Raising concerns about parking and about the consequences high-rises stretching to 150 feet, Rockville residents weighed in on the proposed Twinbrook Metro Place development at Monday's City Council meeting.
Twinbrook Partners LLC has submitted plans to replace the existing one-story retail strip center at 1592 Rockville Pike, which is home to and other businesses, with a mixed-use development containing high-rise apartments, a 190-room hotel and 162,000 square feet of office space. In order to complete this project, the developers have asked for waivers to parking requirements, building height limits and road width requirements.
The goal is to create “a vibrant urban development with a pedestrian feel” said C. Robert Dalrymple, a land-use attorney representing the developers.
A typical project of the scope of Twinbrook Metro Place would require 2,199 parking spaces. Developers are asking that the requirement be waived so that the project can be built with less than 1,300 parking spaces.
The scope of the parking reduction request is not unusual, city planners said. Projects approved by the city for similar parking reductions have been successful, said James Wasilak, the city's chief of planning.
Reducing the number of parking spaces should be possible because of the project's proximity to the Twinbrook Metro station, argued James A. Alexander, a partner with Twinbrook Partners LLC.
Project supporters said Metro use will reduce parking needs and alleviate some of the traffic impact. The project will “turn that outdated asphalt shopping center in to a vibrant community," Alexander said.
“There are a lot of people like me who would not like to use their car and would like a well-designed smart growth community,” said Joseph McClane, president of the homeowners association at Cambridge Walk II in Twinbrook. Cambridge Walk II residents are “unanimously supportive of this project” and “would like more pedestrian friendly places to go," McClane said.
Other Twinbrook residents aren't so sure.
“Is the city really prepared?” asked Christina Ginsberg, president of the Twinbrook Citizens Association. Twinbrook Metro Place, with its proposal for three 14-story residential buildings, a 10-story office building and a 10-story hotel, “is not an isolated project,” Ginsberg said. There are seven other projects planned for both inside and outside of the city limits near the Twinbrook Metro station, she said.
Attracting new residents could bring congestion and complications to a part of the city where residents are “already struggling to live and work comfortably," said Judy Miller, vice president of the Twinbrook Citizens Association.
Residents testifying Monday also expressed concerns that the size of the buildings would be out of character for the neighborhood and that the high-rises would loom over Twinbrook.
Doug Reimel, an East Rockville resident, said he supports the development. He cited a recent post on the blog Maryland Juice that argued that opposition to development near transit can thwart progressive and environmental goals.
Maryland Juice cited a recent Greater Greater Washington blog link to an article on Spiegel Online that said building height restrictions are leading to low- and middle-income residents being priced out of Munich, Germany.