- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 27, 2004

A local developer is moving forward with plans to convert an old office park in Rockville into a hip community designed to attract creative young people.

The JBG Companies this week finished a design session with community members interested in turning a 20-acre property near the King Farm community into a new development with 750 loft-style homes and small craft-style retailers. Currently, the property is occupied by an office park built in the 1970s.

“People are not going to be seduced by marble lobbies in three-story office buildings. That’s boring,” said Matt Hurson, JBG’s project manager.

JBG worked with noted architect Andres Duany, who also designed the Kentlands neighborhood in Gaithersburg.

The project, located at Choke Cherry and Shady Grove roads, will feature a mix of apartments and condominiums, plus “live-work” units. Area residents insisted that all of the retail space should attract artists and craftspeople, rather than large stores. The lofts will feature high ceilings, large windows and exposed piping in an effort to lure young professionals.

The development would be anchored by the 240,000-square-foot headquarters of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, expected to open in July. It has the right to build more office space, but decided against doing so after hearing resident feedback.

Residents and officials said they are concerned about the amount of traffic the development would produce and the number of students it would add to Gaithersburg High School, which is already near capacity.

Mr. Hurson said the development will not add a noticeable amount of traffic, but that the school concerns are legitimate. He said JBG will meet with school officials and the Parent Teacher Association to determine how to mitigate the overcrowding problem. Mr. Hurson said the company will pay impact taxes for the right to build, and that most of that money will go toward addressing the school issue.

JBG said it could have a detailed plan to submit to the Rockville planners within a month.

In other news

• First Potomac Realty Trust said it will buy a 14-property, 1.4 million square-foot portfolio for $123 million. Most of the properties are located along the Interstate 270 corridor, between Gaithersburg and Frederick.

Tim Lemke can be reached at tlemke@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4836.

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