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Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan

(formerly Gaithersburg West Master Plan)

Contact: Patrick Butler, 301-495-4561 or

Gaithersburg locator mapA 21st-century blueprint for the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center was established with the approval of the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan by the County Council on May 4, 2010.

View the approved and adopted Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan (23 MB).

Home to a major hospital, academic institutions, and private biotechnology companies, the Life Sciences Center (LSC) serves as the County's premier location for and has the largest concentration of advanced technology accompanies. Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, Johns Hopkins University-Montgomery County Campus (JHU-MCC), the Universities at Shady Grove, and biotechnology companies such as Human Genome Sciences, BioReliance, and the J. Craig Venter Institute are all located in the Life Sciences Center. The federal government's General Services Administration recently selected the JHU-MCC site for the National Cancer Institute's consolidated headquarters.

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Master Plan Vision

The Master Plan envisions -- and zoning will help implement -- a future LSC that includes an expanded, first-class medical center, research facilities, academic institutions, and an array of services and amenities for residents, workers, and visitors. It will have an open space system that incorporates the area's natural environmental features into a larger network, connecting destinations by paths and trails, and providing opportunities for a range of outdoor experiences.

Transforming today's suburban, auto-oriented LSC into tomorrow's walkable, vibrant science center requires changing the built environment and the mix of uses over time. The Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) – a 14-mile system that will run from the Shady Grove Metro Station to Clarksburg – is a centerpiece of the Master Plan's vision. The LSC of the future will be served by this fully integrated transit system that links the LSC Districts as well as mid-County activity centers in Rockville and Gaithersburg. The Master Plan includes a rigorous staging element that ties development to implementation of the CCT, including funding, construction, and operation of the transit system.

The GSSC Master Plan:
  • Plans for science and the future growth of the Life Sciences Center
  • Provides a blueprint for the Belward property, the vacant, 107-acre site owned by Johns Hopkins University (JHU)
  • Recommends relocation of the Public Safety Training Academy (PSTA) and reuse of this prime site within the LSC for a new residential community with supporting retail and open spaces
  • Allows for more uses within the LSC to create a vibrant, dynamic, walkable place
  • Recommends realignment and new station locations for the Corridor Cities Transitway to place the transit where redevelopment and new development is planned
  • Provides general, area-wide recommendations for the enclaves and areas outside the LSC, where the Plan recommends minimal changes.

Learn what the future holds for this slice of Montgomery County west of Gaithersburg that is slated for a new, lively mix of jobs, housing and services — all built around the life sciences and connected by a proposed light rail or rapid bus system.
Guests: Nancy Sturgeon, lead planner, GSSC plan; Jacob Sesker, planner/economist (July/August 2010)

The Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan updates the 1990 Shady Grove Study Area Master Plan and portions of the 1985 Gaithersburg Vicinity Master Plan. In addition to the Life Sciences Center, the Master Plan includes the areas west of Quince Orchard and Longdraft Roads, as well as several enclaves -- geographic islands within the County's jurisdiction but surrounded by a municipality. Enclaves include the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Londonderry/Hoyle's Addition, Oakmont, Rosemont, Washingtonian residential and the Washingtonian light industrial park. View a map of the planning area.

The City of Gaithersburg is an incorporated municipality with its own planning and zoning authority and its own Master Plan. Planners from both jurisdictions coordinate on issues where the planning areas meet.

View the full Appendix or the individual chapters.

Plan Implementation

In June 2011, the Planning Board approved implementation guidelines for GSSC. The guidelines (500 kb) contain procedures for coordinating, staging, and monitoring implementation of recommendations for the Life Sciences Center. As spelled out in the GSSC master plan, the guidelines establish a development staging plan, which times the delivery of infrastructure and amenities with development. Among other things, the plan requires the creation of a biennial monitoring program to track development and staging triggers at each stage of the LSC’s development. The guidelines should be used by developers in the LSC, as well as citizens who want to know what is being planned in their neighborhood.

Visit our Life Sciences Center monitoring page to track the status of development staging in the area.

The zoning recommendations in a master plan are implemented through a process called the Sectional Map Amendment (SMA). The SMA is initiated after the master plan has been approved by the County Council and adopted by the Planning Board. The SMA for the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan was completed in 2010. The zoning changes recommended by the Master Plan include rezoning a number of parcels from the R&D Zone to the LSC Zone. In addition, several parcels were recommended to be rezoned to the new CR Zone.

Master Plan Design Guidelines

Design Guidelines help implement the recommendations in approved and adopted master plans or sector plans. They illustrate how Plan recommendations and principles might be met, and encourage applicants to propose designs that create an attractive and successful public realm. Design Guidelines are approved by the Planning Board for use by planning staff in developing and evaluating proposed building projects and other applications. With the exception of street standards and other specific Master Plan recommendations, the guidelines do not mandate specific forms and locations for buildings and open space.

View the design guidelines (5.3MB) for the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan.
View the June 2010 staff presentation (4.5MB) to the Planning Board

Master Plan Implementation Advisory Committee

The Planning Board established an advisory committee of property owners, residents, and interested groups (including adjacent neighborhoods in Gaithersburg and Rockville), with representation from the Executive Branch, the City of Rockville, and the City of Gaithersburg that are stakeholders in the redevelopment of the Plan area. The committee's responsibilities include monitoring the plan recommendations, monitoring the Capital Improvement Program and Growth Policy, and recommending action by the Planning Board and County Council to address issues that may arise, including, but not limited to, community impacts and design, and the status and location of public facilities and open space.

Meeting schedule

Past meetings
  • June 23, 2015, 7:30 p.m. at Universities of Shady Grove
  • May 26, 2015
  • View agenda; View LSC Loop presentation
  • March 26, 2015
  • View Bike Presentation; View Loop Trail Presentation

  • March 10, 2015 (Postponed)
  • February 10, 2015
  • View agenda; View presentation

  • January 13, 2015 (cancelled)
  • November 18, 2014
  • View agenda

Great Seneca Science Corridor Biennial Monitoring Report

The Montgomery County Planning Board has transmitted the first Biennial Master Plan Monitoring Report to the County Council and County Executive. Required by the Great Seneca Corridor Master Plan, the monitoring report includes an assessment of development approvals, public facilities and amenities, Subdivision Staging and the Capital Improvements Program (CIP). Read report

Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT)

The GSSC Master Plan recommends that the Corridor Cities Transitway be realigned into the heart of the LSC where it can serve more businesses, institutions, and users. The Plan builds a pattern of density focused on the four proposed LSC transit stations, but development is staged and cannot proceed until CCT implementation is underway.

The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is studying the proposed alignment alternatives and will schedule public meetings in the near future.

Gaithersburg East

The issues, land uses, and stages of development in the western portion of Gaithersburg are different from the eastern area. Later, the Planning Department will work on updating other portions of the 1985 Gaithersburg Vicinity Master Plan not covered by the Gaithersburg West Plan. The upcoming Gaithersburg East/Montgomery Village Master Plan will be coordinated with Montgomery County Department of Transportation's study of the Mid-County Corridor highway and will focus on Montgomery Village; the Airpark, and surrounding communities will be the focus of a subsequent master plan amendment.

Shady Grove Life Sciences Center Timeline

  • 1971: The 1971 Gaithersburg Vicinity Master Plan endorses the County proposal for a future Montgomery County Medical Center complex west of Shady Grove Road
  • 1973: The Public Service Training Academy locates west of Great Seneca Highway
  • 1976: County conveys land to the State for the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents (RICA) and the Noyes Institute (at Great Seneca Highway and Key West Avenue)
  • 1979: Shady Grove Adventist Hospital opens
  • 1984: County conveys land (south of Darnestown Road at Shady Grove Road) to the University of Maryland
  • 1985: The 1985 Gaithersburg Vicinity Master Plan expands the Medical Center concept to a "Research and Development Village"
  • 1986: County Council approves the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center Development Plan to guide development of the County-owned area
  • 1986: County conveys land to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) for its Montgomery County Campus (at Key West Avenue and Medical Center Drive)
  • 1987: Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology (CARB) opens at the University of Maryland Shady Grove Campus
  • 1989: Johns Hopkins University purchases the 138-acre Belward Farm
  • 1990: The 1990 Shady Grove Study Area Master Plan expands the vision for the "Research & Development Village," retains sites in the Life Sciences Center for this purpose, and proposes mixed-use residential neighborhoods at the King Farm, Crown Farm, Thomas Farm, and Traville
  • 1996: JHU receives Preliminary Plan approval for 1.8 million square feet of development on the Belward property
  • 2000: The Universities at Shady Grove, an innovative program offering undergraduate and graduate degrees from eight Maryland public universities at Shady Grove campus, is created
  • 2005: JHU begins to rethink their original plans for Belward
  • 2007: The Planning Department initiates the Gaithersburg West Master Plan, focusing on the Life Sciences Center, and working in collaboration with JHU, Adventist Hospital, the Universities at Shady Grove, LSC property owners, and area citizens and residents.

The Master Plan Process

Planners develop master and sector plans to create a framework for each community designed to last 15 to 20 years. Those visions help planners and policy-makers – such as the Planning Board and County Council – make policy and decide on proposed development. Each plan includes an inventory of land uses and an analysis of zoning, transportation, community facilities, environmental assets, and historic structures, among an inventory of land uses and an analysis of zoning, transportation, community facilities, environmental assets, and historic structures, among many other elements.

Created nearly 40 years ago, Montgomery County's General Plan defined the land use concept "Wedges and Corridors,” a regional plan that envisioned growth corridors radiating from Washington, D.C., like the spokes of a wheel. In between each spoke, wedges of open space, farmland, and residential areas prevail. Areas served by transit – such as routing the Corridor Cities Transitway through the Life Sciences Center – provide opportunities for vibrant, compact, walkable communities.

View meeting calendar and supporting documents.

Last updated: December 8, 2015

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