Another D.C. Suburb Aims to Densify

The D.C. suburbs seem to be fertile ground for some of the nation's most ambitious retrofit projects. The latest plan to be made public would transform a 1950's era apartment and retail complex in Silver Spring, reports Jonathan O'Connell.
February 15, 2013, 10am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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With the region emerging from the recession as perhaps the strongest economy in the nation, and recent trends in population growth projected to continue, developers and planners are bullish on the potential to transform Washington D.C.'s inner suburbs into urbane mixed-used transit-oriented communities. We've heard recently about plans afoot for Tysons Corner in northern Virginia. Now comes news about plans by developer Tower Cos. to overhaul the Blairs apartment and retail complex in Silver Spring, Maryland.

"Silver Spring, like many of Washington’s suburbs, is quickly evolving to accommodate an influx of residents and shoppers seeking neighborhoods that are walkable and accessible to public transit," writes O'Connell. "The Blairs’ massive surface parking lot and steep slope make the area difficult to navigate on foot. For a property near the Silver Spring Metro and MARC stations, as well as a revitalized downtown area, Tower officials believed that it was time for a major change."

“The Blairs has had a suburban design, and it has been that way since the 1960s,” said Ed Murn, Tower’s director of development, adding that “what we’re trying to do is transition to an urban, transit-­oriented, pedestrian-friendly community.”

"Over the next 10 years, Blair Towers would be replaced by four much larger high-rise apartment buildings, ranging from 260 to 370 units each," explains O'Connell. "Tower hired Canadian architect Bing Thom, who designed the renovated Arena Stage in Southwest Washington, and Massachusetts planning and design firm Sasaki Associates."

"In all, the Blairs would go from having 1,371 apartments to 2,800. 'This is a suburb that’s becoming a city,' Thom said."

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Published on Thursday, February 14, 2013 in The Washington Post
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