July 10, 2010

Symphony Park construction gets under way near Strathmore

Work to begin on Symphony Park
by Alex Ruoff | Staff Writer

This summer, those living around the Strathmore Music Center and Mansion will get a few changes of scenery as developers are expected to begin preparations for constructing a 112-unit townhome community, Symphony Park, this month.

The work on Symphony Park at Strathmore, scheduled to commence before August, will include expansion of the stormwater maintenance pond, installation of dirt fencing, regradation of the land, removal of some trees and demolition of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association headquarters building on the 18-acre parcel off Rockville Pike.

The measures are designed to prepare the site for actual construction of the buildings, scheduled for September.

First set for 2008 by original developer Centex Homes of Texas, the project has held approvals by the Montgomery County Planning Board since July 2008.

The new owner, Streetscape Partners of McLean Va., said it is anxious to start building the $100 million development. Streetscape purchased the project May 11 from Centex homes for a reported $5.9 million.

"It's a long process, we knew that going into, and we're going to be patient about it," said Ron Kaplan, a principal partner with the 2-year-old firm. "This is one of the best locations you could build on so we're going to be careful."

The project is being funded through the Lubert-Adler real estate investment company of Philadelphia.

Eliot Pfanstiehl, president and CEO of the nonprofit support team for the arts centers, Strathmore Foundation, said his group has been working alongside Streetscape to integrate the development into the land to create the a "multidimensional arts community."
He said the foundation also is trying to include a three-year membership to the Strathmore Music Center in the purchase agreement for the townhomes.

To diminish issues between the nearby music center and the residences, Streetscape plans to donate about 5 acres of land to be maintained as open space between them. An outdoor amphitheater also will be created near the lawn of the Strathmore Mansion.

Although the concerns for the developer and music center seem to be soothed, nearby homeowner worries have not subsided in the years following project approvals by the county planning board.

"At the time they were planning it, there were concerns our neighborhood had about the community," Garrett Park Estates resident Natalie Goldberg said. "We had ideas that I don't think were ever heard."

Goldberg said she asked for some single-family homes to be included in the plans to better integrate the new community with the existing one and maintain pedestrian walkways throughout the construction process.

"The trails are my main concern, it's our access to the Metro," she said.

Kaplan said his group hopes to have the first townhome ready for occupancy by July 2011. The entire project should take three years to complete, he said.