LCOR tries again to sell Comsat building, campus in Clarksburg -- Gazette.Net


Berwyn, Pa.-based developer LCOR has listed the vacant Comsat building and surrounding property for sale again, raising doubts once more about long-stalled plans to build a massive mixed-use community next to I-270 in Clarksburg.

The firm — which bought the 613,000-square-foot office/lab facility in a $46 million sale/leaseback deal in 1997 — is pitching the 204-acre complex as a land development opportunity.

“There are a number of parcels but we’re selling it as one property,” said Bradley Thompson, an LCOR development associate.

Selling Comsat puts in play by far the largest vacant office space in Montgomery County as well as one of the region’s biggest potential development projects. The former Comsat building was designed by internationally acclaimed architect Cesar Pelli and stands as an early symbol of the I-270 corridor’s transformation from farms to high tech.

The property consists of five contiguous parcels that also include three special-purpose buildings totaling 36,000 square feet, according to an online marketing brochure from broker Avison Young, which has the listing.

The brochure says the property provides “Opportunity for future office, retail, and residential development in desirable Montgomery County, which boasts the highest rates of population growth and new housing units formation in the state of Maryland.”

Exactly what part the empty Comsat building will play in that development is unknown. Working with community groups, LCOR told neighbors in 2007 that it would make the postmodern aluminum-clad edifice the center of a new master plan that would include office and retail space and as many as 1,500 apartments and town houses.

The plan began to take shape after a long battle that LCOR won against including the Comsat building on the state’s historic registry, which would complicate redevelopment. The firm promised to save the building as part of plans that it would submit for Montgomery County planning approval.

But those plans never were submitted and the building sits empty after Comsat merged with Lockheed in 1998 and relocated to Bethesda in a consolidation move.

Now LCOR’s website touts plans for 3 million square feet of mixed-use development, where the county plans to build a station of the Corridor Cities Transitway, a 15-mile rapid bus connection from the Shady Grove Metro station in Rockville to Clarksburg.

Comsat’s neighbors are still hoping the property is redeveloped, fulfilling the long promise of bringing high-quality jobs to Clarksburg and creating a transit-oriented community. Without intensive office development, Clarksburg faces choking commuter traffic as thousands of new residents fill nearby planned housing communities.

“Comsat is the last big property that can give us any major employment,” said Kathie Hulley, vice president of the Clarksburg Civic Association. “Otherwise, more people will need to get on the roads.”

The circa 1969 building was designed as a research and development facility for Comsat’s satellite business. As a specialty building, it has posed both a sales and a planning challenge for LCOR.

In a 2012 interview with Metro Business Media, LCOR executive vice president Bill Hard said, “The building is a special purpose building, very difficult for us to see how to reuse it either residentially or commercially, but we’ll figure something out. Most of the building will be torn down but a significant portion will probably remain.”

Hard did not return a call for comment.

Cider Mill Apartments sell in Montgomery Village

The Donaldson Group of Rockville and its equity partner, New York-based Angelo, Gordon & Co., announced that they bought the 864-unit Cider Mill Apartments in Montgomery Village for about $110 million.

The partnership plans to invest another $15 million to renovate the garden-style apartment community.

Matthew Williams and Maury Zanoff of CBRE Capital Markets assisted the AG-TDG partnership in obtaining acquisition financing from HSBC Bank. The seller, Home Properties, was represented by Bill Roohan and Brian Margerum of CBRE’s Baltimore-based investment sales group.

Cider Mill sits on 42 acres and is across the street from Lakeforest mall. It is one mile from I-270 and 1.5 miles from the Gaithersburg MARC commuter rail station.

The complex includes 72 garden apartment buildings constructed between 1971 and 1973. It offers one- to three-bedroom units ranging from 690 to 1,140 square feet.

Amenities include an Olympic-size swimming pool, fitness center and central laundry facilities.

Renovation will include replacing the original, outdated central heating and cooling plant with individual high-efficiency electric heat pumps for each apartment. Individual apartments will be renovated with all-new kitchens, bathrooms and in-unit washer-dryers.

Chinese developer plans Rockville data center

China-based Greencourt Group plans to build a 100,000-square-foot speculative office and data center near the Twinbrook Metro station, according to CBRE, the exclusive leasing broker.

Construction on the property at 12358 Parklawn Drive is scheduled to begin in May. Greencourt acquired the property in 2012 when it bought a four-building industrial portfolio for $5.8 million.

When completed in the spring of 2015, the Greencourt Building will be Montgomery County’s first speculative opportunity outside the Beltway in several years, said CBRE Vice President Andrew Cole in a news release.

The property is next to the newly renovated Parklawn Building, where the federal Department of Health and Human Services will take about 1 million square feet of space.

The Greencourt building is designed by award-winning McInturff Architects to incorporate new workplace efficiencies. Amenities include conference space and a coffee bar that “floats” above the lobby.

Upon completion, the developer plans to apply for certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

CBRE’s Dan McGivney will collaborate with Cole in representing the Greencourt Building.

Matan leases 178,000 square feet

Frederick-based Matan Cos. signed DRS Technologies to a 133,140-square-foot lease in Germantown, where the firm will occupy the entire 1 Milestone Center Court building.

Matan bought the building last year as part of its $129 million acquisition of the 635,272- square-foot Milestone Business Center. The complex includes three Class A office buildings, one Class A flex building, and a developable 7.64-acre parcel.

The business park sits directly off Interstate 270 on Milestone Center Drive.

DRS is making a consolidation move, including its current manufacturing and engineering facilities at 700 Quince Orchard Road.

The 10-year DRS lease was announced at the same time as a space swap for JDSU, which signed a seven-year deal to occupy the top two floors of 20250 Century Blvd. at Matan’s 270 Corporate Center complex in Germantown.

DRT/Boeing vacated the 106,000-square-foot building in early 2013. JDSU is scheduled to move in in May after significant renovations to its space and the common areas of the building are complete.

Matan has owned the four-building, 450,000-square-foot project since 2000 and recently restructured financing for the project. In addition to the renovation of all the common areas of 20250 Century Blvd., Matan plans $5 million more in capital improvements to the project over the next two years.

The JLL team of Peter Briskman, Mia Eglinton and Amanda Davis represented JDSU in this transaction.

Kettler begins building Bethesda apartments

Residential builder Kettler announced that it has closed on a land and construction loan with lender Helaba, allowing it to start development of a 101-unit apartment building in downtown Bethesda.

The Kettler building, Element 28, will offer one-, two- and three-bedroom units and about 3,500 square feet of retail. The project at 7535 Old Georgetown Road is slightly scaled down from plans that were approved last year for 120 apartments and 5,000 square feet of commercial space.

A permit was issued in January to demolish the United Bank branch at the site at a projected cost of $3.8 million. The bank has relocated nearby to 7845 Wisconsin Ave., which was vacated by the building’s owner, jeweler Charleston Alexander.

With demolition plans already underway, United Bank, which was located on the site, has relocated to a new Wisconsin Avenue location. Construction on Element 28 will commence in mid-2014.

The new apartments, designed by R2L Architects, will offer luxury amenities within walking distance of the Bethesda Metro station.