The Great Seneca Plan: Connecting Life and Science

Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s Montgomery County Planning Department (Montgomery Planning) is in the process of creating the Great Seneca Plan: Connecting Life and Science, which is an update to its 2010 Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan. Both plans seek to encourage mixed-use, life-sciences-focused development in the Life Science Center (LSC), the section in the Great Seneca Plan area that serves as the county’s premier cluster of private life science activity. The LSC also includes the Universities at Shady Grove, the Adventist Healthcare Medical Center at Shady Grove, and the National Cancer Institute.

The current Great Seneca Plan update seeks to reinforce and catalyze the mixed-use land use and placemaking principles established in the 2010 plan, with an emphasis helping to address the county’s housing crisis and make the LSC more competitive as a hub of economic activity.

To inform this plan update as well as the countywide approach to planning for the life science industry more generally, Montgomery Planning engaged ESI to provide its expertise regarding economic development best practices for the life science industry. While the report provides background and best practices related to the life science industry in a broad sense, including topics such as entrepreneurship and workforce development, its main focus is on the real estate needs of the life science industry, how they related to the competitiveness of life science clusters, and the feasibility of co-locating housing on or near sites with existing life sciences or healthcare uses in the LSC and the rest of Montgomery County.

ESI conducted economic and real estate analyses to understand the current area’s competitiveness for attracting new life sciences investment and development and the steps needed to bolster the industry. We conducted stakeholder interviews with leaders in the life sciences space, including developers, economic development professionals, and innovation experts, and provided case studies of other competitive innovation districts to understand organizational structure, funding, and foundational history and their approaches to supporting mixed-use development. Strategic recommendations were developed for Montgomery Planning recognizing that sound land use policy is be pivotal to facilitating the right types of life sciences and complementary real estate development over the next decade, and that there are critical elements of the life sciences ecosystem that will require more strategic and intentional involvement from regional institutions, economic development organizations, and the public and private sectors

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