In May, D.C.-based developer, Roadside Development unveiled the preliminary plan and sketch plan for its redevelopment of two sites, 8676 Georgia Ave. and 8601 Cameron St., in downtown Silver Spring.
The redevelopment will include the former site of Tastee Diner, which closed in late March after more than 70 years in business, with plans to preserve the community landmark, according to preliminary sketch plans.
The proposed plan will consolidate the two properties and redevelop the site with a 30-story mixed-used building of 550,000 square feet with 25,000 square feet of commercial and retail use and 525 housing units. Plans also include green space on street level and a green roof.
As for Tastee Diner, the historic diner car will remain part of the building.
During a May 16 community meeting to discuss the plans, Jeff Edelstein, a partner at Roadside Development, said they are working closely with the Historic Preservation Office of Montgomery County for this project.
Edelstein said that he grew up in Silver Spring and attended Montgomery Blair High School. He said he understands how important Tastee Diner was to many in the community and the desire to preserve its history.
Roadside plans to preserve the diner’s stainless-steel canopy and the North, East and West facades of the diner car while replacing the glass block base with stone. Edelstein said during the community meeting that the diner may undergo other aesthetic enhancements related to color and typography and lower the diner car to street level.
He added that during construction, Roadside plans to design and provide infrastructure for a restaurant to enter the space, with a goal of the diner being used once again.
For some community members at the meeting, the news of Tastee Diner’s preservation was encouraging. Others were more concerned about the developer’s plan for affordable housing in the building; how the redevelopment would impact a nearby popular restaurant, Mi Rancho; the plan for parking; how construction will impact current residents; and the general design of the building.
In terms of affordable housing, the building will reserve 15% of the apartments for affordable housing, or “moderately priced dwelling units,” Edelstein said. He added that the units would not be different from the market-priced units in the building with the same appliances, finishes and size.
On the impact for Mi Rancho, a restaurant around the corner on Ramsey Avenue, Edelstein said that the construction “shouldn’t impact their physical footprint at all.”
A manager at Mi Rancho, Jose Manuel, told MoCo360 that their only concern with the project is about general construction disturbances, such as noise and dust. But said that he was happy that the development would eventually bring traffic to the restaurant.
Johnson Lee, the owner of Joe’s Record Paradise, a record store located on the 8700 block of Georgia Avenue, told MoCo360 that he was sad to Tastee Diner close and said, “if things are affordable and fair, I’m on board.”
Joe’s Record Paradise has operated in the Maryland-D.C. region for nearly 50 years, Lee said. The store is currently located in the basement of an office building across the street from the development sites.
Lee added that he cannot foresee the development hurting his business but did worry about how construction will impact parking.
Across the street from Tastee Diner is a county garage with 1,365 spaces. In an interview with MoCo360, Edelstein said the parking garage could provide parking for tenants and business patrons but Roadside plans to include parking onsite. He did not share what those plans looked like yet.
At the community meeting, Edelstein noted Roadside Development owns a building across the street on Georgia Avenue, which he said they plan to base the construction field office as a means to minimize the impact on the community.
Roadside Development was founded and is based in Washington, D.C., with projects across the D.C.-Maryland region. They have completed four other historic preservation projects: City Market at O in D.C., City Ridge in D.C., Cityline in Tenleytown and Purcellville Gateway in Virginia. For this project, Roadside partnered with Bonstra Haresign Architects, also based in D.C.
Tastee Diner History
When Tastee Diner closed its Silver Spring location, some community members mourned the loss of a community staple where one could grab a bite to eat in the middle of the night or early morning hours when other restaurants were closed.
Beyond what the diner meant for community members, according to the Maryland Historical Trust, the diner is “exceptionally significant as an extremely rare building type and a classic example of Art Deco/Modern commercial architecture.” There are few factory-built diners that have survived modern-day competition with the restaurant industry and only a dozen diners remaining in the Maryland, according to historical trust documents.
The Silver Spring diner was recognized by the Montgomery County Council in 1994 as a historic landmark. It opened in 1946 at Wayne and Georgia avenues. In 2000, the owner Gene Wilkes, decided to move the diner car its location on Cameron Street to make way for the construction of Discovery Communication’s former headquarters.
After more than 70 years of business, Tastee Diner closed abruptly March 22. MoCo360 reported at the time that there was no reason provided and many employees were not notified.
Roadside’s attorney, Stacy Silber, said that they plan to file the sketch and preliminary plans in the coming weeks. The sketch plan will be reviewed by Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, the Historic Preservation Committee, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, and the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services.
Updates regarding the application submission and hearing notice will be sent to the community when available.
Later in the fall 2023, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the sketch plan and preliminary plan. In the spring/summer of 2024, the Planning Board will hold a hearing on the site plan application as well as more community outreach and agency review. Roadside hopes to begin construction in about 16 months, Edelstein said.
Edelstein said that he spoke to a handful of community members already over the phone, email and in person. He said he would be interested in speaking about the plans with community members in person at the site.