2014 | Business

Business Notes: Carr Building Signs Tenant; Office Space Rebound?

Plus: New zoning code goes into effect this week

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The Carr Properties office building at 4500 East West Highway (pictured here on Oct. 14) reportedly signed its first tenant this week.

Andrew Metcalf

Carr Building Signs First Tenant – The glass-box office building freshly completed at 4500 East West Highway in Bethesda has signed its first tenant, according to the Washington Business Journal. Carr Properties, the developer, has signed the small-business loan company Rapid Advance to a full-floor lease in the building. The business is expected to occupy 28,000 square feet of the 220,400-square-foot building, according to the report.

The news is likely to reverberate around the downtown Bethesda development world, which has been watching the building for signs that the stagnant local office space market is rebounding. Former planning board chairman Francoise Carrier said in April the county has “gazillions of square feet of empty office buildings” after Saul Centers reduced office space in its White Flint development plans due to concerns about the lagging market. At the time she was concerned that, due to all the empty office space, White Flint developers would not build any more, which could lead to a lack of jobs in the area.

“We don’t get live, work and play if we don’t get the work part,” Carrier said at the time.

Greg Rooney, vice president of The Bernstein Companies, which is planning to develop an office building and hotel at 7750 Wisconsin Ave., said in June he was observing the leasing of the Carr building for signs that the office-space market is rebounding.

“We’re at the down part of the office market,” Rooney said during a Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce event in June. “We’re looking at a lift coming any time now.”

Downtown building swaps plan from office space to residential – Perhaps eyeing the struggling office market, Donohoe Development Co. is changing its plans for 8280 Wisconsin Ave. and is now proposing to build  a 200-foot tall residential building instead of a 91,600-square-foot, six-story office building. The change was first spotted by local news blog Bethesda Now and is noted in the Montgomery County planning department’s new interactive map of properties being discussed for downtown Bethesda.

Donohoe’s website for the property still lists the site, which is currently occupied by  a Sunoco gas station, as being developed for Class A office space.


Left: The original office building design. Right: The new residential tower being planned by Donohoe.

New zoning code goes into effect Thursday – Montgomery County’s 37-year-old zoning code is literally going to be buried. Three county council members will join planning board chair Casey Anderson on Thursday morning to bury a copy of the old zoning code near the Park and Planning Headquarters in Silver Spring while at the same time the new code, approved earlier this year, will go into effect. The new 368-page zoning code can be viewed here. According to the county, it includes broader land use categories and rules that “promote smart growth principles with more density allowed in and around transit.” The new rules also allow more mixed-use developments, according to the county.

The rewrite was a five-year process that greatly reduced the 1,200-page code  and includes online tools to display zoning. The lone dissenting vote against passing the zoning rewrite came from Councilmember Marc Elrich who warned that the new code would allow neighborhood strip malls to grow unacceptably dense and developers to build bigger and taller buildings without providing adequate new amenities to the county, according to The Washington Post’s account of the code’s passage.