Florida-based Bainbridge purchased the property at 7340 Wisconsin Ave. in May and quickly put together conceptual plans it presented to residents in a required pre-submittal meeting on Tuesday night.
Bainbridge is proposing the building, on the west side of Wisconsin Avenue between Montgomery Lane and Hampden Lane, is allowed a 143-foot height, in accordance with the 1994 Bethesda CBD Master Plan.
Bob Dalrymple, the attorney from Bethesda-based firm Linowes and Blocher who is representing Bainbridge, didn’t hold back in his view that the current zoning is outdated for a spot so close to the Bethesda Metro station and the planned Purple Line station.
The site is also across Wisconsin Avenue from the 2nd District Police Station, which will likely undergo some sort of redevelopment soon as the county looks for partners in building a new police precinct.
“Those two sites developing at 143 feet in height is shameful,” Dalrymple said.
Planners are beginning their work this summer on an updated Bethesda CBD Master Plan, but the community meetings, worksessions, Planning Board deliberations and County Council decisions on it won’t be completed for two or three years.
Dalrymple said Bainbridge, which is also building a 17-story, 200-unit apartment building at 4918 St Elmo Ave., didn’t want to wait until that process played out. He said the developer would try to get some relief from the zone’s height restrictions at the Planning Board. The residents who spoke at the meeting agreed the site should be allowed the most density possible.
The building will include about 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail that will wrap around Montgomery Lane, Wisconsin Avenue and Hampden Lane. The Hampden Lane side of the building will be built slightly lower than 143 feet and include an overhang that should provide for some public space with a lightly colored brick sidewalk, artistic seating areas and potentially a painting or mural on an exposed back wall.
The properties that contain the Pines of Rome restaurant and Tommy Joe’s, two popular Bethesda businesses, will remain. Garage access and a loading dock for the apartment are set for the Montgomery Lane side of the building, as far away as possible from the one-way road’s intersection with Wisconsin Avenue.
Dalrymple said it looks like Bainbridge will come in under the minimum amount of parking spots required by the current zoning code and the developer will pay a Parking Lot District tax to make up the balance.
The Preliminary and Project Plans will be sent to the Planning Department in the next few weeks. If the process goes smoothly, Bainbridge anticipates groundbreaking by the end of 2014.