Town of Chevy Chase Pitches $3.6 Million Park for Border Parking Lots

Town of Chevy Chase Pitches $3.6 Million Park for Border Parking Lots

The proposal clashes with the county's plan to allow development on the lots and maintain the parking spaces

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A new Bethesda Commons park is being pitched by the Town of Chevy Chase for two surface parking lots behind Wisconsin Avenue near the town border.

via the Town of Chevy Chase

The Town of Chevy Chase is putting its own plan forth for two surface parking lots located in downtown Bethesda along the town’s border.

The plan calls for a 2.6 acre park that would cost an estimated $3.6 million to build on the current Lot 10 and Lot 24 surface parking lots off of Wisconsin Avenue.

The pitch comes as county planners are developing the Downtown Bethesda Plan, which will guide development in the area for the next 20 years. Planners have already described an idea called the “Eastern Greenway” to replace the lots. This would be a narrow park that would separate single-family homes along Willow Street and Walsh Street near Elm Street Park in Chevy Chase from new buildings that could crop up on Wisconsin Avenue.

The Wisconsin Avenue properties could see their height limits increase under the county's plan, but the building heights would step down in to smaller heights farther away from Wisconsin to mesh more with the neighborhood of single-family homes in Chevy Chase, according to planners.

The “Bethesda Commons” proposal being floated by the town is described as a community gathering space in a document posted to the town’s website, which was created by a planning consulting firm. The consultants estimated the park would cost about $35,000 per year to maintain.

The park would take up 90 percent of the current parking lots, while 10 percent would be left for future development. It would feature trees, open green space, a playground, a bicycle path, lighting and landscaping. It would also be integrated with the Montgomery County Farm Women’s Market.

Funding sources for the park could come from the town, Montgomery County, and/ or real estate developers in exchange for increased density, according to the town.

Whether the plan for the park will be well received by the county is yet to be seen. The proposal from the town notes the parking lots are worth almost $14 million now and that could rise if new zoning under the downtown plan allows for larger buildings along Wisconsin Avenue. Under the most recent draft of the Bethesda Downtown Plan the parking lots would mostly be developed, except for a narrow strip that would be turned into park space.

In a letter to the town, a consultant wrote, “While it may be tempting to acquire this land now, we know through our discussions with Montgomery County, that they are not a ‘willing seller’ at this juncture. Rather, the county is waiting to see what development plans may come forward for the land that would meet their stated goals: including replacement of parking at a 1 for 1 ratio, a possible affordable housing component, a revenue source for construction of the items listed, as well as the park itself and maintenance thereof.”

What the Town’s park plan doesn’t have is a proposal to replace the 316 parking spaces currently in the two lots or an affordable housing component, both of which the county is interested in for developing the lots.

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