Developers hope to break ground next year on a major building project along Rockville Pike that will include a Wegmans grocery store. Last week, after more than a year of often tense public debates, the Rockville Planning Commission gave unanimous approval to the first of six phases of development.
The project is intended to transform a seven-block stretch of Rockville Pike into a “world-class, mixed-use area,” according to developers from Saul Holdings, the company leading the project. Plans call for demolishing 240,756 square feet of existing commercial property and replacing it with 11 mixed-use buildings with office, retail and entertainment space and up to 1,865 apartments. Developers have also proposed a 1-acre park in the center of the property to serve as public gathering space, dog parks, three new roads to accommodate traffic through the area and bike lanes.
The first phase includes a 92,000-square-foot Wegmans at the corner of Halpine Road and Rockville Pike, up to 460 apartments and a parking garage. A 176-foot-tall office building is expected to be built once Saul Holdings has “procured a tenant,” according to Planning Commission documents. Construction on the first phase is expected to be completed in 2024.
Later phases include more housing, retail, restaurant, a possible child care facility and a 9,000-square-foot entertainment venue. In total, the project encompasses more than 2.8 million square feet of development Construction on the complete project is expected to span about 30 years.
The multimillion-dollar project drew attention last year when information surfaced that new residences could strain already crowded Richard Montgomery and Walter Johnson high schools. Enrollment at the schools is anticipated to be pushed over the maximum capacity generally allowed before residential building projects are put on hold. The Rockville City Council in February 2019, however, voted to allow certain “champion” development projects to be granted an exemption from the school capacity rules test, which calculates the number of students a new residential development project would have. If capacity at any school affected by the project exceeds 120 percent, development applications are generally denied. The Twinbrook Quarter project meets qualifications outlined by the council to receive an exemption It is the first project to receive the exemption.