- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

The Tower Cos. has started renting out units at its new Blair Towns complex in Silver Spring, marking the debut of the first new apartments built there in 12 years.

The apartments are the first in the area to meet strict environmental criteria set by the U.S. Green Building Council, a federal agency that sets guidelines for environment-friendly buildings.

Construction on the 78-unit complex, on Colesville Road near the Silver Spring Metro Station, is not done. But Tower Cos. President Jeffrey Abramson said 12 of the completed units have been rented.

The rentals, he said, are indicative of two desires by residents: To be around a revitalized Silver Spring, and to live in a place that uses less energy and creates less waste than older facilities of its type and size.

Blair Towns is part of a larger mixed-used complex called the Blairs, which Tower is working to renovate. The company owns 27 acres on the site and is spending $55 million to refurbish the area and add restaurants. A renewed shopping center is scheduled to open in June.

The timing of the renovation is key, Mr. Abramson said, because efforts by Montgomery County to revitalize the downtown area of Silver Spring are beginning to show after years of political wrangling. Discovery Communications opened its new headquarters downtown several weeks ago, and the American Film Institute opened the Silver Theatre last month, too.

Blair Towns is expected to provide a key element to the success of Silver Spring’s resurgence: residents. County officials have said more people would help support the new restaurants, businesses and other attractions in the downtown.

“Every city has to update its rental stock,” Mr. Abramson said. “It’s critical.”

He said he was optimistic the Blair Towns apartments would go swiftly, despite low interest rates that have caused many prospective renters to buy instead. And, he said people are attracted to the “green building” concept.

The Blair Towns apartments meet Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) criteria, which urge developers to build safer, more energy-efficient projects. The Blair Towns feature specially designed windows that cut down on noise and glare, paints whose fumes are less toxic than most, and special light fixtures and fans.

Furthermore, the complex was built using materials found no more than 500 miles away, meeting the LEED standard for supporting local business and using less fuel in transport.

“What we’ve found is that people are beginning to question what they live in,” said Mr. Abramson, who is pushing for federal LEED-type standards. “We had an opportunity to change the concept of the Blairs. We were in a strategic position to do something phenomenal.”

The Tower Cos. is no stranger to environment-friendly development. It also built 1909 K St. in the District and the Tower Building in Rockville. It partnered last month with Pepco Energy Services to supply renewable energy to all its buildings in the Washington area.

In other news …

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams made two appointments to fill spots on the board of the National Capital Revitalization Corp. He tapped Marie C. Johns, a co-founder of the DC Technology Council, and Jim Hudson, a director with the National Fair Housing Alliance.

The Bruder, Gentile & Marcoux law firm leased 12,252 square feet at 1701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, one block from the White House. The 187,000-square-foot office building, owned by Grosvenor, is now 97 percent leased.

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

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