The developer of a proposed apartment complex just north of Wall Park and the Shriver Aquatic Center in North Bethesda faces a number of hurdles before construction can begin.
Besides the typical approval process, Atlanta-based developer Gables Residential must wait for Montgomery County to design and fund a new road network and work out an agreement with the Montgomery County Department of Parks on the funding and operation of a parking garage that would serve both apartment residents and Wall Park visitors.
Gables Regional Vice President Jorgen Punda and architects presented the Sketch Plan to community members in a required public meeting on Tuesday. The Sketch Plan envisions three 70-foot-tall apartment buildings that would include 450 to 500 units on top of 30,000 square feet of ground floor retail, courtyards and a parking garage.
That garage is a key part of the developer’s plan and the future of Wall Park, which the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan envisions as the major park and green space for a rapidly developing White Flint. The area today includes a small park, the Shriver Aquatic Center and 250 parking spaces.
Punda said the company has agreed to reserve 250 parking spots in its garage for Montgomery Parks and another 150 spaces to accomodate a future planned recreation center. The existing 250 spaces in the park would be replaced with park functions that are still being designed.
Park planner coordinator Rachel Newhouse took suggestions for possible park features during the meeting.
Attorney Stephen Kaufman, who is representing Gables out of Bethesda-based firm Linowes and Blocher, said the plan is for Gables to provide the land for the garage. It would be up to Montgomery County to pay for its construction. Kaufman suggested the county could use payments Gables will have to make into a general development fund.
Newhouse said Parks hopes to go to the Planning Board at the same time Gables does with a concept plan for the park. The garage will include about 590 spaces reserved for residents and retail use.
It appears neither can go forward without a resolution to the Western Workaround. Gables can only start the project once Executive Boulevard is realigned and Market Street is built, making the existing triangular lot into a bigger rectangular one.
Montgomery County has been negotiating with the State Highway Administration on design aspects of the new street grid’s intersections. The county must also purchase important right-of-way from the vacant car dealerships on the south side of Old Georgetown Road, a process Kaufman said the developer hopes will accelerate when it files its Sketch Plan in June.
Once construction starts, Punda said it should be 18 to 20 months until the apartments are completed. But it’s uncertain when all of the elements — new Wall Park, shared parking garage and new street network — will come together.
“The project can’t be built unless the roads are in place,” Kaufman said. “We’re looking at 2016 or the year after. Either it’s going to happen by then, or White Flint is going to be in big trouble.”
Images via Gables Residential
Construction crews will need to blast through rock to build the underground parking garage slated for a 359-unit apartment building and Harris Teeter grocery store at Wisconsin Avenue and Battery Lane.
Developer StonebridgeCarras, the same company doing the Lot 31 excavation and blasting at Bethesda Avenue, said last week that crews have completed underground utility work around the 8300 Wisconsin site and are ready to start excavation.
Donohoe Construction Company crews are now on the site, which is being prepared with sediment and erosion control measures, according to a release. Workers are also building foundation piles that will be drilled along the property line.
Drilling is scheduled to begin this week and will last five to six weeks. Dump trucks will also begin to haul material off the site this week. StonebridgeCarras said preliminary tests indicate there will be about five months of periodic blasting to get through dense rock. That blasting is scheduled to begin in late July.
StonebridgeCarras said notice to the community will be sent out. Some near the Lot 31 parking garage and apartment project said they were caught off guard when Clark Construction crews began blasting there in December.
The utility work over the last six months that led to detours and bumpy patches in the Battery Lane and Woodmont Avenue intersection was to allow Pepco to replace the overhead power lines with underground ones. Pepco is planning to transfer poer from the overhead electric lines to the underground lines in late June.
StonebridgeCarras hopes to have the excavation done in January. Then, crews will erect construction cranes and start to pour concrete. The building is expected to top out at the end of 2014 and the entire project is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2015.
Photo via StonebridgeCarras
There has been pronounced opposition to the proposed Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, but the major developer in the mix is hoping to show there is also community support.
The Chevy Chase Land Company, which wants to convert the existing strip shopping center near Chevy Chase Lake Drive into a mixed-use town center, held a happy hour event on Wednesday for its Friends of Chevy Chase Lake group.
There were supporters and many residents who had questions about specific parts of the plan. Land Company Vice President of Public Affairs Miti Figueredo and President and CEO David Smith answered questions about a planned new north to south road, the fate of the Chevy Chase Supermarket during construction and the status of the Purple Line.
Many who expressed their support for the project during a County Council public hearing in March did so on the basis that the new development would make sense around a planned Purple Line station just north of the Land Company’s existing 8401 Connecticut building.
Bonnie Wicklund, who lives in the 8101 Connecticut Condominiums, said she supports the development. Her main want is the Purple Line station.
“We have everything but a post office. The only thing that this area really lacks is easy access to the Metro so that we can get on a train, make a change or two without driving, without getting into a car,” Wicklund said. “As for the development, I like to walk. I walk all over Chevy Chase and to the Chevy Chase Supermarket. I would love to have more restaurants to choose from and more shops.”
Dee Metz, the Montgomery County’s White Flint Implementation Coordinator, told two groups of residents, developers and other stakeholders this week that the county hopes to present the plans for the new street network, called the western workaround, at the June meeting of the Implementation Committee.
There is $98 million worth of transportation design and construction programmed into the county’s FY13-FY18 capital budget for road projects in the western section of the White Flint Sector, including the new east-to-west Market Street that will connect Old Georgetown Road to a realigned Executive Boulevard.
The new section of Executive Boulevard will be built through the parking lot of the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center and cross Old Georgetown Road into the Pike & Rose development, now under construction at Mid-Pike Plaza.
Metz said the road design got held up several months as the county worked to get SHA to agree on fewer turn lanes and other design features more conducive to the walkable, pedestrian-friendly atmosphere county planners and developers seek for White Flint.
“The situation is the state does have a lot of influence over it. They typically have to approve any of our intersections with state roads,” Metz said on Monday at the Implementation Committee meeting. “We didn’t just want to go ahead and roll over and do what the state wanted us to do. Even though the design has been held up, we’re still on schedule to make it to the same construction timeline that we’ve had in the CIP program all along.”
Metz and Evan Goldman, from Rockville-based developer Federal Realty, indicated the SHA was more interested in a design that would move the most cars.
“The state has really dug in on certain principles that are really antithetical to urbanism,” Goldman said. Federal Realty is building the mixed-use Pike & Rose project.
Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike are state roads.
“They wanted eight-inch curbs. We want six-inch curbs. They’re showing cycle tracks, but we want buffers. These are the comments that we’re giving to them,” Metz said. “I think we’re making progress even though as I said this is somewhat a new way of approaching development.”
Photo via Friends of White Flint
A Bethesda developer’s plan for three 300-foot residential towers and two 200-foot buildings along Rockville Pike met some resistance on Monday, when a resident of a nearby condominium building questioned the lack of retail space in the presentation.
Saul Centers, a part of B.F. Saul, wants to tun the two-level Metro Pike Center shopping center and the Staples site near the White Flint Metro station into four residential high-rises and an office building.
Saul Centers Vice President of Development Brian Downie told a meeting of the White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee on Monday that the company’s research shows retail uses are not in high demand at the site, which sits between four major mixed-use projects either underway or in the pipeline for White Flint.
Paul Meyer, a member of the Committee and a resident of The Wisconsin Condominiums to the west of the property, said the lack of retail and other amenities wouldn’t be fair to residents of his building and wouldn’t encourage people to walk from section to section of White Flint.
“Everything that’s being built in White Flint, we know we’re going to have to pay in terms of construction, noise, and traffic problems over time,” Meyer said. “On the other hand, it’s a balance. We look at what we’ll have when it’s done. These projects have places to walk to, they have restaurants to eat in, a destination that I’d want to go to. This project has none of that, absolutely none.”
Meyer said the project will likely be the first in the redevelopment of White Flint that residents of The Wisconsin don’t support.
In total, the Saul redevelopment on its two Pike properties would bring 1.4 million square feet of new residential space with roughly 1,400 rental units and 200,000 square feet of office and commercial space, most of which would be in a roughly 200-foot high office building near the Porcelenosa store.
The plan calls for green, pedestrian-friendly walkways, a public plaza on the east side of Rockville Pike along Nicholson Lane and a few spaces for retail or restaurants. But Downie said that retail or restaurant space is limited.
“We want to be forthright and cautious about overpromising retail,” Downie said at the meeting. “We do think the uses we want there primarily are restaurants, but we don’t see it’s strength as retail.”
Downie said the performance of the existing shopping center on the site, which has a number of vacancies, played a role in that decision. Bob Dalrymple, an attorney from Linowes and Blocher who is representing Saul Centers on the project, said the plan presented so far is in its early stages.
“I would encourage you not to take anything too literally, too fixed. We are very early on,” Dalrymple said. “So don’t give up on us too early is I guess what I’m asking.”
Saul Centers hopes to submit a sketch plan to the County Planning Department in a few weeks.
“If they do the right thing, everybody wins,” Meyer said. “I’m willing to take some more traffic. I’ll walk. But my worry is, if they overbuild the residential, it becomes a ghost town.”
But not all major developers, including one that has already branded its property as North Bethesda Center, are on board. Developers are split on whether to label the rapidly redeveloping area around the White Flint Metro station as White Flint or as North Bethesda.
Francine Waters, from Lerner Enterprises, told a meeting of an area advisory board that the group, called the White Flint Partnership, is close to signing a contract with a firm to conduct the branding study. Lerner Enterprises owns White Flint Mall, which it plans to redevelop into a mixed-use, town square-oriented community.
LCOR, the developer that plans a similar project along Old Georgetown Road called North Bethesda Center, is not part of the Partnership, which Waters said includes Lerner, Saul Centers, Gables Residential, Federal Realty Investment Trust and JBG. All have agreed to pitch in to pay for the study.
“We reached out to all the developers in White Flint. We asked that they participate financially,” Waters told the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee on Tuesday, without referring specifically to LCOR. “We were politely told that they’d love to be engaged but were not interested in contributing financially.
“I would say, when you think about branding and naming, if you come up with a new name, then you have to think about what it would take to define that place with the new name,” Waters said.
“It’s not just a question of the new name or the existing name, because we have two existing names,” said Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce Board member Andy Shulman.
The Site Plan for the 145-unit apartment project set for 7100 Wisconsin Ave. is in and includes renderings of what that portion of downtown Bethesda might look like without the Eastham’s auto repair shop and gas station that has been there for 83 years.
Eastham’s got a reprieve last December, after it was announced the auto repair portion of the shop would remain until developer Washington Property Company was ready to break ground. The shop was temporarily closed as crews closed down and cleaned out the Exxon Gas Station portion of the shop.
The Site Plan Application was filed in April and includes the 145 units (15 percent of which will be moderately priced dwelling units) underground parking and 6,300 square feet in non-residential/commercial retail space.
The side of the building facing Wisconsin Avenue will be 120 feet tall. The building will step down toward Woodmont Avenue as to not loom over the Crescent Plaza condos to the west.
Renderings via Montgomery County Planning Department
The mayor of the Town of Chevy Chase is using the recent Apex Building redevelopment episode as part of her campaign platform before the Town’s election tomorrow.
In early April, Montgomery County Planning Department interim director Rose Krasnow said a nearby developer had proposed a Minor Master Plan Amendment that would examine razing the Apex Building (7272 Wisconsin Ave.) in exchange for more density in properties extending east along Montgomery Avenue.
The razing of the Apex Building would allow the county and the Maryland Transit Administration to build a Bethesda Purple Line station that would include an underground Capital Crescent Trail crossing of Wisconsin Avenue, which had previously been ruled out.
Town Mayor Pat Burda said she received a call from a County Councilmember about the proposal and immediately intervened, an example of how her experience and relationships can help the Town deal with the development of downtown Bethesda.
The Town of Chevy Chase, a half-square mile area of predominantly single family homes, has historically been wary of development that might encroach. At a candidate forum on April 25, all three candidates for two Council seats said they’d prefer if the Purple Line light rail was never built, for fear that it will bring development in surrounding communities.
On April 22, the County Council’s Planning Committee agreed with Council staff, Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier and Krasnow to keep all properties bordering the Town of Chevy Chase out of the Minor Master Plan.
“This seems both illogical and somewhat wrong. I’m getting a phone call from the mayor of the Town next to this, who doesn’t know about your deliberations until I call over there and say, ‘Do you know about this,’” County Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At large) told Krasnow and Carrier at the April 22 hearing. “Which is not the way we do things in Montgomery County, at least I didn’t think we did them that way. But apparently that is the way we do things now.”
In her candidate’s statement, Burda leads by explaining how she lobbied County Councilmembers to exclude properties bordering the Town from the Apex Building Minor Master Plan:
A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from a county councilmember letting me know of a potentially harmful development for our Town: the Planning Board was considering rezoning properties adjacent to the Town along Wisconsin Avenue, Elm Street Park and Montgomery Avenue and wanted to do it on the fast track. Thanks to this heads-up, I immediately set up a meeting with another county councilmember and got on the phone to several others. Through this direct access and quick action, the properties adjacent to the Town are no longer under immediate threat.
This outcome was only possible because of the hard work that I and others on our Council have done over the years to foster strong relationships with our county and state officials. This type of relationship will be particularly critical over the next few years as the County continues to look for ways to increase density in the down-county area. Experience does matter.
Image via Montgomery County Planning Department
Signs have gone up for The Lauren, the multi-million dollar condominium development that is set to replace the old, brick Hampden Apartments at 4901 Hampden Lane.
The advertisement for the seven-story, 25-unit building makes clear the developer’s desire to get to the top of the Bethesda luxury housing market: “Now accepting inquiries. Residences from the several millions.”
The website boasts of the location’s prime location near Bethesda Row and the Bethesda Metro station and says the boutique property “will feature iconic architecture that will only further its cache” and “the location, the lifestyle and the fit and finish are unlike anything else in Bethesda.”
The developer is waiting for a Planning Board hearing to review a Site Plan Administrative Amendment that would allow for balconies and modified landscaping.
The seven-story building would also replace the detached houses along Montgomery Lane that are now used as offices and include three Moderately Priced Dwelling Units, as is required for new multi-family dwellings in Montgomery County.
Rendering via Montgomery County Planning Department
Saul Centers, a part of Bethesda-based development company B.F. Saul, on Tuesday revealed its plans for three 300-foot residential towers and two 200-foot buildings on its two properties near the White Flint Metro station.
Saul Centers purchased the two-level shopping center at Metro Pike Center (across from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) and the Staples-anchored shopping center at 11503 Rockville Pike two years ago with the intent of developing the site under the new zoning codes of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.
The buildings would likely be built in phases over a number of years, Saul Centers Vice President of Development Brian Downie told attendees of the required public meeting at the Bethesda North Conference Center. The company would begin building its first tower in about two years, if everything goes smoothly in the approval process.
Saul Centers will submit its sketch plan to the Montgomery County Planning Board by the end of May. It is not releasing the renderings it showed on Tuesday until that submission.
Metro Pike Center would be torn down and redeveloped with a 300-foot residential tower on the spot of the existing McDonald’s at Marinelli Road and Rockville Pike. Just to the south, Saul Centers would build a matching 300-foot residential tower with a new east-to-west street in between. South of that, across another new east-to-west street, would be a roughly 200-foot predominantly office building.
Woodglen Drive is to be extended behind the property to Marinelli Road under the Sector Plan. It currently cuts off at Nicholson Lane.
At the Staples site, Saul Centers would build a 300-foot, L-Shaped residential tower along Rockville Pike and another 200-foot residential tower to the east with a public plaza in between.
Lindsay Hoffman, a resident near White Flint who runs the Friends of White Flint organization, said she gets questions all the time about what exactly is coming to the soon-to-be redeveloped parcels along Rockville Pike.
On Tuesday morning, many of the developers creating those places gathered in the same place to answer some of those questions, show renderings and get to know the community that will see big changes over the next few decades.
Representatives from White Flint Mall, LCOR, Federal Realty and the Chevy Chase Land Company were a part of the showcase event held at the Whole Foods at North Bethesda Market. Park planners from the Montgomery County Department of Parks and staff from the Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar, coming to North Bethesda Market this summer, were also on hand.
Parks staff asked for ideas from residents for the expansion of Wall Park. As part of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, the site of the Shriver Swim Center and parking lot will be transformed into a multi-purpose recreation center and green space between Old Georgetown Road and Executive Boulevard.
The plans also include an above-ground parking garage on the Gables property. Park planners are waiting to see what that developer does with the property before devising a formal plan for the park.
Rockville-based Federal Realty is progressing with its Pike & Rose project for Mid-Pike Plaza. During a walking tour of White Flint last weekend, Federal’s Tommy Mann said the developer wants Pike & Rose to be the premier arts and entertainment destination in the White Flint/North Bethesda area. Federal has signed luxury movie theater iPic and has a deal with Strathmore for a 250-seat music venue.
LCOR plans to build out its North Bethesda Center development across Rockville Pike. Francine Waters, from Lerner Enterprises, showed residents the White Flint sketch plan and renderings from the White Flint Partnership of what a Bus Rapid Transit network could look like on Rockville Pike.
Residents are against the Chevy Chase Land Company’s proposal for a 150-foot building on Connecticut Avenue as part of the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan before the County Council.
The Connecticut Avenue Corridor Committee, a group of more than 20 Chevy Chase civic and neighborhood organizations, has suggested a 90- or 120-foot height limit for the building. It would be on the other side of the existing Capital Crescent Trail from the company’s 8401 Connecticut office building.
Last week, the developer again laid out the reasons it thinks the 150 feet number is appropriate.
As the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan has moved from the Planning Board to the Council, we’ve heard questions about the recommended 150 foot height limit for one of the buildings in the plan area. Some community members have expressed concern that this height limit is excessive, and that the building should be several stories shorter, even though it would be immediately adjacent to the future Purple Line station and to an existing 150 foot tall building. Neither building would abut a residential neighborhood.
We take community concerns very seriously and have made significant changes to our redevelopment plans in response to feedback. But we also believe that this building height is appropriate in the larger context of our design, for several reasons:
- The additional height creates the opportunity for more open space in the project
- The additional units available in a taller building are necessary to offset the high cost of underground parking, which is essential to creating a walkable, pedestrian friendly environment
- As this article points out, a slightly taller building can be more elegantly designed, and ultimately more aesthetically pleasing, than a shorter, blockier building
- The visual impact from the street of an additional 2-3 stories is minimal
The Council hasn’t yet made a final decision on the Sector Plan, so we don’t know what the height limits will be. But rather than focus primarily on the height of one building, we hope to have constructive conversations about the environmental and community benefits to be gained from the redevelopment of an old, asphalt-heavy strip center into a lively, beautiful and transit-oriented community.
The next Council Planning Committee worksession on Chevy Chase Lake is expected in June. Until then, the Chevy Chase Land Company will try to earn community support for their proposal to redevelop the strip shopping centers there into mixed-use buildings around a town green.
On May 15, the company is hosting a Summer Kickoff Happy Hour where it will present project renderings and its vision for a transit-oriented community.
Rendering via Chevy Chase Land Company
The developer of a small townhouse community near Sangamore Road wants to abandon an underground garage, clubhouse and lap pool that the County Planning Board had approved.
During the Thursday session of the Montgomery County Planning Board, the Brookes Lane Development Company will attempt to have its site plan for 6450 Brookes Lane changed.
The new plan includes 11 townhouses next door to what will be a new-look Intelligence Community Campus-Bethesda, both overlooking the Potomac River. The existing single family house on the property will be maintained.
The developer is proposing to eliminate an underground parking structure and instead provide above-ground garages for each unit. There will be one private roadway ending in a cul-de-sac with shrubs and other groundcover to capture stormwater heading toward the river.
Because the development includes fewer than 25 units, it does not require a recreational area the size or scope of the clubhouse or pool that was originally proposed. The developer plans a sitting area.
Images via Montgomery County Planning Department
Following the ins and outs of the many redevelopment projects slated for White Flint isn’t easy.
So on Saturday a group of smart growth advocates put together a walking tour of the area to show about 50 area residents what is going on and what they hope to see happen to the strip malls and sidewalks of Rockville Pike.
The D.C.-based Coalition for Smarter Growth, a nonprofit funded by an environmental group, organized “White Flint: Drag to Desirable,” a two-hour tour of the area that included Tommy Mann from developer Federal Realty, County planner Nkosi Yearwood, resident Lindsay Hoffman from Friends of White Flint and Coalition executive director Stewart Schwartz.
They talked about plans for Federal Realty’s Pike & Rose project, underway at Mid-Pike Plaza, and developer LCOR’s North Bethesda Center on the east side of Rockville Pike near the White Flint Metro station. Yearwood answered questions about the realignment of Executive Boulevard, which the county hopes will one day run through what is now Mid-Pike Plaza and the Saab auto dealership across Old Georgetown Road.
Schwartz pointed out some of the less noticeable signs of car-oriented, older suburban planning that still exist on the Pike.
The high-speed right hand turn lane from Old Georgetown Road onto southbound Rockville Pike is one example. Drivers looking to get onto the Pike are more likely to look left for a gap in southbound traffic than to look right for pedestrians crossing at the crosswalk.
There is no tree buffer between the sidewalks of Rockville Pike and the road, a streetscaping tool that is apparent off the Pike near the Bethesda North Marriott and nearby apartment buildings.
Many asked about school overcrowding from new residents in mid-rise and high-rise apartments. The 2010 White Flint Sector Plan includes a new elementary school at the White Flint Mall redevelopment site. Yearwood fielded questions about public amenities, including a green space planned for near Wall Park.
And many wanted to know exactly what was going to be built and when. Mann answered questions about parking and retailers coming to Pike & Rose, the first major mixed-use development coming under the Sector Plan. Phase one will be done next year.
But residents found the bulk of redevelopment for White Flint is going to be a long process in which all the details — road construction, land ownership, the fate of existing small businesses, even a name — aren’t finalized.
Bethesda’s Vanishing Gas Stations — The number of gas stations in Bethesda and other inner ring suburbs is dwindling because of high land prices and the changing nature of areas with transit. Some say that’s a good thing. [Washington Post]
Frick vs. Frosh For Attorney General Could Be Prickly — Del. Bill Frick and State Sen. Brian Frosh both represent Bethesda’s District 16 and both are set on becoming attorney general in next year’s Democratic Primary. [Bethesda Magazine]
Bethesda Row’s Fashion Show Will Include Guest Jessica Alba — The actress will be at Front Row at Bethesda Row, from May 16 to May 18. [Washingtonian Magazine]