United Therapeutics’ Unisphere Annex Proposal Will Expand the World’s Largest Net Zero Office Building in Silver Spring
When the dual brand Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites Hilton hotels closed abruptly last October, concerns reverberated throughout the downtown Silver Spring community, which brought the building located at 8728 Colesville Road into question as a candidate for a vacant eyesore in the area for years to come.
It turns out that a brighter future was in the works for the site. Behind the scenes, Silver Spring’s own United Therapeutics corporation purchased the building with the intent of expanding its main headquarters building dubbed the Unisphere at 1000 Spring Street.
Officially called the Unisphere Annex, the D.C. area’s largest biotech released details to the community in a pre-planning department submission meeting on 4/20.
The Unisphere Annex would replace the 141,972 square foot, 145’ foot tall hotel with an office building that reaches 105’ feet in height, including an expanded solar panel array. The hotel was formerly an office building before it was converted to a hotel back in 2008.
The new building would also follow a national trend in mass timber construction, which is a new environmental method in building construction that reduces carbon emissions.
United Therapeutics’ headquarters campus in Silver Spring’s central business district is already billed as the world’s largest net zero commercial office building site. It uses geothermal energy collection and photovoltaic solar systems that make it the largest array inside the Washington, D.C. area beltway.
United Therapeutics consulted the original campus designer, EwingCole, for the proposed expansion.
The Unisphere Annex is a nod to the Biotech Priority Campus Policy, also known as Zoning Text Amendment 21-09, which was passed unanimously by the Montgomery County Council and spearheaded by Councilmember Andrew Friedson.
BioHealth facilities that are 150,000 square feet or larger, or existing BioHealth facilities expanding by 50,000 square feet or more, will cut their application approval time from 600 days to 160 days or from 18 months to less than six months.
At a ceremony held at United Therapeutics headquarters in February, Friedson said the time would amount to a 75 percent reduction. It would also remove sketch and preliminary plans from the planning process.
In March, Freidson and Councilmember Nancy Navaro led the passing of the Biohealth Opportunity Zone Incentive Program, which provides a grant of $250,000 to any Biohealth Priority Campus located in a County Opportunity Zone. The Unisphere Annex in downtown Silver Spring would qualify for the incentive.
This is the second office building proposal in the Silver Spring urban district within a year from United Therapeutics. In June 2021, the company submitted plans for a 65,000 square foot organ manufacturing facility. The biotech is the mastermind behind the first successful xenotransplantation of a pig heart which was conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.