Wednesday, September 10, 2008

County to break ground on new civic building - Gazette

Construction to begin today on $19.5 million facility and Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008

Construction will officially begin today on the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza project at the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive in Silver Spring.

A ceremony will be held 10:30 a.m. with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and other county and community officials on hand. To enter the site where the groundbreaking ceremony will be, go down the steps leading from the parking lot behind Whole Foods at 833 Wayne Ave.

Construction on the project is expected to be completed by late fall of 2009. The county is targeting Nov. 11, 2009, Veteran's Day, for the official opening of Veterans Plaza, said Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Center.

"It's a momentous occasion because we have been working on the civic building for a long time," Stith said Monday at the monthly Silver Spring Citizens' Advisory Board meeting.

When construction is completed, the 42,000-square-foot civic building will be accompanied by Veterans Plaza, which is nearly an acre of green space to be programmed for outdoor events and will also commemorate the service of veterans from Silver Spring and Montgomery County. The plaza also will include a pavilion and will be converted to an ice rink between November and March.

The entire site for the project is about 1.5 acres.

Estimated cost for the civic building is $19.7 million, including $2.5 million approved by Montgomery County Council in July. Construction on the building is expected to be finished after Veterans Plaza is completed, Stith said.

The civic building is expected to be the center of community activities in Silver Spring and will include meeting rooms, gallery space, the relocated Silver Spring Regional Center, currently at 8435 Georgia Ave., and space for the Round House Theater School.

Stith said the artificial turf field, which previously occupied the plaza site, has been removed and the site is ready for construction. A "farewell party" for the turf was held July 25.

The civic building has been planned since 1998 when the Silver Spring Armory was demolished. Last year's Silver Spring Jazz Festival was held at the artificial turf field and this year's event, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, will be held in the parking lot behind the Lee Building at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road.

Darian Unger, chairman of the Silver Spring Citizens' Advisory Board, said the civic building project shows a strong county investment in Silver Spring, along with the planned $91 million Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center, which will break ground Sept. 28, and the new Silver Spring library, which is still in the design stages.

"It's good to get the private stuff and the public stuff united," Unger said Monday. "We need to get some public projects following all the private projects [in downtown Silver Spring]."

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