A World-Class Global Life Sciences Hub in White Oak
Meet Jewru Bandeh, Regional Director for the Eastern Region of Montgomery County who shares the latest developments in White Oak – the groundbreaking, the vision and what the future holds.
Jewru, thank you for your time to give us an overview of developments in White Oak. Tell us about your role as the Regional Director for the Eastern Region of Montgomery County.
The Regional Director of the ERMC serves as the official liaison and direct extension of County government in the region; creating a connect between residents, civic groups, faith communities and businesses and County government. The Director accesses, coordinates and facilitates the needs and delivery of public services in the region; provides recommendation and creates partnerships to resolve problems, and participates in the development of public policy processes affecting the region.
The groundbreaking for VIVA White Oak recently took place. Can you describe the vision for VIVA White Oak and its potential impact on East County?
The ground breaking ceremony for VWO was held October 22, 2018. The vision for the VIVA White Oak (VWO) is to redevelop the nearly 300 acres of land at Cherryhill in East County that used to be a large industrial area adjacent to the Consolidated FDA Campus into a biosciences-focused mixed-used development, creating a world-class bio/life science, education, research, commercial and residential community over the next 20-30 years.
The VWO project and other developments planned for two other nodes within the White Oak Gateway Master Plan (WOSG) area will bring jobs, public investments and greater economic development opportunities to this region, which is still affected by a long development moratorium. The project will also promote employment, community/neighborhood revitalization and economic growth with focused on the biomedical/technical and innovation economy. VWO, as the anchor project, will put Montgomery County on the world map, and bring the world to East County. VWO will transform the Eastern region as a great destination for scientists and entrepreneurs and a place to live, work and play for generations to come.
It’s not often that so many politicians from across the aisle come together for a project. The groundbreaking brought so many to the community. Describe why this unity of thought is important for the community.
The unity is a true reflection of good leadership at the Federal, State, County and Community levels, with foresight and commitment for future generations. All current and future developments in the Eastern region of the County has had strong support over the years. Unrelenting support, outreach and advocacy by local and State governments and community-based groups such as Labquest has resulted in many benefits for VWO and other WOSG development projects-consolidation and funding for the FDA campus in White Oak, approval of the WOSG Master Plan, public infrastructure investments, public policy changes advancing mixed-use development opportunities in the region.
Tell us about the overall plans for the mixed-use development and medical/life sciences hub that’s coming together?
Development in the WOSG is not limited just to the VWO project. The WOSG Master Plan, approved in 2014, covers over 3,000 acres allowing mixed-uses in areas that used to be dominated by a single-use. With VWO’s adjacency to the Washington Adventist Hospital in Cherryhill currently under construction, the proposed Hillandale Gateway project in Hillandale and Consolidated U.S. Federal Drug Administration campus in White Oak, Federal, State and Local infrastructure investments (including new roads, intersection improvements and US 29-Bus Rapid Transit system), we envision creating needed synergy for the building of a first-class bio/life-science cluster and global innovation community/hub for research and development, entrepreneurial, health, life sciences and technological resources. It is important to also note that smaller infill projects (commercial, residential, office) have been taking place within the WOSG area since the moratorium ended in 2002.
I understand this is a true public/private partnership. Tell us about the partnerships.
Through a competitive Request for Proposals process, Global Life-Sci Development Corporation (GDLC), an affiliate of Percontee, Inc., was selected by Montgomery County to develop the County’s 115-acre property adjacent to the 185-acre land owned by the Gudelsky’s in East County into one combined and coordinated 300-acre biosciences-focused mixed-used cluster development as envisioned by the WOSGMP approved by County Council in 2014.
The groundbreaking for VIVA White Oak as part of the overall FDA consolidation plan represents the next big step forward in making our region a hub for innovation in bioscience that will help develop more cures and treatments for diseases that impact every American family.
How do you describe the draw for biotech businesses and scientists to have the opportunity to work side by side with the FDA and other bio leaders?
The planned VWO redevelopment project will create a world-class and innovative global hub, with a unique opportunity to capitalize and collaborate with federal regulatory and local higher education and medical facilities to create collaborative synergy of innovative activities. The adjacency will create growth potential for VWO. VWO will be strategically located near the Consolidated FDA 660-acre campus and Washington Adventist Hospital 50-acre home, which is still under construction. The three entities combined will constitute over 1000 acres of top medical and health assets, bio/life science education, research and service delivery resources.
Is there a timeline you can share for VIVA White Oak Development?
The Sketch Plan for the VWO project was approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board (MCPB) November 30, 2017.
On March 1, 2018, Percontee held a public hearing for their Preliminary Plan application. Submitted to the MCPB.
A Groundbreaking ceremony for VWO was held October 22, 2018.
MCPB to review the VWO Preliminary Plan application November 29, 2018.