- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2007

Five years into Silver Spring‘s $1.2 billion commercial redevelopment, the process increasingly looks like the beginning of a downtown building boom rather than its completion.

Financial incentives from Montgomery County and the state stimulated the redevelopment, but now real estate investors are finding opportunities nearby on their own.

Developers from Silver Spring-based Fenton Group plan to start construction on a 94-condominium mixed-use project early next year only a short walk from the commercial district. The Montgomery County Planning Board approved the project last month.

Other developers are awaiting county approval for their projects. When they are completed, Montgomery County officials estimate the Silver Spring redevelopment investment will grow to $2 billion.

The Fenton Group is building Moda Vista Residences, a 94-condominium mixed-use project at the southeast corner of Silver Spring Avenue and Fenton Street. It would include 3,500 square feet of first-floor retail space, a plaza, public art and a rooftop garden terrace. The five-story building would sit on 1.27 acres.

The developers are striving to make their condo units as environmentally friendly as possible, partly through a location that puts the Silver Spring Metro station, a Safeway grocery store, City Place shopping mall and downtown employment centers within walking distance.

They are hoping for a windfall opportunity when Metro and the county decide a route for the Purple Line Metrorail extension.

“It could possibly go right in front of our front door,” said Ayana Douglas, the Fenton Group’s project manager. “It won’t interfere with our project, but it could take some kind of frontage on Silver Spring Avenue. That could be a boon to our buyers.”

County officials say the new real estate projects in Silver Spring show once again that development breeds development, referring to offshoots from the way Peterson Cos. and its partners revamped downtown.

“It kick-started the development,” said Kristina Ellis, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development. “We’re kind of halfway through the race, and we’re rounding that final curve.”

Other downtown Silver Spring projects are in various stages of planning or development.

United Therapeutics Corp. is working toward completion of its new headquarters at 1110 Spring St. The Phase 1 laboratory and manufacturing plant for rare diseases is done. Phase 2 would consist of administrative offices. The two facilities will be joined by a seventh-floor pedestrian bridge designed to look like a DNA strand.

Patriot Group plans to build the Crescent residential building on a nearly half-acre lot at 930 Wayne Ave. The 14-story building would include a small amount of retail.

Michael LLC has designed the 435,655-square-foot Studio Plaza complex of residences, offices and retail for the Fenton Village area. It is winning praise from architectural critics.

“There are many private-sector opportunities yet available in Silver Spring,” said Mike Hickok, principal in the Washington firm of Hickok Cole Architects. “Private developers will always find a way to take advantage of a good market.”

Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail tramstack@washingtontimes.com.

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