B.F. Saul Withdraws Wheaton Redevelopment Plan

The developer remains interested in future redevelopment plans, however.

Private developer B.F. Saul has withdrawn from Wheaton redevelopment plans.

The Washington Examiner reported that Montgomery County officials were not surprised.

The Montgomery County Council on an office building shared between county government and Maryland-National Parks and Planning Commission on Parking Lot 13, instead of staying with the original plan for B.F. Saul to develop a platform with offices and a hotel. 

"The loss of B.F. Saul is a blow to the revitalization of downtown Wheaton, but it says more about them than it does about Wheaton," wrote Just Up the Pike blogger Dan Reed.

In a letter to the county's Department of General Services and the Montgomery County Council, B.F. Saul's Senior Vice President Robert Wulff explained why the company was pulling out:

This comparatively small site and opportunity does not match Saul's corporate growth strategy so we must reluctantly withdraw our name from consideration to be part of a County partnership to develop Parking Lot 13.  

Saul applauds the Council's commitment to redevelop downtown Wheaton and we are confident the County will have no problem attracting a high quality private sector partner to develop Parking Lot 13. 

However, Saul remains bullish on Wheaton and believes there is a role for Saul in determining Wheaton's future. 

Did you see this coming? Tell us in the comments below.

Henriot St. Gerard July 13, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Just as a point of clarification, the community and stakeholders spent years doing studies, discussing, and going over what a redeveloped wheaton would look like. I can see how one views this so-called measured approach by the council as a breath of fresh air or well needed if they dont have all the information before them. The council ignored Wheaton while the community pushed forward with plans and studies. the second, they decide to get involved, they pretty much press the restart button and ignore all the work put into by the community. Im not here being bitter cause at some point we have to move on. At the same time though, lets not give all this credit to the council because they pretty much just came in and passed a plan to fit their desires and scrapped all the years of work put in by people in and around Wheaton.
Maryland_lawyer July 14, 2012 at 09:00 PM
I am not at all impressed with this County Council. They think they can dictate the terms of development, but they drive away the private sector that makes development happen. Dealing with this Council is unpredictable and time-consuming. For an investor, not what you want.
Commentous July 15, 2012 at 05:05 AM
I am unimpressed by the Council's "vision" for Wheaton because it doesn't take into account Wheaton's vision for Wheaton. I am unimpressed that: -the Council talks of walkable space and then plans a centrally-located office building that will potentially have no foot traffic at night or on weekends (but hopefully has at least mixed use); -the best spot near Metro is reserved for an agency where most workers drive and thus likely will not walk beyond the Triangle; -the County Council and Executive cannot get along, leading Councilmembers to remind Wheaton that the Council outspent the Executive (as they did again in the Memo on the potential Working Group) instead of actually talking with Wheaton's stakeholders on the WUDAC and WRAC about what Wheaton wants; -the Council did not say: The Executive's plan costs too much. We need to hear from Wheaton stakeholders immediately to get their ideas; -the Council listened to WRAC and WUDAC members only AFTER the Council had created and approved their own plan for Wheaton; -at least one Council member stated a desire to keep business rent affordable around the Triangle to support "creative businesses" without explaining how this doesn't also support unattractive, low-rent businesses; -these same Council members do not seek to maintain low rents for businesses in other areas of the County (i.e., they're pro-capitalism in other areas and anti-capitalism in Wheaton). I'm done writing for a while. Good luck.
Sean August 04, 2012 at 03:42 PM
The county and the state have promoted smart growth for years. Parking lot 13 is prime real estate in a location screems smart growth. Smart growth says that there should be higher-density, mixed-use development in urban core near transit and lower-density, dedicated-use development in outlying areas. Having high density development near transit promotes more transit and less driving. Mixed-use (retail, office, entertainment, dining) creates a symbiotic relationship. During the day, office workers patronize local dining establishments. During evenings and weekends, residents patronize the same dining establishments. However, people do more than eat: People also want to browse/shop, maybe get coffee/dessert and enjoy entertainment. Silver Spring and Bethesda also attract people (day and evening) who don't work or live there because they offer more than restaurants. So, offering retail and entertainment strengthens the restaurants and encourages office-based businesses an attractive place for workers. It also improves lagging housing prices. So far Wheaton missed this opportunity because of an overlay zone which created additional barriers to high-density, mixed-used development near the metro, where it belongs. If Park and Planning's property uses prime real estate near the metro for a low-density, dedicated-used property, aren't they, in effect, causing as much harm as an overlay zone??
Sean August 04, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Regarding office space vacancies. The offices I'm aware of are the two buildings at Westfield and the BBT building. If the BBT building has high vacancies, it may be because tenents know that buiding is going away. Regarding all three properties, do you think a large tenent (which is what we're trying to attract) would be interested in either buidling which happen to be far from the urban core/transit and might need to be retroffitted or raized to meet the requirements of a major tenent. To put it another way, if a Discovery Communitations-type tenent were to consider coming to Wheaton, where would they go... the Westfield Towers, the old BBT property on Blueridge Ave.... or in/around Parking Lot 13? Comparing the current office space (doctor offices and other small tenents) and office space in Parking Lot 13 is lke comparing apples and oranges.


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