Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Development Slowing in Montgomery

Even before the new council members who are more critical of development take office, development is slowing in Montgomery. The lead story in the Washington Post business section is that Canyon Ranch has abandoned its plan to build condos, a hotel and a spa near Montgomery Mall in North Bethesda. Indeed, eight new projects to build condos in Maryland have been abandoned according to the graphic in the print edition.

The decisions not to build new condos are hardly suprising since there is a glut in the Washington condo market. Growth opponents may cheer this shift. However, while the collapse of the Canyon Ranch project is probably not a major blow to affordable housing, the failure to build the project valued at $1 billion is a punch to the future tax base of Montgomery. The project would have also generated substantial employment first in construction and then in running the facility.

It will ironic if the negative building trends continue so much that the new anti-sprawl, anti-development members of the Council end up spending most of their time figuring out how to drum up business in the face of an economic downtown. Right now, the Washington economy appears robust despite these project cancellations but it wouldn't be the first time that this happened. Fairfax voters elected Democrat Audrey Moore on an anti-growth ticket. They turfed her out after one term as the economy of the region tanked.