After a November 12th presentation to the WBC Regional Development Committee on Montgomery County development projects, Dave Miller of Coakley and Williams Construction, Inc. caught the committee’s mood with a: “Wow, we need to sponsor a WBC panel titled, ‘The Suburbs Fight Back!’   That sentiment reflects both the recent construction crane dominance of the Washington sky line and that Greg Ossont, Deputy Director of the County’s Department of General Development, had just finished a tour de force presentation on many of the county’s current development projects.  Mr. Ossont oversees most of Montgomery County development projects, coordinating between the County Executive Office, county departments and outside agencies, including Maryland National-Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC).  We’re all well aware of the recent development shift to urban centers rich with both transit accessibility and public amenities.  But, what came as something of a surprise to the WBC listeners was the seriousness that Montgomery County brings to large, multi-phased Smart Growth public private partnerships (P3’s).

Mr. Ossont provided an overview of five county P3 projects: Shady Grove Smart Growth Initiative, the White Flint redevelopment, the Wheaton redevelopment, the Bethesda 2nd District Police Station move/redevelopment, and the White Oak Science Gateway development.  In the current issue of the ULI magazine “Urban Land”, Patrick Kiger defines P3 development as where “private companies play some role in the financing, design, construction, or some aspect of operation of a project” and he cites P3’s as savings approximately 15% in both cost and time (September/October 2013).   In implementing County Executives Ike Leggett’s P3 approach, Mr. Ossont made clear to the WBC committee that with shrinking county resources due to such factors as expanding legacy obligations (e.g. employee retirement obligations), the P3 approach is a no-brainer for the Montgomery County.  Here is a brief summary and images of the five P3 projects Mr. Ossont presented:

Shady Grove Smart Growth Initiative
Mr. Ossont covered two aspects of the county’s Shady Grove Smart Growth Initiative.  This initiative implements the recently up-dated Gaithersburg Master Plan and is bringing thousands of new residents principally to the Urban Village near the Shady Grove Metro, as some 90 acres of old industrial uses converts into a multi-phased, integrated concept bearing the title “Smart Growth”.  Under this initiative, EYA is redeveloping the west of the Shady Grove Metro Station and the Hines Corporation is the selected partner for redeveloping the existing 52-acre the Public Safety Training Academy (PSTA) site.  Both of these projects are land deals.  As “land deals” more flexible procurement regulations apply, an important aspect as the county relocates public works facilities under a revenue neutral framework, meaning the P3 pays, not the county residents.  Such a framework is only possible due to recently approved up-zoning and fixed-guide way transit, either existing or planned.  In case of the EYA project, the terminal station of the west leg of the Red Line Metro.  In the case of the PSTA redevelopment, the site has a future station on the Corridor Cities Transitway.

White Flint Redevelopment
White Flint is a developer-initiated redevelopment that is urbanizing a 400 acre suburban area, served by the Red Line Metro.  Currently, Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) Pike & Rose project is in full swing, which is bringing 450 thousand sf of retail, 1,500 residential units, 1.1 million sf of office/hotel development, and more than 4,000 parking spaces.  In addition, public amenities will include: an i-screen iPic Theater, a 250-seat performing arts venue and a park.  FRIT is one of six developers that approached the county and proposed a taxing district to help support the massive infrastructure and amenity improvements needed.   Besides FRIT, the White Flint developer partners are: B.F. Saul, Gables, the Holliday Corporation, JBG Companies, and Learner Enterprises/Tower Companies.  In addition, LCOR, though not Partnership member, coordinates with the White Flint Partnership.  In accord in the White Flint Master Plan, Master Plan build out is staged in line with infrastructure improvements and mobility targets.  Full White Flint build out will involve 6 million commercial sf and some 10,000 residents.  Matching a developer 10 cent per $100 of assessed value and $280 million in direct developer contributions, county support includes some $152 million in principally transportation improvements.  Mr. Ossont described one of many moving parts, the transfer and sale of a State Highway Administration park and ride lot to fund a new fire station and permit the Pike and Rose project to proceed.

Wheaton Redevelopment
The county, led by its Department of Transportation, issued and is now negotiating with the StonebridgeCarras and the Bozzuto Group a general development agreement for 500,000 sf of a transformative development, a town square and underground parking.  Approximately half of 500,000 sf would be for a new M-NCPPC regional headquarter and two County Departments relocating from Rockville (Permitting Services and Environmental Protection) and the other half of the development, a 218-unit residential building both on county parking lot in the middle of the Wheaton Triangle.   In addition to the county-owned Wheaton land, the county solicitation included the current site the M-NCPPC regional headquarters in Silver Spring.  If this P3 goes according to the proposed schedule, construction in Wheaton will start in 2016, with occupancy in 2018.  The M-NCPPC move would then allow construction to begin in Silver Spring.

Bethesda District 2 Police Station Redevelopment
For several years, the county had been in negotiations with JBG for a P3 involving the leveraging the District 2 Police Station site, at 7359 Wisconsin Avenue for a new Bethesda Police Station.   Those negotiations failed and this past summer, the county restructured its District 2 Police Station solicitation.  As a result of the re-issued solicitation, the county is currently negotiating with StonebridgeCarras for a new four story Police Station on Rugby Avenue in Bethesda.   The restructured solicitation required land control as a requirement, eliminating the uncertainties intrinsic to proposals with contingencies.   This P3 project enables the county to construct a new Police Station for a fraction of the cost of traditional county public works project, permits the 7359 Wisconsin site to provide tax revenues, and generate profits for the developer.  Assuming successful completed of a general development agreement this calendar year, the new Station could be completed in 2015 and permitting StonebridgeCarras to move forward with the 7359 Wisconsin site.  StonebridgeCarras is yet to decide the use for that site.

White Oak Science Gateway Project
In 2011, the county selected the Percontee Family as a P3 partner.  Percontee operates of nearly 200 acre sand and gravel quarry east of US 29 and off of Industrial Parkway.  The Percontee quarry is adjacent to a 115 acre site that the county, which the county purchased in 2009 from the Washington Suburban Sewer and Sanitation Commission (WSSC).   The combined site will be catalyzed by and compliment the Food and Drug Administration headquarters, bringing an additional 10,000 jobs to the East County.  These jobs will include university research facilities, office, and retail activity, as well as residents.   Currently, the County Council and the Planning Board are diligently working to devise an alternative implementation mechanism to resolve transportation issues and, thus, permit this major smart growth initiative to proceed.

In conclusion, Mr. Ossont expressed the county’s philosophy regarding the P3 – to strengthen the Montgomery County economy and infused the county with a vibrant quality of life that both keeps and attracts creative works – the county needs a development framework entailing county development goals, then “gets out of the way!”   These words were music to ears of WBC committee members as the harmony of earth movers and pile drivers sang “Montgomery County gets it”.


About the Author

Rob Klein
With over 30 years experience in project management, Klein Consulting facilitates redevelopment and entitlements through analysis and outreach. 240-848-4951