Union Hardware Owner Sees Big Redevelopment Potential for Block Next to Marriott Site
David Goldberg says property owners are waiting to see what changes are made in Bethesda Downtown Plan
The block of properties where Union Hardware's owner has been pushing for potential redevelopment. via Google Maps.
David Goldberg may be sitting on a gold mine.
On Friday, Marriott International Inc. announced plans to build its new headquarters directly across the street from Union Hardware, Goldberg’s family-run business at 7800 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda.
Goldberg, whose family owns the Wisconsin Avenue property, has been negotiating since 2014 with neighboring property owners to assemble the block of properties near the corner of Norfolk and Wisconsin avenues for possible redevelopment. Previously, he has assumed the county’s ongoing rewrite of the Bethesda Downtown Plan, a land-use guide, could enable the block to receive new zoning that would allow a large redevelopment project at the site.
Now, with Marriott’s plans to bring about 3,500 workers downtown by 2022 to its headquarters, the redevelopment potential for the site is likely to skyrocket.
On Monday, Goldberg said he spoke with a real estate adviser over the weekend who said the news means the block can now be considered a “world-class location.”
“He basically told me that this changes a lot,” Goldberg said. “He said that I need to put a world-class redevelopment project together.”
Goldberg publicly pitched plans to extend Veterans Park in Woodmont Triangle across Woodmont Avenue to a portion of the Union Hardware block and to construct a black box theater as part of a redevelopment project, if the county would allow increases in height limits and density for the block’s properties so that a large building housing a mix of residential, office and retail space could be constructed.
The Montgomery County Planning Board partially agreed with Goldberg’s plans. In the draft Bethesda Downtown Plan approved by the board, members recommended increasing the height limit for the property from 150 feet to as high as 290 feet along with an increase in density, but only if Goldberg or another owner is able to assemble the full block for redevelopment and extend Veterans Park to the site.
Goldberg said Monday he has spoken with all the property owners on the block—which includes the properties housing Reddz Trading Store, 7-Eleven and the Eagle Bank building—and he says they are interested in redevelopment.
“Every single property owner on this block wants to be part of the deal,” Goldberg said, although he noted that he had not spoken with them after Friday’s Marriott announcement.
However, he said extending Veterans Park to the site may be a tricky issue. He said the Planning Board asked the property owners to give up about a quarter of the block for the park extension, whereas Goldberg proposed increasing the setback on Norfolk Avenue an extra 25 feet instead. He said the setback, along with a 25-foot wide sidewalk, would provide about 50 feet of public space along Norfolk Avenue that restaurants in a new building could use for spacious outdoor seating across the street from Marriott headquarters.
Early concepts for a building at the block presented to the Planning Board in 2014.
This week the Montgomery County Council will start reviewing the Bethesda Downtown Plan and will be working on the recommendations approved by the board.
Goldberg said he plans to watch closely as the council reviews the plan. If property owners receive the rezoning they’re requesting, then a redevelopment project for the block could be under construction in as soon as two years.
“The games begin when the downtown plan is completed,” Goldberg said. “I suspect we’ll have a contract with a developer by the end of this year. Then we’ll know how long it will take to get done.”