Tuesday, October 8, 2013

work finally starts on chelsea heights townhouses

In 2010, local builder EYA made a deal with a private school to buy their Silver Spring campus and build townhouses there. After a three-year battle with the neighborhood association, construction has finally begun.

Chelsea Heights Sign, Georgia Avenue
Bus ad for the new Chelsea Heights development in downtown Silver Spring. All photos by the author.

Workers are busy clearing the five-acre site on Pershing Drive, four blocks from the Silver Spring Metro station. Eventually, there will be 63 townhomes, including 8 moderately-priced units for low-income households, and a restored, 150-year-old farmhouse, which will be sold as a single-family home.

Over the past week, ads for the new development, dubbed Chelsea Heights, appeared on bus stops around downtown Silver Spring. It's named for the Chelsea School, a special-needs institution that sold its home of 36 years and recently moved to Hyattsville. But getting here wasn't easy.

Long and contentious history

Chelsea first announced their plans to sell the school to EYA in 2010 and move closer to their students in Prince George's County. But a group of neighbors in the Seven Oaks-Evanswood Citizens Association (SOECA) were unhappy with EYA's proposal, then called Chelsea Court.

They claimed that townhomes didn't belong in a neighborhood zoned for single-family homes.The County Council allowed EYA to build townhouses if they reduced the number of units from 77 to 64.

Neighbors persisted, suing the county and later hiring a consultant who claimed that the project would violated state and county environmental laws. Both claims were dismissed, and the Planning Board approved the project in April with requirements that EYA provide more parking and restrict turns into the development to discourage through traffic.

It's about time this got built

It's not unusual for new development in existing communities to be controversial. Writing about the lost battle against a new apartment building on Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase, Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney recently noted, people generally like their neighborhoods the way they are, and are often suspicious of plans to change it.

Chelsea Heights Construction
Construction at the Chelsea Heights site.

But there are so many reasons why infill development in Silver Spring is good for those neighborhoods and for the region as a whole. Chelsea Heights will place 64 new households within a short walk of transit, local shops and restaurants, and other amenities, reducing their need to drive and bolstering the local economy.

It reduces the pressure to build on the region's fringe, while providing housing where it's most wanted. These $700,000 townhouses aren't affordable to most people, myself included, but they'll help make the area more affordable by growing the housing supply.

This project has been a long time coming, and I'm glad to see it finally come to fruition.


Lies&Deceit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lockwood_650 said...

stop deleting ppls comment, the reason why real people dont like u dan

Dan Reed said...


I didn't delete that comment, the author did. But, as I've said before, this blog does have a commenting policy to encourage people to be polite and civil in conversation, and rude or uncivil comments will be deleted.

Stuart said...

Watch the sales video here, and see the wonderful life we could all be living in DTSS:


BTW, I wouldn't call these $700k townhouses. "From the $700s" is real estate lingo for $800k and up. So maybe we can't all live this good life. EYA generally builds nice houses, I think this one will end up as a good one.

Dan Reed said...

I'm always amused by videos like this, which in a way suggest one flaw in EYA's strategy. Of course, I could buy a $700,000+ townhouse and enjoy all of the amenities of downtown Silver Spring. Or I could live where I currently do (one mile from DTSS) and continue enjoying them as I already do. And the rent is cheaper! (Of course, the house isn't nearly as nice. Baby steps.)

Anonymous said...

I think you focused too much on this one project. One has to wonder whether all the future residents in these 700k plus townhomes will all be using transit. The downtown condo and apartment projects will add many more residents and transit riders than the Chelsea townhomes. And they certainly do nothing to help with the county's affordable housing problems or to attract younger residents. You could have put twice as many residents on half the footprint with an apartment building instead of townhomes.