Amid some citizen opposition, the Rockville City Council has decided to permit reorganization of the partnership that is handling the $100 million redevelopment of downtown Rockville, a move that will delay construction by almost three months.
Under the reorganization, the Rosslyn-based Hadid Investment Group will become the controlling partner in New Rockville Town Center Partners, a joint venture operating under agreement with the city to build a massive hotel-and-office complex in the heart of Rockville.
The principal partner in the joint venture -- the Winmar Corp., a subsidiary of the Safeco Insurance Co. of Seattle -- had asked the city to amend the agreement so the company can transfer its 51 percent of the partnership interest to Hadid.
The previous agreement called for construction of a 250-room luxury hotel, the project's first phase, to begin by June 15. Under the reorganization, construction will not start until Sept. 1.
Besides delaying construction, council members said the reorganization will involve some redesign work on the hotel, which will be built on city-owned property at North Washington Street and Middle Lane.
"For the first time we have an investment group with a proven track record in the metropolitan area willing to assume a controlling interest in the development," Rockville Mayor Viola D. Hovsepian said. "I am willing to extend the groundbreaking time 2 1/2 months in order to get a better hotel."
Lawrence J. White, vice president of Hadid, said his group is looking forward to working with the city.
"With proper planning and execution, this project offers tremendous possibilities to both the city of Rockville and the developer," White said. "Recognizing this, we have assembled a team of experienced, creative, result-oriented professionals."
Among Hadid's projects are the District's World Trade Center in Southwest, several professional parks in Tysons Corner and the Executive Office Center in south Rockville.
Rockville officials have long considered the hotel the cornerstone of their ambitious plan to transform the sleepy downtown into a major area attraction; but during the past five years, the hotel has emerged as one of the more elusive parts of the plan.
City officials have granted New Rockville Town Center Partners at least three extensions in almost as many years. The last was granted in November, four months after the council voted to kill the 1982 agreement with the partnership, citing the group's failure to show proof of adequate financing for the estimated $15 million hotel.
At the time, the partnership reassured city officials that financing for the hotel was available, and the group threatened to go to court over the matter. The city later negotiated an amended agreement with the group to avoid lengthy litigation, thus delaying the project further.
At a public hearing last week, however, nearly a dozen Rockville residents and officials urged the council to scrap the agreement and reexamine the project.
"How do we know a hotel is still needed in the center of Rockville?" asked resident M. Thomas Lawrey, noting that several hotels have been built in and near the city in the past several years.
Carole T. Cohen, president of the Twinbrook Citizens Association, said that officials and residents need "more data upon which to make a decision that deals with the situation in 1985, and not with . . . statistics compiled when this agreement was first negotiated."
But some council members disagreed with some of the arguments of residents.
Besides the hotel, the downtown redevelopment plan -- designed by architect Arthur Cotton Moore five years ago -- includes several office buildings, with more than 750,000 square feet of space, and a farmer's market.