Photo: A rendering of the changes planned to the parking lot and loading dock of the former Bethesda post office. Provided by Alain Cohen.
The former post office at the corner of Montgomery Lane and Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda will undergo a major makeover, just not of its historic stone exterior.
A new yoga and fitness studio has leased the former post office and is planning to convert it into a boutique exercise facility primarily dedicated to yoga, but also offering spin classes and weight training.
Alain Cohen, co-owner of Bethesda’s Cobro Ventures, is behind the new studio named Bridges Fitness & Yoga.
“What we’re planning on doing is creating the premiere yoga-centric fitness venue in the D.C.-area,” Cohen said.
To do so, the owners plan to fully renovate the interior of the building, alter the parking lot behind the building, re-build a rooftop terrace into an outdoor yoga space and add a small café that will serve healthy foods, smoothies and include patio seating.
But don’t expect changes to the brown and gray stone of the building’s exterior or the glass cupola that sits on top. Cohen says those features are part of the building’s charm and an asset to the exercise studio.
“We aren’t going to impact the building in any way on the exterior,” Cohen said. “From the outside you won’t see any changes except some discreet signage. We think it’s a beautiful building.”
He said the studio will open before the end of the year if permitting and construction go as planned. Local news blog Bethesda Now first reported the fitness studio would move into the post office.
Cohen, who has practiced yoga for 15 years, says he believes the studio’s design will help people feel grounded when they come into the building. Being grounded, Cohen says, is an important concept to yoga, where strength and balance intertwine to enhance the body.
“People are intrigued by something that’s historic. We think it creates a nice vibe,” Cohen said. “The ceilings are high and the architecture sort of connects you with something that’s very real—there’s not a lot of artificial material in [the building].”
He also likes the building’s location—close to the Hyatt hotel, within a short walk of the Bethesda Metro station and near several residential buildings. Cohen says rates at the new studio will be competitive with other yoga studios and gyms in the area.
The building will undergo changes primarily to the loading dock that extends from the back. Renovations include shortening the parking lot, enclosing the loading dock in glass to create a café space and adding a staircase that will lead to the rooftop yoga space.
The building, which was constructed in 1938, has been unoccupied for the past four years since the post office closed as part of U. S. Postal Service’s national effort to scale back on costs. USPS sold the building for $4 million in 2012 to Donohoe Companies, who is leasing the building to the fitness studio.
Cohen and his brother Marc Cohen are successful local businessmen who sold a technology company they started in 1986 for an estimated $1 billion in 2012, according to The Washington Post. Since then the two have been investing in a variety of ventures such as the new yoga and fitness studio, a pharmaceutical company and a placement firm for executive assistants, according to the Cobro Ventures website.
Cohen believes Bridges Fitness & Yoga will fill a niche in the area by offering yoga as well as fitness classes in one place.
Photos are of the front and rear of the Bethesda post office. All Credit: Andrew Metcalf