Development plans are underway at the former site of Chesnut Lodge, Rockville’s turn-of-the-century sanitarium for the care of nervous and mental diseases. Opened in 1910, Chestnut Lodge transformed the 19th century luxury Woodlawn hotel at 500 W. Montgomery Avenue into a world-renowned psychiatric hospital. Under the direction of three generations of the Bullard family, the hospital operated discreetly until its closure in the late 1990s. Read the Peerless Places article on Chestnut Lodge.
In 2006, Rockville’s sitting Mayor and Council approved the construction of 44 residential units on the former hospital’s grounds. Plans included 36 new single family homes, renovation of “Little Lodge” (the former Bullard Home), and renovation of the Main Lodge into a seven unit multi-family residence. This unique agreement was undertaken with high hopes of returning the building to its earlier grandeur.
The tragic loss of the Lodge to a fire in 2009 halted rehabilitation and adaptive re-use plans. A recent redevelopment plan by JNP Chestnut Lodge, LLC has proposed the construction of seven town homes – intended to be evocative of the appearance of the historic Lodge. The developer has held several community meetings and appeared before the HDC for courtesy review. However, Peerless Rockville along with community members have continued to express concern that the project respect the earlier character of the site and the historic viewshed of the West Montgomery Avenue Historic District. View the latest proposal courtesy-reviewed by the HDC here.
Amendments to approved Planned Developments, such as the substitution of townhouses for the destroyed Main Lodge, require the approval of a Project Plan by the Mayor and Council, Site Plan Approval by the Planning Commission, and a Certificate of Approval by the Historic District Commission.
At the meeting on March 9, The City of Rockville Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the Mayor and Council not approve an amendment to PRU2005-00022, which would allow for the construction of seven townhouse units instead of seven multifamily units on the former Main Lodge property. The hearing can be viewed here.
Peerless Rockville testified at this meeting, encouraging the Planning Commission to carefully consider the significant history of the site, its prominent role in the development of this community and the full future ramifications of development on this small but significant parcel. Click here to read Peerless’ statement.
Rockville Mayor and Council will hold a public hearing on this topic on Monday, April 25th at 7 pm in the Mayor and Council Chambers at Rockville City Hall, 111 Maryland Avenue. Members of the public are welcome to provide input.