The French bakery and cafe La Madeleine has permanently closed in Bethesda Credit: File photo

A plan is brewing to replace the La Madeleine restaurant on Old Georgetown Road with a 200-unit multifamily complex, the latest in a string of development proposals for reshaping downtown Bethesda.

The French bakery and café sits on a roughly 14,700-square-foot site that is under contract to a Bethesda-based developer, Washington Property Co., land-use attorney Bob Dalrymple said Thursday. The lease between La Madeleine and the property’s current owners, two elderly sisters, is set to expire in the next couple years, he said.

The developer has scheduled a March 5 community meeting to discuss its plans before submitting them to the Montgomery County Planning Department.

The mixed-use building that Washington Property Co. has in mind would largely be devoted to residential uses, but it could also include up to 2,600 square feet of retail space, according to a notice posted Thursday in front of the restaurant. The proposal would also involve building below-grade parking.

The zoning for the property at 7607 Old Georgetown Road would allow a building of up to 225 feet in height, added Dalrymple, who is representing the developer.

He said the project would be challenging because the small site is wedged between the Safeway store building, Commerce Lane and a plaza. But he said he expects Washington Property Co., the developer for Solaire Bethesda apartments at 7100 Woodmont Ave., will be up to the task.

Ernesto Baires, a manager at La Madeleine, said he had heard about plans to develop the space into a new apartment complex but that nothing was changing at the café for now.

“They haven’t said anything about our location,” he said. “As far as I know we’re still open.”

The county has seen the closure of two La Madeleine locations within the past year. In April, the café in Silver Spring shut its doors, and the location at Pike & Rose closed in August.

The community meeting on development plans for the downtown Bethesda site is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. March 5 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda.

Staff writer Joe Zimmermann contributed to this report.

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