The developer of a possible Amazon distribution center site in Gaithersburg has changed course, indicating it now intends to put multiple buildings and multiple uses on the property — as the city requested.
Frederick-based Matan Companies bought the 44-acre former Leidos campus at 700 N. Fredrick Ave. in January 2019. The original goal was to develop the site into a mixed-use property.
Matan filed the original sketch plan, the first stage in the development process, in May 2019, showing multiple buildings and multiple uses. The council approved the sketch plan three months later.
Later, Amazon approached Matan with the idea of building a $92 million “last mile” distribution center on the site that would create up to 850 jobs.
John Schlichting, the city’s director of planning and code administration, told Bethesda Beat in a previous interview that Matan tried to file a schematic development plan (SDP), which is a preliminary site plan, for a single use in a single building. The city’s planning staff told Matan that the SDP needed to match the sketch plan.
In May 2020, Matan filed a new sketch plan that stated the site could be used for “one or more” uses, to give itself flexibility.
On Aug. 10, Matan principal Mark Matan sent a letter to Schlichting withdrawing the sketch plan application that was filed this year for “one or more” uses. Matan did not give a reason for the withdrawal of the sketch plan , but wrote that his company intends to redevelop the property according to the original sketch plan filed last year..
Schlichting told Bethesda Beat on Monday that the former sketch plan is still valid, even though Matan filed a new one this year.
“It’s our understanding based on what they told us that they intend to file a new schematic development plan based on the sketch plan that was approved last August,” he said.
The Mayor and City Council would ultimately need to approve the SDP, with a recommendation from the planning commission, Schlichting said.
Asked whether Amazon is still a prospective tenant, Schlichting referred questions to Matan.
Neither Mark Matan nor other representatives from the company could be reached for comment on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
For months, neither Matan nor Amazon publicly acknowledged that Amazon was interested in the site, until a meeting on July 28.
Matan has told the council at multiple meetings this summer that he wants to move forward with plans for the site as quickly as possible. He has reiterated that his company intends for the property to contain a single building with a single use.
But city officials have pushed back, saying they’re not sure whether a single tenant is a good idea.
At the July 28 meeting, some city council members expressed a preference for the original sketch plan with multiple buildings and multiple uses. But they said their opinion of the plan was not a judgment on Amazon as a company or the possibility of a distribution center.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org