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Developer Goes Back To Drawing Board On Rockville Pike Towers

By Aaron Kraut

Monday - 12/9/2013, 2:30pm  ET

Rendering of Saul Centers plan for Metro Pike Center, via Planning Department Massing diagram of Saul Centers proposal for Metro Pike Center, via Planning Department Massing diagram of Saul Centers plan for Rockville Pike and Nicholson Lane, via Planning Department Rendering of development on Nicholson Lane, just east of Rockville Pike looking north, via Planning Department Rendering of development for Rockville Pike, looking south from Marinelli Road

The developer of a key stretch of Rockville Pike will go back to the drawing board after state and county transportation officials expressed concern about three new connector streets that would run east to west through the site.

Bethesda-based Saul Centers, a real estate investment trust of B.F. Saul, wants to build two 300-foot tall residential towers and a 200-foot office building on what is now the two-level Metro Pike Center on the west side of Rockville Pike. The plan calls for three streets to run east-to-west from Rockville Pike to Woodglen Drive, which will be extended north from its current terminus at Nicholson Lane.

But in development review meetings in November, State Highway Administration officials said they don’t want three additional opportunities for drivers to turn on or off of that section of Rockville Pike:

There are concerns on the amount of access points along MD 355. Street A and Street B should be consolidated into one access preferably equidistant from Marinelli Road and Nicholson Lane to reduce the amount of conflict points along MD 355.

County transportation officials don’t want three intersections on Woodglen Drive either. The White Flint Sector Plan imagines the extended Woodglen Drive as a bike lane-lined street to provide access to eastbound Marinelli Road.

Reduce the number of proposed intersections on Woodglen Drive to one (1), as depicted in the White Flint Sector Plan. The includes eliminating two of the three “through” connections between Rockville Pike and Woodglen Drive.

The project also includes a 300-foot residential tower and a 200-foot residential tower on the east side of Rockville Pike near Nicholson Lane, on the site of the Staples-anchored shopping center at 11503 Rockville Pike.

County transportation officials said they are also concerned with uncontrolled pedestrian crossings along Nicholson Lane east of Rockville Pike, along Rockville Pike and at the intersection of Marinelli Road and Woodglen Drive. A White Flint Metro escalator is on the other side of the road.

The county wants details on features Saul Centers will provide to minimize uncontrolled pedestrian crossings.

All this means the developer will ask for a Sketch Plan extension on Thursday from the Planning Board, which is expected to move the Sketh Plan hearing back to Feb. 27.

The developer already tweaked the plan once, adding more ground floor retail space after residents at a nearby condominium said the newly developed blocks would lack activity.

In total, the redevelopment on both sides of the Pike would mean about 1.4 million square feet of new residential space with roughly 1,400 rental units and 200,000 square feet of office and commercial space. The plan goes right up to the 300-foot limit illustrated in the Sector Plan. Officials for Saul Centers have said the entire project will likely be built in phases, one building at a time.

Renderings via Montgomery County Planning Department