a larger performance venue. There is already concern about parking, traffic and noise."

Leggett, who took office last December, had pledged his support for the Birchmere during his campaign. He said the county was committed to finding someone who could help revitalize that section of Silver Spring and bring additional foot traffic to an area in which merchants have complained that the revival has passed them by.

"I am committed to making certain that area of Silver Spring is part of the revitalization," he said. "We are looking at other options. I hope that in the final analysis something will come out that is beneficial for the county."

When the Birchmere proposal was still active, plans were to break ground in late 2008, with the opening targeted for 2009. Lacefield said yesterday he hoped to have matters resolved "in next couple of months . . . Whatever happens is going to contribute to the music scene considerably."

Lee Development is moving ahead with plans for a mixed-use complex next to the proposed music venue.

"We have a roughly $110 million real estate project of which this is a small piece, and we can't sit around forever," Lee said. He added that county officials "want to see a 'Broadway effect' on Colesville Road across from the AFI Silver Theatre and Round House Theatre to complement what's been done on that side of the road. We think it's a great complement no matter who the operator is."

Meanwhile, the Birchmere said in its statement that it "will now resume actively seeking expansion opportunities in the D.C. marketplace."


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