Just blocks from the Silver Spring Metro station and a short walk to hotspots such as Urban Butcher, Denizens Brewing Co., Kaldi’s Social House and the public library—the upstart Ripley District is continuing its transformation into an urban neighborhood.
But as it does so, the county has made sure to provide a new home for the Progress Place resource center that has long served the area’s homeless in an aging building off of Ripley Street.
On Saturday, Montgomery County officials were among the nearly 100 people gathered for the grand opening of the new center for the homeless built by Washington Property Co. behind the Silver Spring fire department on Georgia Avenue.
The building is about two blocks from the old Progress Place and is a significant upgrade, according to Jacki Coyle, executive director of Shepherd’s Table, which provides meals and clothing and runs an eye clinic for the homeless and needy at Progress Place.
One of the housing units and the commercial kitchen inside the new Progress Place. Credit: Andrew Metcalf
The four-story, 40,000-square-foot building houses a commercial kitchen, medical offices, temporary shelters for men and women during the winter, third-floor office space for community organizations and 21 studio apartments for long-term housing. Each small apartment has a bed, efficiency kitchen and a bathroom with a shower. The studio spaces are overseen by Interfaith Works, which also offers other services at the building.
Washington Property Co. constructed the building at a cost of about $15 million, according to company President Charles Nulsen. In exchange for the construction, the county provided the developer with the land where the current Progress Place building is, which is directly across from the company’s Solaire Ripley 1 building that was completed in 2012.
The new building replaces the former Progress Place shelter (white building). Behind it is the Solaire Ripley I apartment building, completed in 2012. Washington Property Co. plans to develop another apartment building, Solaire Ripley II on the parking lot site pictured here. (Andrew Metcalf)
The developer plans to build Solaire Ripley II, a 20-story high rise with 440 residential units, on the land provided by the county. Nulsen said the company plans to start construction on that project in two to three years. But first, he said, the company the plans to build Solaire 8250 Georgia Avenue, a 20-story high-rise with 338 residential units and 15,000 square feet of ground floor retail. The site for the Georgia Avenue building has already been cleared and Nulsen said construction is scheduled to start in January.
Once built, the three buildings will give Washington Property Co. about 1,100 residential units within three blocks of each other.
The Planned Solaire projects in Silver Spring. Washington Property Co. (click to expand)
When asked if the company’s decision to exchange the $15 million construction for the Progress Place property was worth it, Nulsen said “time will tell.”
Local elected officials said Saturday that providing the homeless with services downtown was important to them. The county spent about $430,000 in planning and design costs for the building. The building was built in a little over a year—the groundbreaking took place in October 2015.
County Executive Ike Leggett at the grand opening event. Washington Property Co. President Charles Nulsen (seated, pink tie) looks on. Credit: Andrew Metcalf
“Most people would say we need to put this somewhere else,” County Executive Ike Leggett said, adding that some people would probably prefer to not have to see homeless individuals occupying valuable property in downtown Silver Spring. “But [Progress Place] stands to suggest to us what kind of county we live in.”
County Council member George Leventhal said housing the homeless saves money by reducing county costs for other services such as medical care and jail costs.
“Homelessness itself is hard work,” Leventhal said. “Homelessness is a full-time job. Being homeless takes an enormous amount of mental energy.”
Coyle described Saturday’s grand opening as “one amazing day.” She said Shepherd’s Table has been hosting morning meetings with clients who use the current Progress Place to explain the changes and said staff “takes great pride in telling [clients] this building was built for them.”
Council member Tom Hucker, who represents Silver Spring, also commended Nulsen for Washington Property Co.’s investment in development in downtown Silver Spring.
“I love everything you’re doing to improve our game in Silver Spring,” Hucker said.
The temporary men's shelter space inside Progress Place can house individuals overnight from Nov. 1 to March 31. Credit: Andrew Metcalf
(Left to right) County Council members Tom Hucker, George Leventhal, Nancy Floreen, Roger Berliner, Shepherd's Table President Jacki Coyle, County Executive Ike Leggett, Charles Nulsen, and County Council member Hans Riemer cut the ribbon Saturday. Credit: Andrew Metcalf