Bethesda’s Apex Building Will Be Redeveloped After All

Developer will present plans in Nov. 30 public meeting

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The historic Community Paint and Hardware building (now home to a United Bank) with the Apex Building in the background

Aaron Kraut

Updated at 3:10 p.m. – Plans for the redevelopment of the office building that sits on top of the location for the Bethesda Purple Line station will be unveiled at a public meeting Nov. 30, according to a sign posted outside the building.

The required “pre-submission community meeting” will include information on the sketch plan for redevelopment of the building, known as the Apex Building, at 7272 Wisconsin Ave.

While an attorney for the project first hinted at the redevelopment in an Oct. 29 Planning Board work session, it’s not yet known which developer is behind the project and how it might affect design plans for the Purple Line station.

In February 2014, the County Council approved a “minor master plan amendment” to allow more density and building height for the site in an attempt to incentivize the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, the owners of the building, to redevelop before the Purple Line comes.

If the building, which is also home to a Regal multi-screen movie theater and the popular restaurant Food Wine & Co., remains during Purple Line construction, state and county officials have said construction crews can’t build a new tunnel for the Capital Crescent Trail.

The light-rail will be built in the existing tunnel below the building, which once was home to a railroad.

Without a second tunnel for the trail, users now accustomed to crossing Wisconsin Avenue under the road would have to cross at street level.

In September 2014, the council agreed with County Executive Ike Leggett not to support an incentive package for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). Council members agreed with Leggett that the package was too expensive.

The incentives were proposed as a way to convince ASHP to partner with a developer to raze the building and allow for the construction of a bigger Purple Line station below.

That prospect appeared dead until Oct. 29, when attorney Bill Kominers told the Planning Board that his client, ASHP, was still working with a “prospective developer” to redevelop the site.

Sign announcing meeting on planned redevelopment of Bethesda's Apex Building. Credit: Aaron Kraut

Kominers convinced the Planning Board to allow for the removal of the historic Community Paint and Hardware building next door. He said the historic building, which was first moved about 50 feet in 1988 to make way for the Apex Building, makes the site too constrained for redevelopment.

Kominers said Monday morning the team behind the project won't reveal details about it until the Nov. 30 meeting, so everybody learns "the same set of facts."

A spokesperson for the Maryland Transit Administration, which is expected to select a winning team of contractors to design, build and operate the Purple Line early next year, said the agency is aware that the Apex Building owners are proposing to redevelop.

"MTA is open to the possibility of redesigning the Purple Line station in Bethesda with a new building should the existing Apex Building be razed, provided this adheres to the Purple Line's current construction schedule," said MTA spokesperson Sandy Arnette.

The sign announcing the project says the community meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 in Suite 200 of the new 4500 East West Highway office building.

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