After 11 Years, Apartment and Condo Project on Lot 31 Is Finally Finished
At ribbon-cutting event, Leggett says drawn-out development process won't happen again
The Flats (on the right) and The Darcy (on the left) are officially open at the former spot of Lot 31 in Bethesda
When Bethesda-based developer StonebridgeCarras first proposed building on top of downtown Bethesda’s public parking lot known as Lot 31, Doug Firstenberg couldn’t believe the anger.
“I was fascinated by how many people had a personal parking space there,” Firstenberg, a principal for the developer, said Thursday, almost 11 years after StonebridgeCarras, co-developer PN Hoffman and the Montgomery County government first began planning the project.
Lot 31 was the surface lot across from Bethesda Row that used to be home to Bethesda’s most sought-after public parking spots. It lives on as the 1,250-space garage under the site, albeit rebranded as the Capital Crescent Garage.
On top of the garage and on either side of Woodmont Avenue just south of Bethesda Avenue is The Darcy, a nine-floor, 88-unit condominium building, and The Flats, a seven-floor, 162-unit apartment building.
Thursday marked the official opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for both buildings, and a celebration of a public-private project more than a decade in the making.
The project represented an increasingly rare opportunity to build a major infill project near Bethesda Row—the mixed-use development from Federal Realty Investment Trust that transformed downtown Bethesda.
“To be able to come back and get the best location in Bethesda Row after Bethesda Row was there, that doesn’t happen,” Firstenberg said.
The partnership with the county, which owned Lot 31, added another unique element to the process.
Developers and Montgomery County officials cut a ribbon to mark the official opening of The Darcy and The Flats Thursday in Bethesda. Credit: Aaron Kraut
“You go in with eyes wide open with precious ground like this,” said Monty Hoffman, CEO of PN Hoffman. “There’s a lot of interests in this, some are conflicting. It takes time.”
In a speech at the ribbon-cutting event, Hoffman illustrated how much time it took by pointing out what has changed—both in development and in the Washington, D.C., region—since planning for the project started in 2004.
The temporary loss of county-provided parking spaces elicited complaints from residents and nearby business owners.
It also required quite a bit of paperwork on permits, construction design and interim planning for how to deal with traffic and pedestrians while closing a section of Woodmont Avenue for more than two years.
County Executive Ike Leggett praised the developers for making “all the right decisions” on the project—up until deciding to hold the ribbon-cutting event outside as a torrential downpour swept through the area.
Once everyone had moved inside the club room at The Flats, Leggett said his effort to reorganize and streamline county government will make it so future development projects don’t have to wait 11 years to complete.
“That should not happen,” Leggett said. “We will not allow this kind of delay to happen.”
Firstenberg said units at The Flats are about 25 percent leased. Condos at The Darcy are about 70 percent sold.
The backyard courtyard at The Flats apartment building, on the former site of Lot 31. Credit: Aaron Kraut
A pedestrian and bicyclist cut-thru behind The Flats apartment building that connects to the Capital Crescent Trail. Credit: Aaron Kraut
New sidewalk and seating area on the Bethesda Avenue side of The Flats apartment project. Credit: Aaron Kraut
Exterior of The Darcy, an 88-unit condominium building on Woodmont Avenue. Credit: Aaron Kraut