Office Construction at Sunoco Site in Bethesda Could Begin By Fall 2019

Nonresidential building is the third and final element of the Woodmont Central project


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Douglas Firstenberg, a principal at StonebridgeCarras, presents a slide showing a 145-foot-tall building at the Sunoco site. The image is only meant to provide a sense of scale, since the building hasn't been designed, he said.

Bethany Rodgers

In fall of 2019, construction could begin on a roughly 145-foot-tall office building to replace the Sunoco gas station on Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda.

A development team on Thursday evening gave a broad overview of the project during a community meeting, but cautioned that the design is in its early stages. The building on a prominent property at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Battery Lane could encompass up to 200,000 square feet, land use attorney Bob Dalrymple explained.

The developers, Donohoe Cos. and StonebridgeCarras, would pay a parks fee to the county in exchange for the right to build about 100,000 square feet of that total. But those numbers are preliminary and subject to change, he said.

The county last year established a new program allowing Bethesda property owners to buy additional density, with the money filling a fund dedicated to park development.

The nonresidential building is the final phase of Donohoe’s Woodmont Central project, which also includes two luxury apartment complexes. One of those, Gallery Bethesda, is already open at 4800 Auburn Ave., while Gallery Bethesda II at 4850 Rugby Ave. is under construction and slated for completion this fall.

Douglas Firstenberg, a principal at StonebridgeCarras, said the building’s architecture hasn’t been determined, but developers are keeping in mind its high-visibility location. 

“We want this to be a great entryway to Bethesda,” he said.

The building will probably have two or three levels of below-ground parking, with access to the garage along Battery Lane, Firstenberg said.

The project team is looking to submit a sketch plan application to the Montgomery County planning department in April and secure final development approvals in time for a fall 2019 groundbreaking. The goal is to complete the building by summer 2021.

“We have some tenants we’ve focused on who are looking for a fall 2021 delivery,” Firstenberg said.

He declined to name any of the potential tenants the developers are hoping to attract, but said the project has generated significant interest.

A handful of people showed up to the meeting and asked questions about parking and the potential tenants. One community member noted the project will add even more construction traffic to the Wisconsin Avenue corridor, where overlapping development efforts are already causing headaches for motorists and pedestrians.

Dalrymple said the county and planning department are working to address the issue and keep community members updated on construction projects and any related impact on transportation.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com

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