This story was updated at 3:05 p.m. on Aug. 4, 2021, to correct the name of one of the county agencies that moved. It was updated at 5 p.m. to include comment from the building owner.
Several county divisions and agencies have moved from their longtime home at 255 Rockville Pike to two new locations in Rockville and Wheaton. The future of their old space is still uncertain.
Greg Ossont, the deputy director of the county’s Department of General Services, said the county vacated its offices at 255 Rockville Pike on June 30.
Ossont added that the county’s Department of Permitting Services, Department of Environmental Protection, Community Use of Public Facilities, and Department of Recreation moved to the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission headquarters at 2425 Reedie Drive in Wheaton.
The Office of Procurement, Department of Treasury/Finance, the Office of Human Resources, the Department of Occupational Health, and the Department of Health and Human Services moved to the old Grey Courthouse at 27 Courthouse Square in Rockville, he said.
One reason those agencies and divisions left 255 Rockville Pike in Rockville for county-owned buildings was to save money versus leasing office space, Ossont said. County Council staff documents show the county was spending millions of dollars a year leasing the space for various divisions.
The Grey Courthouse renovations cost about $23 million, Ossont said. Work on the building included new ceilings and floors throughout, along with improving lighting and other minor improvements.
The 308,000-square-foot office building in Wheaton and the Marian Fryer Town Plaza across the street cost $179 million. Those projects were built as an overall revitalization project for downtown Wheaton.
Montgomery Planning and Montgomery Parks currently work in the top four floors of the building. Along with the aforementioned county agencies, the Mid-County Regional Services Center’s Wheaton Urban District works in the lower levels.
About 900 employees work in the new building, which is near a Metro Station and meant to create more activity for the business community in downtown Wheaton.
The move of several county agencies into the new Wheaton headquarters will help create greater efficiencies for county residents and customers, Ossont said.
With all county tenants out of 255 Rockville Pike, it’s unclear what the future of the downtown Rockville building is. Mitch Rutter, a principal of Essex Capital Partners in New York City, who own the property, said in an interview Wednesday that he and colleagues were preparing for the county to vacate the building. The county could have stayed an additional year, he said.
There are many potential uses for the building, and Essex Capital is also looking at multiple ways to increase its height, Rutter said. He added the property is an important one for downtown Rockville.
“We believe that mass transit is the lifeblood of any city or any downtown,” Rutter said. “And this building, being right on the Metro, has great prospects.”
David Levy, Rockville’s assistant director of planning and business improvement, said in an interview that he’s had multiple conversations with Rutter over the years about the property. Existing zoning and codes for the property, with some minor tweaks, could allow it to be built higher than 200 feet, Levy said.
Its location downtown and proximity to amenities and the Metro station mean it’s in everyone’s interest for the space to be properly used for retail, apartments, industry or a mix of uses, he added.
“It’s one of the linchpin properties for the vitality of town center …,” Levy said. “[Having it] vacant is not good for anyone. It’s not good for the city, and not good for [Rutter].”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org