B.F. Saul representatives say development could draw more than 3,450 jobs to site

The Twinbrook Quarter project to construct 11 buildings along Rockville Pike could ultimately bring more than 3,450 jobs, 1,865 homes and a Wegmans.

The neighborhood that could rise up in place of the surface parking and single-story box stores that now sprawl across the roughly 18-acre site would be transformative, according to the B.F. Saul Co. development team involved. It would provide shops, housing, employment space, a 1.1-acre central green and a couple of dog parks—one for little dogs and one for big ones.

Overall, the undertaking could span a quarter century and succeed in “converting the disconnected collection of retail shops into Saul’s vision for a one-of-a-kind dynamic place,” said Thomas Gallas, CEO of Torti Gallas + Partners, the architecture and urban design firm involved in the project.

The proposal for the property near the intersection of Rockville Pike and Halpine Road calls for housing, 431,440 square feet of office space, 472,950 square feet of retail space and 9,000 square feet for an entertainment venue.

The development team presented its vision to Rockville officials Monday evening while making a pitch for “champion project” status under the Rockville Pike Neighborhood Plan adopted in 2016. This designation would release the property owners from a requirement to provide an access road along Rockville Pike.

The city’s mayor and council members unanimously voted to let the developers seek the champion project status. A final decision about awarding the label won’t come until later in the development approval process.

In order to qualify, a project must be located within the South Pike, an area south of the Woodmont Country Club, and cover more than 5 acres. Twinbrook Quarter meets both of those conditions, city officials said. Projects must also fulfill at least one of four goals: increasing affordable housing, providing more public use space than required, going above and beyond to improve the transportation network and generating a “significant increase” in the amount of employment in the area.

Saul representatives argued Twinbrook Quarter might not surpass affordable housing requirements but will check off the other three criteria.

The developer is planning to build an extension of Chapman Avenue that would run through the site and extend Congressional Avenue to Chapman. Project representatives said they’re also considering a new connection from the site to the Twinbrook Metro station, which is across the train tracks from Twinbrook Quarter. Building this crossing would require a public-private partnership that would include the developer and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Saul representatives said.

While the developer is only required to dedicate 15 percent of the site for public use, the Twinbrook Quarter plan calls for setting aside 18 percent as open space. Todd Pearson, a senior vice president at B.F. Saul, said the company is dedicating more than 31 percent to public use, if walkways and sidewalks are counted.

City staff found the project might qualify based on the public space goal, although a staff report said “some of what the applicant is counting as public use space” doesn’t fit the definition under the Rockville plan.

The Twinbrook Quarter project isn’t exceeding expectations for transportation improvement but could bring about a marked job growth, the staff report concluded.

City officials asked Saul representatives about their plan for transportation improvements, affordable housing and open space and about the project timeline—especially related to the arrival of Wegmans. The developer last week announced it had signed a lease with the New York-based grocer to open its first store in southern Montgomery County.

“The buzz out there is tremendous, so really, kudos to you. Everyone can’t wait for it to be here so they can stop going all the way up to Germantown,” council member Beryl Feinberg said.

Pearson said the grocery store would be located in Building 1 at the corner of Rockville Pike and Halpine Road and would be the first section of the project to be built.

The buildings throughout the project would range in height from 20 to 200 feet, with shorter structures positioned near existing residential homes, Saul representatives said.