In an effort to bring Montgomery County into the international forefront of science, research and development, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Montgomery County Executive and Johns Hopkins University’s president in February 2010, with the goal of bringing large biotechnology development to our area. The plan must go through the approval process, but the goal is to rival life sciences research and technology being done in Palo Alto, California or Research Triangle in North Carolina.
Initially known as Shady Grove Life Sciences Center, it is also referred to as Life Science City, Gaithersburg West Plan or Gaithersburg Science City.
Montgomery County, already home to Johns Hopkins, the Universities at Shady Grove, Montgomery College, NIH, FDA, NIST and NOAA, wishes to implement development plans that will compliment research and technology.
The proposed 900 acre, 20 million square feet commercial space would feature laboratory, office and retail, and is projected to bring up to 40,000 jobs and approximately 9,000 residences over the next 40 years.
The National Cancer Institute had already decided to relocate its headquarters into the Johns Hopkins Rockville campus, at the 107-acre Belward Farm at Gaithersburg’s southern edge. Hopkins purchased the property in 1989, agreeing that the development would be limited to research, medical care, academic and agriculture.
While very exciting on the one hand, skeptics and critics are wary of the impact on Gaithersburg West. Concerns stem from existing roadways being unable to support traffic, the strain on the public schools and other community impacts, as well as taxpayers having to pick up the financial slack. After delving more into the numbers, some politicians and community groups say that this project is too big and dependent on the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway that is included in the future county growth plan.
This debate will continue over infrastructure, economics and logistics of the Gaithersburg Science City project, while Montgomery County will continue to grapple with growth and development issues.
UPDATE – New Developments
As a result of a straw vote by the Montgomery County Council in April 2010, it was agreed that efforts would be made to preserve green space and reduce traffic, and it was informally agreed to cap commercial development at 17.5 million square feet, down from 20 million.
The council also agreed to change the name of the Gaithersburg West Master Plan to the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan. This plan covers 4,360 acres and includes the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Also under discussion is the Corridor Cities Transitway, a 14 mile mass transit line that will connect Clarksburg in the upcounty area and Shady Grove in Rockville. The county council will require that half of the CCT be built before the second half of the Great Seneca plan could be built.
As always in our area, the major concerns are traffic and preserving open, green space. This debate and the revisions are far from over, but there may be a final vote next month on this revision.
UPDATE: Click here for the latest on the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan
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