2020 | Development

Developer looking at biotech use for former Leidos campus

Amazon pulled out of 700 N. Frederick Ave. project in September

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Screenshot from planning documents

A developer told Gaithersburg officials that he is interested in marketing part of the former Leidos campus to the biotechnology industry.

Frederick-based Matan companies bought the 44-acre site at 700 N. Frederick Ave. in January 2019, with the original goal of developing it into a mixed-use property. In August 2019, the city approved a sketch plan for multiple buildings and multiple uses.

In May 2020, Matan filed a new sketch plan that stated the facility could be used for “one or more uses” after Amazon expressed interest in building a “last-mile” distribution center on the property.

In August 2020, Matan announced it was reverting to the sketch plan for multiple buildings and multiple uses that had been approved the year before. Amazon announced the following month that it had had pulled out of the Gaithersburg project.

Last week, representatives from Matan presented details on the company’s new plan for the property.

The mixed-use site would include two buildings that could be a mix of office, industrial and retail. One building would be up to 600,000 square feet, and the other would be up to 50,000 square feet. Both would have a maximum height of six stories.

The mixed-use site would also include a fast food restaurant with a drive-through and a gas station.

Additionally, plans call for a variety of green space on the site, including a “linear park” with large sidewalks along Frederick Avenue, two “employee amenity areas” and a large lawn.

Matan Principal Mark Matan said during a Dec. 21 virtual hearing that it is a “flexible product that can address multiple users,” but the developer has its “eye on the bio side.” Matan said he doesn’t have a tenant interested yet, but wants to get the buildings finished as soon as possible.

“Speed to market is front and center today,” he said. “By the time [a company has] made the decision [to locate somewhere], they want the buildings tomorrow. I’m not here to rush you, but I would like to build these buildings without a tenant.”

Mayor Jud Ashman and city officials welcome the project positively for the most part.

“We think that there’s tremendous prospects for this property and what you guys want to do with it,” Ashman said.

But Ashman and others said they want to explore the design of the buildings and possible environmental impacts in the coming weeks.

Some, including Council Member Mike Sesma, questioned the look of the buildings in the renderings presented.

“If the public sees these renderings, they’re gonna say these really look like warehouses and distribution centers,” he said. “I think as soon as you can show some renderings that show that it’s something more than that, then I think the idea that they’re flex buildings will be a reality.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Washingtonian Woods resident David Belgard said he shares the city’s concerns about the design.

“This building seems to be kind of modular,” he said.

Resident Deborah Sarabia said she is worried about the possible removal of canopy trees and the possible effects on the Seneca Creek watershed.

“The proposed development does not adequately protect the watershed,” she said.

Matan has submitted its schematic development plan to the city, which is the step before a final site plan.

The planning commission is scheduled to make a recommendation to council on Feb. 3. The council will discuss it and possibly vote on the plan March 15.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com