The Vacant Storefronts of Woodmont Triangle
Who occupied them and what the future could hold for these street-level retail spaces
Woodmont Triangle has long been known as a more funky side of downtown Bethesda, at least when compared to the newer, more high-end retail center Bethesda Row across town.
The area, which is between Woodmont Avenue and Old Georgetown Road, is home to popular restaurants including Black’s Bar & Kitchen, Olazzo and Caddie’s on Cordell; quirky retail stores such as The Blue House, Reddz Trading and Bruce Variety; and a variety of consignment shops and services like dry cleaners and small convenience stores.
A retail study conducted last year by the consulting, planning, marketing and development firm Streetsense concluded that Woodmont Triangle with its 161 retail spaces may have too many store and restaurant spaces for the demand in the area—which leads to questions about what direction developers should take in the neighborhood.
The triangle has long hosted popular annual festivals including Taste of Bethesda and becomes a hub of outdoor dining when the weather is nice, but it also has dozens of vacant properties. Here’s a look at the past and possible future of the triangle’s vacant storefronts:
4901 Fairmont Ave. – The former BlackFinn building
Owner: Greenhill Capital
Once home to a bustling sports bar, this building is under renovation. BlackFinn closed at the location in April 2014. For months afterwards, the building sat as if stuck in time—with the tables, TVs, and even liquor bottles in place behind the locked doors. In January, the owner began completely gutting the space to return it to a shell condition—which will allow a new tenant to redesign the space.
4905 Fairmont Ave. – The former Fresh Grill Space
Owner: Greenhill Capital
This building has been vacant since 2012 when it was structurally damaged during the excavation process for the now-completed adjoining Bainbridge Bethesda apartment building. The building’s owner, Greenhill Capital, won a lawsuit against the apartment building’s developers over the damage. Greenhill’s architect has released several renderings of plans to redevelop the building and the former Red Tomato Café property on St. Elmo Avenue into a 25,000-square-foot retail and restaurant structure (rendering pictured right above, courtesy of Steven J. Karr AIA, Inc.).
4900 Block – Bainbridge Bethesda retail spaces
Owner: The Bainbridge Cos.
The three retail spaces built as part of the 17-story apartment project front either Fairmont Avenue or St. Elmo Avenue. While the building opened in the summer of 2014, the storefronts remain vacant. There are three first-floor retail spaces totaling more than 5,000 square feet available for lease in the building through AMR Commercial.
4936 Fairmont Ave. – Former Relic Restaurant & Lounge
Owner: Douglas Development
This space last had life when Relic Restaurant & Lounge operated on the first floor. The Montgomery County’s Board of License Commissioners declined to renew the bar’s liquor license in June 2012 and Relic closed. The 10,500-square-foot office and retail building is currently listed for lease on Douglas Development’s website.