Officials representing Montgomery County, local nonprofits and a developer broke ground Thursday on a new homeless shelter in downtown Silver Spring.
The four-story, 40,000-square-foot Progress Place shelter to be built off Georgia Avenue will replace the existing Progress Place resource center that currently serves the area’s homeless just a block away.
The new shelter will be 90 percent financed by Washington Property Co., which secured a land deal with the county to construct the building. In return, the developer will get the land where the existing Progress Place homeless resource center. The county will pay an estimated $427,000 in planning and design costs for the building.
A rendering of the new Progress Place shelter to be constructed behind Fire Station Number 1 in Silver Spring.
Janel Kausner, project manager for the developer, said the shelter’s construction should begin in the next few weeks and the building is expected to be completed in about 10 months. She said the company plans to build a new 440-apartment high-rise building on the site of the existing shelter, which is across the street from its 295-unit Solaire Ripley apartment building.
The relocation of the resource center and construction of the apartment building is part of an effort by the developer and the county to turn the upcoming Ripley neighborhood along Georgia Avenue into a more densely populated urban, transit-oriented community, according to officials at Thursday’s groundbreaking. The move was also represented as a way for the county to strike a deal with a developer to meet its own priority—building a new shelter with housing in it.
County Executive Ike Leggett said the new shelter represents a conscious effort by the county to invest in resources for the homeless.
“This is a very dreary day today, but we have a great deal of hope and expectation for the future,” Leggett said as heavy rain fell behind him while he stood under a tent on a chilly October morning. “Think about this day and the people who are suffering in our community who have no shelter, who have no resources in order to protect them…people are suffering through this.”
The new shelter will be constructed directly behind Silver Spring Fire Station 1 between Georgia Avenue and the Metro rail tracks. The building will include a larger dining room for the nonprofit Shepherd’s Table, currently located at the existing resource center that also provides eye care for the local vulnerable population; more space for Interfaith Works' Community Vision, which provides job training and vocational services; space for therapeutic, alcohol and drug support groups; showers for shelter clients; and 21 bedrooms on the fourth floor designed to provide long-term housing. The current resource center does not have any housing.
County Council President George Leventhal highlighted the budding restaurant community near the new shelter, which now includes hotspots such as Urban Butcher, Denizens Brewing Co. and The Urban Winery, before talking about the importance of caring for the homeless.
“Our values and our virtues as a community dictate that even as we get richer, even as we get more successful, we’re not going to leave behind people because of whatever stroke of bad luck, whatever life’s circumstances, whatever their mental health conditions or whatever their own inner demons,” Leventhal said. “We’re going to make sure they have a warm place to sleep. Progress Place is going to be one of the best, most comfortable shelters in the United States.”
Leventhal added that the shelter will help the county as it strives to meet its ultimate goal, which is to help every local homeless individual find safe, permanent affordable housing.
Jacki Coyle, executive director of Shepherd’s Table, which provides meals for about 140 people nightly at Progress Place, said the nonprofit will be able to increase its services in the new building.
“It’s a huge win for the people we serve, who are the most vulnerable in the county,” Coyle said.
Montgomery County Department of General Services director David Dise speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony. County Executive Ike Leggett and County Council president George Leventhal also pictured in the front row. (Photo by Andrew Metcalf)
An image displayed at Thursday's groundbreaking shows how Progress Place will fit in with Washington Property Co.'s other developments in the Ripley neighborhood.
The building will be constructed in the parking lot behind the fire station (station pictured to the right, parking lot to the left)
Correction – originally this article stated that the exiting Progress Place resource center was a shelter, however because it does not offer temporary housing–except under certain winter weather conditions–we've altered the story to call it a homeless resource center. Also, Community Vision was initially identified as the nonprofit that offers vision services at the resource center. In fact, it offers vocational services while Shepherd's Table offers eye care.