Planning staff are recommending the board grant the request, which would extend the review of the project's sketch plan to May 8, 2014, and reschedule the public hearing date for April 24, 2014. Avalon Bay says it would like the additional time to incorporate new feedback from the Development Review Committee. The AVA Wheaton is expected to deliver in 2016.
The project will change the dynamic of the northern gateway to downtown Wheaton to a degree. Overall, the AVA Wheaton building height averages 4 stories. Existing apartment buildings nearby are also 4 stories, (although in reality, their stories are shorter, and the new building will still be slightly taller). AVA Wheaton will be built right out to the sidewalk along Georgia and Blueridge, creating a more dominating presence on Georgia, in contrast to today's building setback. That setback (and surface parking) allowed for green and sky views to the northeast and east, for those heading north on Georgia. Those views will be blocked, as far as I can tell from the sketch plan. The current sketch landscape design does not show trees along Georgia Avenue. A former Metro construction site remains as green space, for now, between the AVA Wheaton site, and the townhomes on the former Good Counsel site. A building on the western side of Georgia on this block is 3 stories.
But having said that, the existing building on the site - while less dense than the new one will be - rises as high as 7-8 stories along the dramatic slope of Blueridge. So, on the one hand, the new building could actually be shorter than the old one. On the other hand, I don't know the exact height of the current building to compare it to the 117' highest point of the AVA Wheaton.
In any case, the developer has shown some restraint here. There are far taller proposals, for less dense areas in the county, than this one. Density is still high in the project, though, with 322 apartments proposed. I don't see any ground floor retail or restaurants in the designs, so it will likely be a quiet neighbor for existing nearby residents. If you are one of those residents, please feel free to leave a comment below, with your opinion about the AVA Wheaton proposal.
The big takeaway from this project, is the continuing weakness in Montgomery County's office space market. This was a pretty nice office complex, with plenty of parking, well connected by regional Ride On and Metrobus routes, not far from the Wheaton Metro station, and not far from the Beltway, either. To have a lack of tenants interested in the office space there, speaks volumes about the moribund office market in the county. Those conveniences will certainly be to the benefit of the future residents of the AVA Wheaton, however.
Images via Avalon Bay, Hord Coplan Macht, VIKA Maryland, and Studio 39; All Rights Reserved.