Downtown Silver Spring residents may soon have a new, convenient grocery store, after the Montgomery County Council cleared the way through a zoning change.

“I sponsored this zoning change because I regularly hear from constituents about the lack of grocery choices in the Ripley District and near the Metro station,” said Councilmember Tom Hucker, who led the initiative.

“The population of this area has increased greatly over the last 10 years, but the retail options have not, and many residents don’t have cars to shop at other grocery stores,” Hucker said.

The council approved the zoning change, called a Zoning Text Amendment, on an 8-1 vote at its Oct. 10 meeting.

Essentially, the change paves the way for Washington Property Co. to have a small, niche grocer on the ground floor of the 440-unit apartment project it plans to build at the former Progress Place site at 8120 Colonial Lane.

“Washington Property on the whole is really excited,” said Janel Crist Kausner, the company’s associate vice president of development. “We see the [zoning text amendment] as transformative for the Ripley District. We’re extremely grateful for Councilmember Hucker’s leadership and that the County Council sees the potential of the Ripley District.”

The new high-rise will be just off Ripley Street, between Georgia Avenue and the Metro and MARC train tracks.

The Bethesda company expects to start construction in spring 2019 and open in fall 2021. Construction will begin after the company finishes building its Solaire 8250 Georgia, a 20-story, 339-unit apartment complex at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Bonifant Street, Kausner said.

The new project will be near Washington Property’s Solaire Silver Spring on Ripley Street, which was built in 2012. The company hasn’t settled on a name for the new complex, but it will incorporate the Solaire brand, Kausner said.  

Washington Property received the Colonial Lane property from the county in exchange for building a new $15 million county-owned facility for Progress Place, which serves the area’s homeless community through its Shepherd’s Table and Interfaith Works programs. Progress Place is now about a block away from its former location, on Georgia Avenue.

The plan has been supported by the Montgomery County Planning Board and the Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee.

Specifically, the zoning change allows Washington Property’s new project to have a height of 270 feet, rather than 200 feet.

Kausner said the company needs the additional height for above-ground parking spaces. Adding the ground-floor retail space will require 85 parking spaces dedicated for shoppers, which would have meant one or more additional levels of underground parking. Given the geology of the area and its close proximity to the rail tracks, that would have been cost prohibitive, she said.

Under the zoning change, in exchange for receiving the added height allowance, Washington Property will provide a 10,000- to 18,000-square-foot, ground-level retail store. Also, the developer must provide a significant public amenity in the area.   

“We hope to have a niche grocer — we’re talking to a few potential tenants,” Kausner said. “Or it could be another type of retail amenity for the community. Whatever it is, it will be a good amenity and useful for residents of the community.”

Hucker emphasized that the zoning change won’t increase the area’s population density or affect the historic one-story buildings on the east side of Georgia Avenue.

And because the new store will be within walking distance of many current and future residents, it should actually help reduce traffic in downtown Silver Spring, he said.

“This zoning change is a great example of how county government can work with the private sector to give our residents what they want and need,” Hucker said. “It’s also part of the evolution of downtown Silver Spring into a vibrant community where people can live, work, shop and play.”