This morning’s Peerless Rockville tour of the Alaire not only provided an intimate behind-the-scenes tour with representative of JBG of this award-winning combination of residences and stores, but also discussed the plans and timing for several projects in the Twinbrook Metro area. About a dozen people joined the conversation to see the lobby, common rooms, and a one-bedroom apartment of the Alaire, then went out onto the street to discuss the current and upcoming development for the region. Among the items that caught my ears:
1. WMATA owns the land and has leased it to JBG for 99 years. That means that projects need to be approved both by the City of Rockville and WMATA.
2. WMATA wants to maintain the 1100 parking spaces currently available at the Twinbrook Metro station, so before any existing surface lots can be developed, sufficient parking has to be provided elsewhere. The parking structure currently under construction at Halpine and Chapman will allow development of the next phase of Twinbrook Commons.
3. The next phase of Twinbrook Station will occur on the west side of Fishers Lane, across from the Alaire. Called the Toronto, it will consist of a combination of residences, stores, and a parking structure and will be intentionally designed by another architectural firm to avoid a monotonous appearance for the development. Groundbreaking is expected to happenin a couple weeks and the project will take about two years to complete. That doesn’t mean the parking structure under construction will be finished in two weeks–there’s a lot of demolition of existing buildings, grading, and utility work that will happen before the surface parking lot and entrance will be affected.
4. There’s a lot of residential development happening between White Flint and Twinbrook but incredibly, they’re all reaching 90% occupancy and the current customer demand is for apartments, not condos. The Alaire is at 98% occupancy and most of the residents are in their 30s and about 20% work within walking distance. Their target audience are people who work in DC but can’t afford to live there or people who work in the Rockville area and want to reduce their time commuting for work, shopping, or leisure.
5. JBG has approached Capital Bikeshare several times to open a station at Twinbrook, however, Bikeshare remains focused on the DC market and only short-distance uses (i.e., less than a half mile). In response, JBG has arranged for a small number of bikes that can be rented by the residents or employees at the Alaire and hope to bring a bike shop to Twinbrook Commons soon. They’ve also tried to gain interest from a hardware store, but so far, no business has expressed interest (the big players like Home Depot and Lowes want to be on a major street; small businesses don’t want to take the risk).
6. JBG has a couple other projects underway. The most visible will be the block between the Rockville Pike and Chapman Avenue where the Scan and Ethan Allan stores stand. This is to be developed as a combination residential and retail project anchored by a 65,000 sf Safeway store. It’s unclear if this new Safeway will affect the existing Safeway on Viers Mill Road (there may or may not be enough business to satisfy both locations). This project was recently approved by the Planning Commission, although there was a dispute about the validity of the votes (I’ll need to check this out). The other project is an office/laboratory for an allergy research firm at the south end of Fishers Lane hidden behind the existing labs/offices (across Twinbrook Parkway, so in the county). It will include a walking/biking trail that connects to the Viers Mill Road pedestrian bridge to encourage employees to walk or bike to work from the southside. Nice to see these walking/biking trails slowly getting connected in the city.
April 24 update: Sam Stiebel, a planner with JBG Companies, provided the following additional details and corrections:
- The next phase will be called the Terano [rather than the Toronto. I was a bit confused why would pick a name associated with Canada, but it looks like they picked a name associated with an Italian restaurant, Japanese long jumper, a Nissan SUV, and a hostile male sorcerer in the Elder Scrolls game].
- The other projects in the Fishers Lane area south of Twinbrook include the renovation of the Parklawn Building for Health and Human Services as well as the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (aka NIAID, details here: http://www.jbg.com/news?NewsID=202).