Marriott Meets with Community Before Filing Development Application for Headquarters Project
Bethesda residents praise architectural plans, but ask to see more for community
Rendering of proposed headquarters for Marriott International in downtown Bethesda.
Bethesda residents on Thursday night praised vibrant renderings of a gleaming, new headquarters for Marriott International and a flagship hotel that would stand next door along Woodmont Avenue.
But a number of people who met with the project partners ended the evening asking, What’s in it for us?
Well, the 22-story office building will bring Marriott’s 3,500 employees—and their wallets—to the downtown area, project representatives said. A Marriott executive stressed that the company is a good neighbor and will contribute to the local economy and the life of the community.
The project also will create a plaza that will provide green space and a mid-block connection between Wisconsin and Woodmont avenues, project partners said.
However, some people in the group of roughly 70 people at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center wanted more.
“What can you contribute to the quality of life for the people who live here?” Chevy Chase community leader Naomi Spinrad asked.
Several people mentioned that they’d like to see the headquarters building contain some first-floor retail space that might invigorate the street area.
Development representatives said the hotel will include a restaurant and café. They emphasized that many aspects of the project are still evolving.
Other people expressed concern about the project’s impact on parking in downtown Bethesda.
Marriott is building an underground garage with 800 spaces to serve both the 238-room hotel and the 728,000-square-foot office building. The hospitality giant has also signed a 10-year agreement with the county for exclusive use of the Woodmont Corner Garage during business hours.
Marriott’s existing headquarters on Fernwood Road in Bethesda has about 3,000 parking spaces, and about 2,500 of them fill up each day, said Jim Young, Marriott’s vice president of corporate facilities.
But the company expects many employees will ditch their cars in favor of public transit when they shift to the office in downtown Bethesda, which sits a short distance from a Metro stop. These changing commuting patterns might enable Marriott to return parking garage space to the county before the decade-long agreement expires.
Bob Dalrymple, a land use attorney involved in the project, laid out the proposed timeline for construction during the meeting. The partners—Bernstein Cos. and Boston Properties—hope to submit their sketch, site and preliminary plan applications together in the coming days, he said.
The Montgomery County Planning Board could approve the development by the year’s end, and groundbreaking is scheduled for the second half of 2018, he said.
The hotel should be open by October 2021, and Marriott will move into the new company headquarters by July 2022, he said.
The project partners said they didn’t yet have any answers about the construction logistics and sidewalk or lane closures, since they haven’t yet hired their contractors. However, they promised to share the information on a website designed to update community members about the development.
An architect with the Gensler firm unveiled a series of preliminary images for the project and noted that the buildings are designed around the Woodmont Grill and Tastee Diner, neither of which are included in the development plan.
Image of proposed mid-block connection between Wisconsin and Woodmont avenues. Via Gensler.
Rendering of the Marriott headquarters street frontage along the Wisconsin Avenue. Via Gensler.