Monday, November 9, 2009

percontee: not just sticks and bricks

LifeSci Village Busy Street

part THREE of a series about new development proposals in Calverton and Hyattsville by Percontee.

Percontee is one of several companies owned by the Gudelsky family, once one of the region's largest developers. Husband and wife Homer and Martha Gudelsky are also well known for their philanthropy, with the foundation that bears their name contributing to everything from a nature center in Howard County to school of technology at Montgomery College to the Music Center at Strathmore Hall. Homer and Martha "grew up nearby on Colesville Road," Genn explains, and the family sees LifeSci Village as their "legacy project."

"This is probably the last of the large tracts the Gudelskys own in East Montgomery County," he says. "For them as for us, this is what we hope people will look at in twenty-five or fifty years and way 'What a great thing they've done.' Create a place for people to live and work and have a great time in the eastern part of the county."

The LifeSci Village concept began in 2004, soon after the Food and Drug Administration began building their new campus at the Federal Research Center in White Oak. David Edgerley, then director of economic development for Montgomery County, approached Percontee with the proposal for the East County Center for Science and Technology, a small business incubator to be located north of the site.

East County Center For Science and Technology Plan
2005 sketch plan of the East County Center for Science and Technology.

A sketch plan for the ECCST - which was never funded - shows an office park not unlike those already built along Tech Road, with low-slung buildings surrounded by a small lake and acres of parking lots. Almost all of the project's 800,000 square feet was devoted to office, educational and research space, though 15,000 square feet was given over to retail - enough room for a couple of fast-food restaurants.

"He said, 'Percontee, you're in the middle of it,'" Genn recalls Edgerley saying. "Instead of doing something piecemeal and detached, we decided to do something comprehensive. During those years we've been talking with all the stakeholders."

LifeSci Village would incorporate the East County Center for Science and Technology, remaking the combined 290-acre site as a series of "neighborhoods," each with a different mix of uses. A "north neighborhood," closer to existing office parks along Tech Road, would house predominantly commercial and light industrial activities. An "east neighborhood," across from the Riderwood Village retirement community along Cherry Hill Road, would mostly contain housing. Between them would be a "village center" (pictured above) with housing, offices and retail.

LifeSci Village Site Plan
Site plan of LifeSci Village.

Green space will come in the form of several small parks and plazas, including one in the village center, and a greenbelt preserving the only remaining wooded portion of the site. The entire complex will have a street grid with multiple connections to the FDA campus and the new Adventist Hospital. "We've been working with them to integrate our site plans," says Genn.

Current plans for LifeSci Village outline roughly two million square feet of "life science and tech uses," including educational and clinical facilities, research labs, and regular office space; two million square feet of retail space, hotel rooms and possibly a conference center; and three to four thousand residences - "mostly townhomes, mid-rise and maybe apartments and condos," according to Genn. We didn't discuss building height, but the renderings show buildings no taller than six stories.

"Quality of construction is important to us and the Gudelskys," says Genn. "It's not just sticks and bricks, it's built to last." That being said, Genn isn't worried about the environmental effects of building on a soon-to-be former industrial site. "I don't think there needs to be any remediation," he says. "We've done environmental studies. Typical brownfield reuse of a property. We want to get it certified as environmentally sound fo environmental uses."

Check out this slideshow of LifeSci Village and Belcrest Plaza. All images courtesy of Percontee unless otherwise noted.


Thayer-D said...

This looks great. Where's the public transportation hook-up?

Dan Reed said...

Uh . . . there isn't one, for now. The site is currently served by a couple of bus routes (one of which, the C7/C9, just got cut). For years there's been talk of BRT up Route 29, which could swing by LifeSci Village on Industrial Parkway, and a Purple Line spur to White Oak, which could theoretically continue into this development. But these are both just ideas, and even though Percontee's pledged to put money towards transit, there's no guarantee that these projects could ever get built.