ROCKVILLE – Large corporate campuses and office parks are a thing of the past according to Rockville City planners.
But as of today, the City is full of large office buildings and parks, mainly along the Interstate-270 corridor, something City planners from generations ago envisioned would be a hub Rockville’s business. On Monday night, the City Council held a work session to discuss mixed-use zoning along Rockville’s portion of the Interstate Highway 270 corridor along Research Boulevard, Piccard Drive and Shady Grove Road.
“As office buildings age in these suburban areas, the market is not producing replacement or many times even rehabbed offices as they get beyond the point of where cost effective rehab makes sense they come down,” said David Levy, chief of Long Range Planning and Development at the City of Rockville.
The City is not alone in trying to figure out what to do with the buildings and land that is already vacated or will be vacated by businesses. Last year Marriott International announced it will move its headquarters located on Rock Spring Drive in suburban Bethesda to a location in Downtown Bethesda. Marriott’s move follows a recent trend of businesses wanting their locations to have better access to mass transit and downtown areas where their employees are walking distances from shops and restaurants.
While the Mayor and Council made no decisions Monday night, the work session was to help discuss the options the Mayor and City Council has, such as passing a zoning text amendment to allow for more residential development instead of commercial development in the mixed-use zoned areas along I-270 or change Rockville’s master plan.
While many business owners look to relocate in downtown spots, Levy said there is still a demand for lab space for many of the large biotechnology and other companies located around the Washington Metropolitan Region.
“There is a demand for lab space, but it’s very expensive to fit out and you need a single user who is prepared to sign the lease do the fit out and commit for a long-term lease,” Levy said. “Nobody is going to do it on a speculative basis because it is so costly to build.”
Council member Mark Pierzchala said he sees a trend of office buildings leaving the City.
“This part of the City just has one for-lease sign after another, and, you know, a lot of people these days are doing what I do,” Pierzchala said. “I work out of my basement and I’m virtual to my clients…I can do what they need me to do and I don’t have to leave my house.”
Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said the City should evolve, pointing to Gaithersburg as model for Rockville.
“Gaithersburg is getting a lot of R and D (research and development) because they are looking to encourage that type,” Newton said. “The City of Rockville could be doing that as well.”