Among the people happy about Marriott International’s Friday announcement that it will build its new headquarters in Woodmont Triangle are the owners and managers of nearby Bethesda restaurants.
“We can only gain foot traffic,” said Gene Wilkes, who owns the Tastee Diner on Woodmont Avenue, around the corner from the headquarters site.
Harshesh Patel, who manages the Original Pancake House nearby, agreed.
“It’s a great opportunity for us as a business to get that hotel next to us,” he said.
The world’s largest hotel company announced it is partnering with Bernstein Companies and Boston Properties to develop its $600 million campus at 7750 Wisconsin Ave. The new complex will feature a 22-story office building for Marriott’s 3,500-employee headquarters, currently on Fernwood Road, and a flagship hotel with at least 230 rooms.
The new buildings are expected to open in 2022, according to Marriott officials. The site is now home to the Connor Building, Blackwell Building, Bethesda Court Hotel and a surface parking lot. Tastee Diner and Woodmont Grill lie outside of the development zone and won’t be displaced by the project, said Carolyn Handlon, executive vice president of finance and global treasurer of Marriott.
Wilkes said no one approached him to take his property as part of the Marriott project.
“We never had any serious conversations with the Bernsteins,” Wilkes said, referring to the Bernstein Companies that will own the Marriott site.
The company’s development plans include onsite, underground parking, but it also will also lease the Woodmont Corner Garage from the county for exclusive use by company employees and visitors during business hours. The public will have garage access on evenings, weekends and holidays.
Patel said he’s worried about customers and employees losing access to the parking garage that’s part of the deal. “They need to strike a deal, possibly to get us a floor,” Patel said. The garage has five floors.
Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner said there could be parking concerns, such as those raised by Patel, from the weekday loss of the public garage. As chair of the council's transportation committee he said he’ll work to make sure other parking is available by the time Marriott’s employees start using the garage in 2022.
“Bethesda will be better by virtue of having Marriott in our downtown core,” said Berliner, whose district includes Bethesda.
He said Marriott will be a boon for Woodmont Triangle—the part of downtown Bethesda bordered by Woodmont Avenue, Battery Lane and Old Georgetown Road—that’s sometimes referred to as the little sister to the busy Bethesda Row retail center on the other side of downtown.
“It’s no longer anyone’s little sister,” Berliner said. “It may be someone’s big brother. [The development] will have a significant impact on that part of our community and, in terms of the businesses there today, they will thrive as a function of having more people there on a daily basis.”
With reporting by Andrew Metcalf