Transit center construction a year and a half away
Oct. 15, 2003
Meredith Hooker
Staff Writer

Plans include hotel, retail, offices

Construction on a mixed-use transit center with a $200 million-plus price tag is about a year and a half away, officials said Monday night at a Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board meeting.

Plans for the Silver Spring transit center, which would bring together all modes of mass transportation at the Silver Spring Metro station, have been in the works for several years but only recently began to take shape, said Al Genetti, director of the county's Department of Public Works.

In addition to a hub for Metrobus and Ride-On, Metrorail and MARC commuter rail, the transit center will also include whatever form the former Purple Line, now the Bi-County Transitway, takes. The center also will include a hotel, office space, some retail and residential units on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's property. The project is a joint effort of the county's Department of Public Works, WMATA and the Maryland Transit Authority. In 2001, the Metro board of directors selected Foulger-Pratt and Mid-City Urban to develop the property.

A few concepts have been developed for the transit center, which will act as a foundation for the other structures, he said. The concepts create a tiered structure that put the buildings over the center and provide several options for bus entry. Design contracts are being negotiated, but the developer has not yet started the site plan process for the other structures, Genetti said.

"We have to know if we can build for the money that's available," he said.

About $40 million has been allocated for the project from federal and state grants. The county has contributed about $6 million, Genetti said. The latest estimate of the private cost is $150 million to $180 million depending on how the structures are designed and built. The total cost of the project is more than $200 million, Genetti said.

Once construction on the project begins, the Metro and MARC trains will remain operational, he said.

When plans for a transit center were originally proposed, there would have been no private development on the site. In 2000, WMATA began to consider joint development of the property and the community was able to give input. However, concepts for the center have been modified since then.

"Three years ago there was a lot of community involvement. Are you planning to get the community involved again?" asked advisory board member Robert Hicks.

Community members will have the opportunity to be involved in the plans for open space on the property, but designers have "pretty much exhausted the issue of what will work" on the property, which is not level, Genetti said.

Residents will also have the opportunity to comment on the project when it comes before the Montgomery County Planning Board, said Glenn Kreger, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Silver Spring and Takoma Park team leader.

"I think we've come up with a concept that will work, is economic and I think is going to be a real plus for the Silver Spring community," Genetti said.