Crossroads at Towson Row
DESIGN BRIEF | September 2019
Crossroads at Towson Row
Towson, Maryland, is transforming into a bustling college town that will rival the most livable towns across the nation. Crossroads, jointly developed by Gilbane and Greenberg Gibbons, anchors the 1.2 million sf. mixed-use development called Towson Row by Master Developer Greenberg Gibbons. It is prominently found at the intersection of two major streets—York Road and Towsontown Boulevard—at the southern gateway into Downtown Towson. Here, MV+A was tasked with the challenge of planning and designing a Whole Foods Market and plaza facing in-line retail with stick-built residential atop it all.
The tight urban building site presents several challenges, most notably a 35′ height difference across the site, activity wanted all around the perimeter, and the existence of a historic railroad abutment. MV+A was able to make creative use of the grade difference across the site by stacking the grocer above plaza-facing retail and residential lobby programs. This arrangement makes use of the rapidly rising sidewalks around the building to allow all retailers, including the grocer, and the residential lobby to have direct access from the sidewalks. While this arrangement creates the desired all-around perimeter activation, the nature of that activation varies as one walks around the block. A much quieter experience with the residential lobby lining the majority of the York road frontage changes to a plaza-fronting retail experience along Towsontown Boulevard and eventually culminates in the Whole Foods Market experience along the higher, newly planned Towson Row Avenue at the center of the development.
The linear plaza along Towsontown Boulevard provides much needed outdoor space for the community and allows the retail programming to spill out into the outdoors. The plaza extends all the way east and incorporates within its footprint the historic railroad abutment found at the previously mentioned southern gateway. The building corner here is carved to acknowledge the existence of the abutment and while it functions as a contrasting background to the abutment, the architecture language here has been devised to give the viewer a layered timeline of the past and the future at this site. As Downtown Towson is being made over, MV+A considers itself fortunate to have a hand in sculpting its future.
MV+A Role: Architectural Designer supporting the technical aspects of commercial spaces, multi-family buildings, and historical buildings.
From: Michoacán, Mexico
Schooling: Bachelor and Master of Architecture and Fine Arts| Bowling Green State University
Joined MV+A: July 2019
Hobbies Outside of Work: Collecting and researching Victorian antiques and building outdoor sculptures.
MV+A Role: Architectural Designer for multi-family residential projects, focusing on unit design.
From: Hamden, CT
Schooling: Undergraduate | Georgetown University
Master of Architecture| The Catholic University of America
Joined MV+A: July 2019
Hobbies Outside of Work: Painting abstract landscapes and cycling
NEWS | September 23, 2019
Self-driving vehicles will play a role in a massive new development on the boards for Northern Virginia.
Brookfield Properties has announced that the first phase of the Halley Rise development off the Dulles Access Road and Reston Parkway (map) is breaking ground in October. The 36-acre Reston development will deliver 1,500 residential units along with 1.5 million square feet of office, 250,000 square feet of retail, — including a Wegmans grocery store — and five acres of open space.
One of the most interesting things about the new development, however, is its use of autonomous vehicles (AVs) for circulation throughout the site. In June, AV technology company Optimus Ride began deploying three self-driving vehicles in the office park formerly known as Reston Crescent to shuttle employees between their office buildings to parking lots within the site.
Employees can reserve rides or summon rides on demand from the AVs, which solely operate interior to the Halley Rise development. Optimus Ride will demonstrate the AV shuttle program at the groundbreaking event.
The Wegmans-anchored first phase of the development is expected to deliver in 2022. Morris Adjmi Architects is the master planner and MV+A Architects designed the first phase.
NEWS | September 11, 2019
A development team is pursuing a new grocery-anchored mixed-use project on Georgia Avenue, dependent on gaining control of a former firehouse the District owns. Neighborhood Development Co. and Marcus Asset Group presented plans to the Brightwood Community Association Tuesday for a mixed-use development, branded as Georgia Crossing, near the intersection of Georgia and Missouri avenues. The project is planned to include over 300 apartments, with a portion of them set aside as affordable. It would also include up to 40K SF of retail, including up to 22K SF for a grocery store. “The community has been incredibly supportive of what we’ve had to show them,” Marcus Asset Group’s Colin Thomas said. “The project can be a transformative one that can add momentum for development in the neighborhood.”
President, Donohoe Hospitality The development team owns a series of parcels totaling about 70K SF of land area on both sides of the D.C.-owned Old Engine Company 22 firehouse at 5760 Georgia Ave. NW. D.C. relocated the firehouse last year to the Parks at Walter Reed development, and in March it previewed an upcoming request for proposals for the quarter-acre former firehouse property. The proposed Georgia Crossing project would preserve the firehouse’s facade, and its feasibility is dependent upon the team winning the RFP and gaining control of the site. D.C. said in March it planned to put out the RFP this summer, but it has yet to be released. The team’s ownership of the adjacent properties on either side of the firehouse likely gives them an advantage in the RFP process. Monument Realty in July won the RFP for a 1-acre city-owned property in NoMa that sits next to a development site it already owned. “We think our development aligns with the city’s stated goals, and we’re hoping that they see eye to eye with us in helping achieve those goals with this development,” said Marcus Goodwin, who joined Neighborhood Development Co. from Four Points this year after running for D.C. Council last year. The team has been in talks with potential grocers, and Thomas said Aldi has expressed interest in the project. Because the project would sit in the middle of a block and would preserve the firehouse facade, providing the loading infrastructure for a grocery store could be difficult, Thomas said. But there is precedent for mid-block grocery stores in new D.C. projects, such as the Trader Joe’s at the Louis on 14th Street. The project would be the first new multifamily development of over 200 units in Northwest D.C.’s Brightwood neighborhood since the Rittenhouse Apartments in 1990, according to CoStar data the development team presented. The site is roughly 1 mile north on Georgia Aveue of the Petworth and Park View neighborhoods, which have experienced significant development in recent years. “The community agrees with what Mayor Bowser’s administration has set forth — that great corridors like Georgia Avenue should be emphasized with more retail investment and housing opportunities,” Goodwin said. “We know that the high traffic along Georgia Avenue makes it an attractive corridor for retailers.”
NEWS | August 27, 2019
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to see more city agencies move east of the Anacostia River as part of a bid to boost grocery-anchored developments in Wards 7 and 8.
Bowser issued an executive order Thursday directing District officials to give preference to historically underinvested communities east of the river as they search for new office space. The mayor is hoping the change will send an influx of city employees to developments still working to get off the ground, giving retailers more confidence that they can invest in these projects.
The order allows agencies to consider any space in Wards 7 and 8, but it directs officials to give “strong preference” to developments that include new grocery stores and other retail.
District leaders have worked for years to bring more full-service grocers east of the river, considering the current dearth of options there — there are currently only three stores between the two wards — and Bowser reasons that driving more potential customers to these developments will drive market interest in each one. Skyland Town Center is currently on track to land a Lidl in the coming years, but other major projects, from the District-backed St. Elizabeth’s East redevelopment to Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners’ Shops at Penn Hill, are still open for potential grocers.
“We have a responsibility to consider how we can best support our neighborhoods and communities,” Bowser said in a statement. “No longer can we wait for these opportunities to be identified when we can use the District’s leasing power in underinvested areas to attract retail and provide services, and encourage others to do the same.”
Bowser’s move also comes as the District prepares to prioritize leasing space for its workers, moving away from owning its own buildings. As of now, the city employs about 37,000 people, split across 3.9 million square feet of owned space and 3.2 million square feet of leased space, according to Bowser’s order.
District officials expect that one of the biggest impacts will be on the agencies currently operating out of the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, located at 2000 14th St. NW.
The city is gearing up for a comprehensive study of the building’s future, charting out a new path for the nearly 30-year-old center on the U Street corridor. The District expects to examine possibilities for Reeves ranging from a conversion to a mix of office and retail, or switching it to hotel and residential.
The analyze will consider the possibility that District workers could return to Reeves someday, should it include office space, but officials expect they’ll at least need to move out while a modernization is underway. That will precipitate the need for new leased space, with the search subject to Bowser’s new requirements.
However, in the near term, the District’s Department of General Services expects to kick off a search for 200,000 square feet for a city agency. Officials plan to release the details of that process later this month.
Bowser’s order also directs DGS to work up a report describing all District-held leases that are set to expire within the next five years, and any new needs for space they believe will crop up over the same time period. The agency will need to issue that report on Oct. 15 and April 15 of each year moving forward.