Developers planning competing Clarksburg malls each predict 2015 opening -- Gazette.Net


This story was updated at 3:35 p.m. May 23, 2013.

Two developers vying to put an outlet mall in Clarksburg both say their project can be open by 2015. But, for each site, multiple approvals lie ahead that, given Montgomery County’s history, could derail those timelines.

In an area where development promises remain vastly unfulfilled, the two developers are now battling to be the first to build an outlet mall at the intersection of Interstate 270 and Md. 121.

Bethesda-based Streetscape Partners — working with Simon Property Group and New England Development — aims to build the Clarksburg Premium Outlets at Cabin Branch on a 48-acre site just southwest of where Md. 121 crosses I-270.

Less than a mile away, Fairfax, Va.-based The Peterson Cos. has said it plans to build a Tanger Factory Outlet mall on its 98-acre site at the northeast corner of the intersection.

Ron Kaplan, co-managing principal of Streetscape Partners, said in an interview with The Gazette on May 8 that his group hopes to put shovels to dirt in 2014 and open the outlet mall for business by the end of 2015.

Streetscape’s Premier Outlets plan will require $20 million worth of road improvements, including widening the northbound exit ramp of I-270 to Md. 121 (Clarksburg Road) and creating a new southbound ramp off Md. 121 to I-270.

Also planned is the widening of the Md. 121 bridge over I-270 and straightening the southwest-bound curve in Md. 121 west of I-270.

“The improvements need to be done before we can open the facility,” said Robert Harris, attorney for the developers, at a presentation of the plan to the Clarksburg Civic Association on Monday.

The Montgomery County Planning Board has scheduled a hearing on the Premier Outlets plan for July 18.

In the meantime, the Liveable Clarksburg Coalition has invited officials to talk at a public meeting about development generally in Clarksburg on May 29 at Little Bennett Elementary School.

Kaplan has said that the notion of a battle between the two developers is contrived and that his firm’s project is on a different timeline from the competition across the highway.

But Taylor Chess, senior vice president of retail for Peterson, said his firm is on almost the exact same timeline.

Chess said on May 14 that his company looks to break ground in 2014 and open its outlet mall in 2015.

“That’s making a lot of assumptions,” he said of the timeline. “If, in June, the planning board makes recommendations that are consistent with our plan, then we can go ahead and file our zoning. There are a lot of things that can run concurrent.”

Peterson’s land, known locally as the Miles-Coppola tract, cannot progress until environmental controversy surrounding Ten Mile Creek is resolved.

The Montgomery County Council reopened the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan last year to address the impact of development in the plan’s final stage on the pristine waterway.

The council put planners on a tight deadline to address the environmental piece. A plan amendment will come back to the council for consideration this fall, said John Carter, Area 3 chief for the Montgomery County Planning Department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Not only is the Miles-Coppola tract mired in the Ten Mile Creek issue, it will require a zoning change for Peterson to build an outlet mall there. But if the master plan amendment can pave the way, Peterson can pursue permission to extend water and sewer service, then seek approvals on preliminary and site plans for its development.

Carter said it could be as late as early 2014 before the council makes a final decision on the Clarksburg Master Plan amendment currently being drafted by planning staff. A planning board recommendation is scheduled to reach the council in October.

While water and sewer permissions can happen quickly, Carter said it can take anywhere from six months to a year to get approvals on preliminary and site plans.

Chess said a 2015 opening is achievable for Peterson, but did not speculate on his competition.

Upon hearing Streetscape’s plans for 48 acres that the partnership is under contract to buy from Adventist HealthCare, Carter said opening an outlet mall there in 2015 would be optimistic.

Streetscape, Simon and New England will need at least to amend their development plan and possibly seek a master plan amendment to obtain proper zoning for the mall, he said.

During considerations for amending the development plan, the council will have to weigh if the use is consistent with the master plan, Carter said. If the use is found inconsistent, Streetscape’s group could need to seek a master plan amendment to progress.

The county’s quickest avenue for amending a master plan, its newly formed minor master plan amendment process, can take 12 to 18 months. Some council members disapprove of developers driving the process.

Although Kaplan said permission has been granted and construction has begun to extend water and sewer service to the Adventist site, Streetscape, Simon and New England also must submit preliminary and site plans for approval.

Carter said the planning board decides those plans.

Staff writer Virginia Terhune contributed to this story