Not having a clearly defined sense of what can and cannot be done on public spaces held up Thursday's Planning Board discussion of Studio Plaza, a mixed-used development that will bring more housing, retail and office space to downtown Silver Spring.
The first phase of the project by Robert Hillerson and Michael, LLC includes more than 400 apartment units and 10,500 square feet of retail space. It was eventually approved by the commissioners with the caveat that if a more specific definition of how public spaces should be used is created, the developer will comply.
Bounded by Thayer Avenue to the north, Silver Spring Avenue to the south, Fenton Street to the east and Mayor Lane to the West, Studio Plaza is a 5-acre plot of land that will eventually house about one-fourth of an acre of public, green space and an underground public parking garage, to replace 152 public parking spaces that will be displaced by the construction.
How the public will access the public space and what they can do once they've accessed the public space was the subject of some written and verbal testimony on the project. Developers redesigned the project last December after community members complained that the structure wouldn't fit in with the neighborhood.
At the Planning Board's Feb. 21 meeting, commissioners grappled with the fact that public use isn't clearly defined for private projects with public space like Studio Plaza. A possible solution was to create a zoning text amendment that would create rules for public spaces in the county.
Developers said they are planning a second phase of the project, plans for which haven't been submitted to the county.