By Danny Jacobs
Gazette Staff Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2007
A proposed mixed-use life sciences complex in Silver Spring would work in concert with neighboring properties to create 350 acres of state-of-the-art science and medical facilities and amenities around the consolidated Food and Drug Administration White Oak campus, the developer said last week.
"The whole can be so much more than the sum of the parts," said Jonathan M. Genn, executive vice president and general counsel of Percontee Inc., based in Silver Spring.
Percontee is in preliminary discussions to convert its 185-acre property off Cherry Hill Road from a concrete recycling plant into 2 million square feet of office, research and laboratory space, and 2,000 housing units, of which 500 would be classified as affordable. Shops, restaurants and a hotel and conference center are also planned, Genn said.
"The mix of uses creates all of the vitality and the smart growth and opportunities for people to live where they work and they shop," Genn said.
The planning board would have to approve rezoning the property before any construction could begin.
Genn is a member of Labquest, a community partnership that worked to bring the FDA to the area, and has solicited community input for the Cherry Hill Road project. "We think it will be a very useful development," said Mike Levin, vice chairman of Labquest.
The Percontee property would be bordered by Washington Adventist Hospital's proposed 50-acre site off Plum Orchard Road and a planned 115-acre East County Center for Science and Technology off Tech Road. The center would be a Montgomery County Office of Economic Development incubator for fledgling information technology and life sciences firms. The Percontee property's southern edge abuts the FDA's 130-acre White Oak campus, where nearly 8,000 federal employees are expected to work once a $945 million consolidation is completed in 2011.
The Percontee development would work with all of the projects to create a college campus-like atmosphere for life sciences, Genn said, with low-cost housing for researchers and hospital employees and leisure opportunities for the immediate and surrounding community, Genn said.
"We want this to be a great source of community pride," he said.
The combined development plans could create a "mirror image" in eastern Montgomery County to the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center in the western county along Interstate 270 in Rockville, said Geoffrey Morgan, vice president for expanded access at Washington Adventist, whose sister hospital, Shady Grove Adventist, is located in the center.
Levin has asked for a study on how all of the Silver Spring development will affect the area's roads. A similar request has been made by members of the East County Citizens Advisory Board.
"I think it will fit together, but it has to be done correctly," Levin said. "We have to make sure the infrastructure is there, and that we didn't just build something you can't get into or out of."