Planning Board Approves Adding Apartments, Five Stories to Guardian Building in Silver Spring

A proposal to revamp an ailing Silver Spring office building by adding five additional floors and a new residential use won the approval of county planning officials Thursday.

The developer, Guardian Building Associates, is looking to convert the existing Guardian building into an 11-story structure with up to 177 apartments and 7,500 square feet of retail space. After reviewing the project, Montgomery County Planning Board members said it falls in line with the county’s push to reinvent aging office complexes that suffer from high vacancy rates.

“To see them getting repositioned as residential is, in some ways, very much in the public interest,” Board Chair Casey Anderson said.

But redevelopment in downtown Silver Spring comes at a cost for some, board members acknowledged. Owners of the EagleBank building next door to the Guardian, at 8605 Cameron St., are feeling nervous about the project after dealing with fallout from another recent development on their property line.

Thomas Kozeny of Gallagher & Associates, which owns the bank building, said his company suffered more than $200,000 in structural damages during construction of a high-rise next door. Debris from the work site kept falling onto his company’s roof and weakened it so much, the company had to pay for a new one, he said. Falling objects also hit the cars of employees, and Kozeny said his windshield was once damaged by a stray drill bit.

Kozeny also said dump trucks and other construction traffic took up parking space and blocked the front of the Gallagher building. He asked that planning board members limit the height of the Guardian project, so his company wouldn’t have to weather another tall development nearby.

“If you allow a 10- or 11-story building to be built on our lot line, we are going to be punished for it,” he said.

Planning board members encouraged Kozeny to work out an agreement with the developer to help manage the project’s impact. Anderson offered his cellphone number in case Gallagher ran into problems with the construction, but said planning officials can’t block the Guardian project based on the potential inconvenience to neighbors.

“We can’t just stop Silver Spring from getting taller,” he said.

Erin Girard, a land use attorney with the developer, said Guardian Building Associates will use best practices during construction and work with neighbors to minimize disruption.

A Guardian Building Associates representative explained that demolition is planned along the north façade facing Cameron Street and the west façade facing Georgia Avenue, but not on the other sides.

Rendering of ground level of Guardian building in downtown Silver Spring. Via Guardian Building Associates.

The proposal is to cover the remaining walls of the six-story, 1950s-era building with brick and brick accents, according to a staff report. The penthouse structure will have metal panels, which will extend down the front of the building on the Georgia Avenue side, the report stated.

A county planner said the building’s roof will feature a reflecting pool, seating area and dog run.

As featured in Bethesda Magazine