Discovery Prepares To Sell its Silver Spring Building

Observers wonder what might fill 10-story office tower

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The 2016 Shark Week mural at Discovery Communications' Silver Spring building

CHARLIE ARCHAMBAULT

Discovery Communications has retained the global real estate company JLL to market and sell its Silver Spring headquarters building.

JLL wrote in an email that Discovery is working with JLL’s Capital Markets Group to sell the 540,000-square foot headquarters. The real estate company’s Bill Prutting and Steve Collins will lead the efforts.

David Leavy, Discovery’s chief of corporate operations, wrote in an email on Wednesday that the company does not plan to leave the building until mid-2019 when the company is scheduled to open its new global headquarters in New York City.

The company announced Tuesday it would move its headquarters from Silver Spring to New York City and use Scripps’ Knoxville, Tennessee, offices as its new operations center. Discovery is consolidating offices as it finalizes a $14.6 billion merger with Scripps, the media company that operates television channels such as HGTV, Food Network and The Travel Channel.

The Silver Spring building houses about 1,300 employees—most of which will have to either move to a different Discovery office or find other employment, according to the company.

A small percentage of employees might remain in Maryland at a smaller office that will house government relations and other functions. Discovery has not identified where that office will be or how many people will work there. The company is also maintaining a technology center in Sterling, Virginia.

The Silver Spring building was constructed in 2003. It sits on 3.4 acres in what the county calls the “Silver Triangle,” which is bordered by Georgia Avenue, Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue, according to the Planning Department.

A county Planning Department map showing the "Silver Triangle" where the Discovery building is located.

The building has two wings—one that is 10 stories high and borders Colesville Road and one that is seven stories high and borders Georgia Avenue. The building is directly across the street from the Silver Spring Transit Center and the Metro station, a location that will also include a Purple Line station in the future.

County officials are keen on finding a replacement for Discovery for a number of reasons, including tax revenue. The company paid about $860,000 in county and state property taxes in 2017, according to county tax records. That figure doesn’t account for the property and income taxes collected from the company’s employees who live in the area.

County Executive Ike Leggett told the business website Bisnow that finding one company to take over the entire building “is not an easy find, but that will be the objective.”

David Petr, CEO of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, said Thursday the organization is already working with business leaders, the Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce and state partners to begin shaping the effort to promote Silver Spring to find a new tenant or tenants for the building.

“We’re energized to begin to market what will really be a world class real estate location for a future user,” Petr said.

He said there are about 50 potential corporate projects seeking to expand or locate in the county, including two or three he believes would be suitable for the Discovery location. He wouldn’t name those companies, but added “there are a few technology companies I think would be an ideal fit for this location.”

Petr described the site as “unique” in Montgomery County due to its proximity to Washington, D.C., transit connectivity and for the cultural diversity in the area.

Charles Nulsen, president of Washington Property Co., a major developer in Silver Spring’s Ripley District, said in an interview with Bethesda Beat on Wednesday that Silver Spring will need to boost its marketing efforts to attract a new business or businesses to fill the hole Discovery leaves.

“It is a transit-oriented, 24-hour, vibrant, urban location,” Nulsen said about the area. “It has all the qualities employers in 2018 are looking for, but the story needs to be told.”

Washington Property Co. built the 295-unit Solaire Silver Spring apartment building in 2012 and is working on the 340-unit Solaire Georgia Avenue building at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Bonifant Street.

The company also plans to develop the former Progress Place site and parking lot off Georgia Avenue into a third residential building.

A Washington Property Co. map showing its projects in downtown Silver Spring's Ripley District, with the Discovery building circled in blue by Bethesda Beat

The Washington Property Co. buildings in the Ripley District are about three blocks from Discovery’s headquarters.

Nulsen said the residential real estate market in downtown Silver Spring is “healthy,” but said the office market is not doing as well.

“The thing Silver Spring is going to need to address is how it’s going to attract another employer and other employers to keep the central business district vibrant,” Nulsen said.

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