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Redevelopment Plan Angers Residents Of Silver Spring Apartment Complex

By Jason Tomassini
Gazette Staff Writer
Thursday, February 26, 2009

As the Montgomery County Council prepares to vote next month on whether to permit redevelopment of the Falkland Chase apartments, residents who would be displaced by such a project say the vote also will decide their future.

If the council upholds the recommendation of the Montgomery Planning Board to preserve two of the three parcels within the Depression-era Falkland Chase community, the 182 rental units on the remaining parcel would be demolished.

Home Properties, which owns Falkland Chase, would develop about 1,000 units in a new high-rise apartment building at 16th Street and East West Highway in Silver Spring. Although the company has a relocation plan for tenants, some say they have been left in the dark.

"When I moved in, I wasn't even aware of the fact they were trying to tear down the section I was looking at," said Jane Bergwin-Rand, who since 2006 has lived in Falkland Chase's north parcel, which is marked for redevelopment.

The relocation plan would give tenants of the north parcel "first shot" at moving into a unit on the west or south parcel of Falkland Chase, just across East West Highway, said Donald Hague, senior vice president of the Virginia-based developer.

Because the turnover rate of tenants is 46 percent per year, enough units should be available for the north parcel's residents if construction begins, Hague said.

"The low-income folks, these are the ones that would really have a problem," he said last Thursday after presenting plans to the Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee. "We will take care of everybody. There are more than enough units."

Hague said relocated tenants' monthly rent would remain constant until their existing leases expire. In addition, he said, those moving to another Home Properties development would not have to make a security deposit.

Bergwin-Rand said most residents who know about the relocation plans are not satisfied with the prospect of moving to another part of Falkland Chase.

"I'm not interested in moving across the street just because they want to build a high-rise apartment building," said Jason McCool, who has lived in the north parcel for three years.

In September, the Planning Board adopted its recommendation that two of the three Falkland parcels receive historic designation and be preserved. That was a shift from the board's December 2007 conclusion deeming the entire complex eligible for historic designation. The September ruling came after Home Properties stated its intent to include significantly more affordable housing units.

If redevelopment is permitted on the north parcel, Home Properties plans to build about 1,000 apartments, 200 underground parking spaces and 60,000 square feet of retail space, including a Harris Teeter grocery store.

About 125 of those apartments would be moderately priced, and several would be three-bedroom units, currently unavailable on the north parcel, Hague said. The council will conduct a public hearing on the issue March 10, followed by two subcommittee hearings and a full council vote.

Falkland Chase is a 22-acre complex of 450 garden-style rental apartments purchased by Home Properties in 2003. The apartments were built in 1936 and 1937.

Preservationists have argued that the affordable housing planned for Falkland Chase can be achieved elsewhere in Silver Spring without demolishing historic property.

"Do you think it's good policy to displace 182 middle-income units to get affordable units?" said Mary Reardon of the Silver Spring Historical Society. "The tradeoff is not worth what we are giving up."

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