After months of snarled traffic and construction dust, the biotech company United Therapeutics completed a high-profile expansion of its Silver Spring headquarters in September.
Dubbed the Unisphere, the 210,000-square-foot, elliptical-shaped building is net-zero, which means it leaves no carbon footprint. It’s powered by a litany of eco-friendly technologies, including 3,000 solar panels, 52 geothermal wells drilled more than 500 feet into the earth, electrochromic glass that changes tint to increase or decrease thermal energy, and a thermal pool on view in its atrium.
The Unisphere is the latest in a long list of projects slated to transform the face of Silver Spring. Several apartment buildings, mixed-use developments, and a hotel are still on the way.
Dumped by Discovery
After Discovery Communications announced last January that it would leave the place it helped revitalize in the early 2000s, Montgomery County set its sights on winning Amazon’s HQ2 to cushion the blow. A top Discovery executive even wrote to Jeff Bezos about the pros of choosing the area. That didn’t pan out, of course, so what will become of the old Discovery site once the company’s nearly 1,100 employees completely vacate the building?
Developer Foulger-Pratt and private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management bought the Discovery building in September. They recently secured a $97-million loan to reconfigure it into a space that can accommodate multiple companies. Several health-care tenants have reportedly expressed interest. Discovery will maintain a scaled-down presence at Silver Spring Metro Plaza, though the giant Shark Week head it became known for is presumably NYC-bound.
New Brew Crew
Since opening Silver Spring’s first successful brewery in 2014, the owners of Denizens Brewing Co. have successfully lobbied to erase restrictive local laws on businesses like theirs. The result? They’re not so lonely anymore.
In October, Astro Lab Brewing opened on Georgia Avenue, featuring four to eight beers, meat pies, and a shiny industrial space. Silver Branch Brewing Co. is scheduled to debut early this year. It draws influence from Belgium, Britain and Ireland, Central Europe, and the Americas—and features a flagship beer for each of those regions.
Right to Bike
Silver Spring has gotten a lot more bike-friendly. Starting in 2017, Montgomery County began painting the dedicated green bike lanes that now crisscross the area. In the past year, more lanes have been added to Second Avenue, Spring Street, and Wayne Avenue. There’s also a special “protected intersection” at Second and Spring, in which rounded concrete barriers separate cyclists from traffic and encourage turning drivers and bikers alike to slow down. The design is one of the first of its kind on the East Coast.
The Purple People Disrupter
Construction of the Purple Line, now in its second year, isn’t scheduled to finish until 2023 at the earliest. When it’s done, the 16-mile route will include five stops throughout Silver Spring. But before residents get to enjoy the convenience, they’re weathering the disruptions.
First, businesses in the Spring Center strip mall were forced out, then bikers and joggers saw much of their woodsy Georgetown Branch trail razed into logs. The Lyttonsville Place Bridge, a popular connector between Silver Spring and Chevy Chase, shut down for reconstruction in June and reopened only in January. And morning till night, people can hear—and feel—the tunnel under Arliss Street being excavated.
Armand’s went first. After 29 years of serving Chicago-style deep-dish out of its Silver Spring restaurant, the local chain shuttered the location—one of its only remaining two—over the summer. A few months later, Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza followed suit. Thankfully, help is on the way: Matchbox is opening a location in the Ellsworth shopping corridor early this year.