Silver Spring Church Goes Residential

Article Published in DCMud - February 2, 2010 [view]

Developer Lakritz Adler has presented its first plans to turn a decaying church into a large residential project in Silver Spring across from the new downtown library. The DC developer is working with the First Baptist Church on Wayne Avenue to build a roughly 200-unit apartment building and replacement church for the congregation.

According to Josh Adler, Managing Partner of Lakritz Adler, the developer has been working with the church for three years to develop a site plan, which should begin construction by late next year, replacing the 80-year old church with a 5-6 story apartment building and church along Fenton Street, between Bonifant and Wayne.

Assuming approval by the county, the residential project would be the largest for the developer and its first church development, both on a small downtown site, which Adler says led to a challenge that other firms turned down for being "too complicated." But Adler says his firm was contacted by the church for the undertaking and found a good match, despite the novelties. "I can't say we've built a church before; but they have a church architect, Dimensional Dynamics, a Pennsylvania firm which has an expertise in that area." For the residential piece, the team has selected Torti Gallas of Silver Spring. While plans remain just that, Adler expects the project to include about 30,000 s.f. of ground floor retail, replacing what is now largely a surface parking lot.

If things move expeditiously, Adler predicts construction could start two years from now. If all goes well, Lakritz Adler and First Baptist will erect a 5 story building (grading to 6 stories on the lowest portion of the site) along Fenton Street, with retail along the front that rounds the corner on Wayne, with a residential entrance on Bonifant. Current designs specify a concrete structured first floor for retail, a garage below, and a 4-level wood-framed residence on top, topping out at 60 feet measured from the highest elevation. Adler sees ultimate approval as likely. "We're not asking for any variances or exceptions. We've had a number of community meetings in the past month, as well as with Park and Planning Staff; we've gone in with a meaningfully smaller building than we are allowed to build there, and have tried to design it in a way that the community approves of." First Baptist, he adds, has been an active part of the design process.

Located directly opposite the upcoming Purple Line station and new Silver Spring library, Adler says of the land "its a very important site, I don't think anyone could argue that it is the single best multifamily site in Silver Spring today." The developer promises the building will be worthy of the location. "It will be built accordingly, with lots of amenities, a nice roofdeck, and a business center. I would compare it to Ellington on U Street, the same kind of quality level. The very high end of residential quality for Silver Spring."

The first plans for the site, created in 2007, were for an office building, but that changed with the shifting market. "It seemed like the office market was better at first, but our view is that residential market is starting an upswing" said Adler. While the team is building under the presumption of rental apartments, he notes that the project could of course go condo down the road. "The plan is for rental, but nothing is stopping us from switching in the future."

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