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August 18, 2019

Project Update and Timing

Anyone living along The Avenue is likely aware of and tracking the upcoming development of the Westwood Shopping Center—an unfolding saga that has captured the attention of the surrounding communities and sparked many a debate. Our clients have often inquired as to what we know about the status of the project. Here’s what we’ve learned.

While the process of development and approval has been a long and winding road, in March 2019 the Montgomery County Planning Board (MCPB) granted its approval of the final, revised project plans.  According to Stephanie Dickel of the Montgomery County Planning Department, the approved Certified Preliminary Site Plan has been submitted and is now undergoing final permitting review. Construction may begin once final comments from the Department are made and addressed by the site developer, Regency Centers.

The site developer was formerly Equity One, but in 2018 they were acquired by Regency Centers—a qualified real estate investment trust (REIT) based out of Florida that is publicly traded on the NYSE. Regency Centers is expected to begin demolition of a portion of the site by late 2019. According to the Regency Centers website, construction of Phase I is expected to be completed in 2022.

There is a case before the State of Maryland Special Appeals Court filed by the community non-profit group, “Save Westbard”, who charged that approval should not have been granted because the County did not complete a Greenhouse Gas Emission Study. The County has admitted that the analysis was not performed. The Court of Special Appeals was slated to hear the case on June 3, 2019.

The Regency Centers’ website states that “the action does not challenge the zoning… so the plans will remain unchanged regardless of the litigation’s outcome.” In speaking with a representative from the law office representing Regency Centers and with Ms. Dickel of the Montgomery County Planning Department, both parties suggested that the litigation should not impact the project schedule, although neither party could or would comment on the status of the case and whether or not a resolution has been achieved.

The “Save Westbard” organization had initially raised concerns over a number of issues such as school overcrowding, traffic, environmental impacts, and population density. Over years of negotiations, a number of revisions have been made to the development plans. For example, the original plan was to include 874 new residential units. Now the plan calls for 514 new residential units. In addition, the original plan incorporated a height limit of 165 feet—revised now to a height of 75 feet for the overall project and a maximum height of 60 feet in Phase I.

Phase I

Phase I of the project is the Westwood Shopping Center (depicted below). This Phase will include
72 townhomes to be built by EYA adjacent to the Kenwood Place condominiums and 200 apartment-style homes situated above ground-floor retail shops.

Property features will include a central green area for farmers markets, community events and outdoor concerts, an adjacent “Jewel Box” coffee shop, restaurants, retail stores, and a new Giant grocery store. In addition, subject to the removal of an easement for the Kenwood Place Condominiums, the project will also include a 1⁄2-acre Springfield Community Park. If a resolution is not achieved for the easement however, the MCPB states that the park may be located “off-site.”

The Regency Center’s website suggests that the current Giant store will remain open during construction until the new one is ready for business; retail parking on-site will remain free for the foreseeable future; “big box” stores will not be included in the development plan.

Plans for Phase II of the development are still in the works and would involve the former Manor Care site, Bowlmor, the two gas stations, and the “Westwood Center II” office and shopping center on the corner of Ridgefield Road.

Absent from the plans is any mention of the controversial River Road Moses Cemetery site because the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) purchased the Westwood Towers Apartments and the adjoining plat upon which the burial grounds sit. The HOC has no current plans for development of the property.

You can request updates from Regency Centers via email by visiting:

westwoodredevelopment.com/updates

BY AMY MAURY | 07.15.2019