County Planners Approve Initial Plans for Residential Tower on Wisconsin Avenue

County Planners Approve Initial Plans for Residential Tower on Wisconsin Avenue

Project would generate more than 100 affordable housing units, some retail space

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A drawing of the projects at 7900 Wisconsin, at left, and 8008 Wisconsin, at right. The red lines in the middle outlining the space for the 8000 Wisconsin project.

VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANNING BOARD

Montgomery County planners last week moved forward a project to build a 199-foot tower that could stand between two other large redevelopments in downtown Bethesda.

Officials and a representative of the developer, Aksoylu Properties, during a Thursday meeting discussed the challenges of designing a residential high-rise next to the neighboring projects on Wisconsin Avenue, south of Cordell Avenue. 

But Bob Dalrymple, a land use attorney representing Aksoylu, said he views the 8000 Wisconsin Ave. site as an opportunity to bring cohesiveness to the trio of projects.

“I think the opportunity here is to look at the block as a whole and try to make it look like it was all planned to happen this way,” he said.

On one side of the property is 7900 Wisconsin Ave., where a 17-story apartment complex is under construction by JBG Smith. On the other side is the property that Toll Bros. wants to redevelop with a condominium building.

Residents and members of a design advisory panel—made up of architects representing various interests—have raised concerns about the overall effect created by the three adjoining projects. Dalrymple said the development team will brainstorm with planning staff on how to provide “some light and air for the balconies and the windows to the project to the south, 7900.”

Casey Anderson, who chairs the Montgomery County Planning Board, said careful design is important because “you don’t want the whole block to look like a solid wall.”

The proposal for 8000 Wisconsin Ave. calls for up to 430,000 square feet of development, including about 441 units of housing and 20,000 square feet of retail space. The property’s zoning caps building height at 175 feet, but the developer can exceed this limit by going above and beyond the affordable housing requirement. Developers in downtown Bethesda must dedicate at least 15 percent of their residential units to moderately priced housing, but Aksoylu’s plan calls for designating a quarter of the units as affordable.

Planning staff said community members have also asked questions about the loss of public parking since the redevelopment plans cover a county-owned surface lot. Dalrymple said the county did not want public parking included in the project, and planning staff said the development proposal supports the goal of constraining parking in the downtown area.

The Planning Board voted unanimously to approve the sketch plan for the 8000 Wisconsin Ave. project.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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