Friday, May 25, 2007

Purple Line re-routing revives mixed-use project for Studio Plaza

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Developer Robert Hillerson’s mixed-used plans for Studio Plaza in south Silver Spring are back on the table after the Maryland Transit Administration dropped one possible route for the so-called Purple Line that would have run through a parking lot owned by Montgomery County.

Hillerson has revived talks with county economic development officials over a plan developed in response to a 2005 request for proposals to develop the lot, which is surrounded by private land that includes parcels fronting Georgia, Thayer and Silver Spring avenues. The proposal includes 166,000 square feet of office and retail space attached to a residential complex.

‘‘We’ve just reopened negotiations for a joint development based on the [request for proposals] now that the state has taken the parking lot off its alignment,” said Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center.

Only last month, Hillerson submitted a revised plan for Studio Plaza that would have scrapped the office and retail space in favor of a residential-only project. That was after county planners said the project did not comply with zoning rules related to public space usage that would have limited development potential at the site. But the transit agency’s latest plans for the Bi-County Transitway, known informally as the Purple Line, would free up use of the parking lot and make Hillerson’s mixed-use plans economically viable even with the zoning interpretation, Stith said.

The project is tentatively headed for a Montgomery County Planning Board review hearing on June 7, after recommendations are finalized by the Department of Park and Planning development review division. In addition to the commercial space, Hillerson’s original plan includes 255 residential units in a pair of condominium buildings.