Fillmore could break ground within a year
Information on Silver Spring music hall slow in coming
Construction of a long-awaited Silver Spring music hall could begin within a year if county officials and the company donating land for the hall can agree on the final land use details of the music hall and a future development project.
"We're at the one-yard line," Bruce Lee said this week.
His company, Lee Development Group, donated the land for the Fillmore music hall as an amenity in exchange for land use allowances for a future mixed-use commercial project.
The Live Nation-owned Fillmore hall is slated for the site of the former J.C. Penney building on Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring. That site is adjacent to the site of the Lee's future project, which the company has not determined.
Last year the council approved the land-use provisions that provide protections from changes in the county's land use laws for the Lee Group's future project.
Since then, not much has changed at the Colesville Road site, which sits empty with a Fillmore banner above the doors. At one time county officials were expecting work to begin on the project this year.
The Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board had expected an update on the Fillmore project at its monthly meeting Monday, but Roylene Roberts, the acting director of the Silver Spring Regional Center, said she could not brief the board because negotiations were still ongoing.
Some of the board members understood the sensitivity of the deal but others were left clamoring for some kind of information on the project.
"Where is the transparency?" asked board member and Silver Spring resident Phil Olivetti. "… For an issue that was so important to the county executive, the County Council and the community, to all of a sudden get nothing?"
Roberts said the board would likely receive an update from county officials next month, which pleased some members, provided the project's planners follow through.
"If they have given a self-imposed deadline to finalize negotiations, then I welcome that," said Evan Glass, a board member and south Silver Spring resident.
Diane Schwartz Jones, Leggett's point person on the Fillmore project, has not set a deadline, but thinks that the parties are close to an agreement.
Because the Lees will be giving up ownership of a portion of their property for the Fillmore and building their future project on the remaining land, "we need to make sure we know where their stuff is going to be and where our stuff is going to be," Jones said.
For Live Nation's part, nothing is left to do on their end, said company spokesman John Vlautin, who said the company remains committed to the Silver Spring project.
"We do a lot of business in the Washington area, so we don't lose money [on a delayed opening] in this particular case because work has not started," he said. "But we look forward to opening that venue when the time comes."
While the county and the Lees work out the land use provisions, music companies such as Live Nation have been working through the recession. Fillmore's parent company has sold off some of its theater venues, including three in Boston, to streamline the company's venue portfolio and to pay down some of its debt, although the company's ticket sales have not been hurt by the current recession, Vlautin said.
And the company will continue selling those types of theatrical venues, said Vlautin, but not the Fillmore.
"The Fillmore is right in the pocket of what Live Nation is in the business of doing, which is live music," he said.
Business professor Curt Grimm agreed.
"Fillmore in Silver Spring can be successful because it's in a strong location close to a Metro [station] and surrounded by other businesses and restaurants," said Grimm, who teaches at the Robert Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park.
But to beat the recession, the music company and venues have to do more "creative things" to combat scalpers who purchase large amounts of tickets and resell them at higher prices, which takes money away from the venues, as well as keeping tickets reasonably priced, Grimm said.
Staff Writer Jason Tomassini contributed to this report.