Md. Fillmore Groundbreaking Set

Plans for a controversial Fillmore-branded music hall made the leap from initial to final approval by the Montgomery County, Md., planning board in just four months, in stark contrast to the usual years-long approval process for major developments in the area. But with the OK comes a Sept. 11 groundbreaking date for Live Nation’s long-awaited Silver Spring Fillmore outpost.

An accompanying hotel and office project, all part of the same Lee Development Group project, has also gotten the green light from the planning board.

While it seemed the four months is startlingly quick in terms of public planning time, it’s taken eight years of negotiations between the county, developer and Live Nation to bring it to this point. And with a lawsuit pending by It’s My Party charging the county with failing to meet criteria to receive $4 million in public funds, the drama surrounding the venue is far from over.

The lawsuit, filed by Seth Hurwitz in June, isn’t expected to throw any wrenches in the groundbreaking ceremony. But LDG President Bruce Lee acknowledged to the Gaithersberg, Md., Gazette the complicated history of the project.

“By far in our corporate history, this is the most complicated, backwards project we’ve done,” Lee told the paper. “But the end result will be a real win-win for the county.”

The company will construct the Fillmore then donate the land it sits on, valued at $35 million, to Montgomery County. Live Nation, which got a 20-year, $3.26 million lease on the Fillmore, will operate the venue.

The office and hotel project that is part of the development deal is not required to be built for 15 years under the unorthodox land-use agreement that the county approved in 2008.

Those unusual agreements, along with the combined $8 million in state and county funds going toward Fillmore construction, have raised eyebrows in the region and drew fire from Hurwitz, who runs the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., but lives in Montgomery County.

Once completed, the Fillmore is expected to comprise 34,000 square feet and three stories, with a general admission area, stage, walk-up box office and two bars on the first floor, a second-floor balcony with two bars and audience seating, and a basement with offices, a lounge area and dressing rooms.