2015 | Real Estate

Bethesda Developer Has Big Hopes For Townhome Project In Rock Spring Office Park

EYA hopes project will signal transformation for Rock Spring

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It’s far from the first place many would expect a new batch of luxury townhomes, but Bethesda-based developer EYA says its Montgomery Row project in the Rock Spring office park could be the start of a major transformation.

Sales at the yet-to-be-built project in Bethesda will start Saturday.

Those who visit the project’s sales center on Fernwood Road will find the spot in the middle of a suburban corporate office park home to Marriott International, Lockheed Martin and others.

“While today, that portion of Bethesda is associated with corporate campuses and office buildings, if you pull out and take a broader view, you’re in the middle of one of the most attractive neighborhoods there is,” said McLean Quinn, vice president of land acquisition and development for EYA.

The site where the 168 townhomes will be built was approved for an office building and parking garage. But the project never materialized because of the region’s stagnant office market.

Renderings of Montgomery Park townhomes. Credit: EYA

Quinn said EYA approached the property owner about purchasing it for residential development. In 2011, EYA bought an Alexandria office building for $21 million and converted it into waterfront condos aimed at empty nesters.

The developer is also partnering with Boston Properties on a plan for residential development at a site in the Tower Oaks section of Rockville that is zoned for office that was never built.

“The definition of infill development has changed. Traditionally, maybe this wasn’t an area of focus because these commercial office buildings were successful and they were doing well,” Quinn said. “We’ve got a lot of opportunities to go into these places, make these places more like Bethesda or a Pike & Rose, a more mixed-use urban place.”

The three- and four-level townhomes at Montgomery Row will range in size from 1,700 to 2,600 square feet and cost from $749,000 to $1.1 million.

EYA has built the sales center and a driveway to provide access for an adjacent property owner. Quinn said site work will pick up next week and construction on the actual townhomes should be evident by the fall.

First move-ins will be in spring 2016, though completion of the entire project will take about three years.

While Quinn said Montgomery Row puts EYA “at the vanguard” of what could be a new-look Rock Spring Park, he and others are watching what across-the-street neighbor Marriott International will do.

The Fortune 500 hotel giant announced earlier this year it’s planning to move from its Fernwood Road headquarters to a more transit-accessible location.

Montgomery Row will provide plenty of parking—each townhome will have a one- or two-car garage and there will be guest spaces on the street, plus 72 reserved spaces in a parking garage belonging to an adjacent office property owner.

EYA is leaving space in the Montgomery Row project for a future bus rapid transit station, which was envisioned in the county’s long-range master plan for a North Bethesda Transitway that would connect Westfield Montgomery mall with the White Flint Metro station.

Once enough residents move in, EYA will run a shuttle from Montgomery Row to the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station.

Quinn noted that the area could be further transformed by the previously revealed mixed-use development plans for the Ourisman Ford site on Westlake Terrace and Rock Spring Centre near Walter Johnson High School.

Both those projects have been in a holding pattern, though an expected rewrite of the Rock Spring Sector Plan in the next couple years could reinvigorate the area long known for its mall and office park.

“There are a lot of projects that will help really transform Rock Spring Park from office park into a real mixed-use community,” Quinn said. “We hope that we’re going to help it break loose.”