Documents Offer More Details About Redevelopment Plan for Auburn Avenue Office Complex

Documents Offer More Details About Redevelopment Plan for Auburn Avenue Office Complex

Proposal for up to 180 housing units in downtown Bethesda heads before county planners

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An initial diagram of the proposed buildings on Auburn Avenue.

Via Auburn Building Associates

Property owners looking to redevelop an Auburn Avenue office complex in downtown Bethesda plan to provide extra affordable housing and pay a fee so they can construct taller and more spacious buildings.

Conceptual drawings and preliminary details on the proposal to build an 11-story mixed-use building and two-story commercial building have been posted online as the developer, Auburn Building Associates, seeks county planning approval. The project plans cover two addresses—4915 and 4921 Auburn Ave.—and call for replacing two retail and office buildings dating from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

“The Project will transform the underutilized Property into a transit-oriented, pedestrian friendly, mixed-use development that promotes the Downtown Plan’s goal of creating a sustainable Downtown,” states the proposal for the site across the street from Imagination Stage. 

The property’s zoning limits building height to 110 feet, but the developer can tack on an additional 12 feet by providing affordable housing units above the minimum requirement. In this case, the proposal is to dedicate about 32 of the proposed 180 dwelling units to affordable housing. This county incentive for supplying moderately priced housing would enable Auburn Building Associates to construct a building that stands 122 feet tall at its highest point. Building heights would step down on the sides closer to existing homes.

The developer would have to pay a fee to build all 175,000 square feet of floor space envisioned by the plan, which calls for density than allowed under current zoning. That fee of an estimated $800,080 would feed into a county fund to be used to create parks in the downtown area, according to the project application.

Housing will take up most of the square footage, but the project also has a restaurant and retail component, the description states.

The redevelopment would create a pedestrian walkway that would connect Norfolk and Auburn avenues, offering some pedestrians a shortcut to Battery Lane Urban Park, the document states. Putting a two-story building along Norfolk Avenue is also in keeping with the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan’s vision for the thoroughfare. The sector plan suggests turning Norfolk Avenue into a “shared street,” with an increased tree canopy and space for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

The preliminary designs also call for about 4,000 square feet of public open space on the property. Residents in the building would have access to a rooftop deck, fitness center and community rooms, the proposal stated.

Drawing of plans for the development at 4915 and 4921 Auburn Avenue. Via Auburn Building Associates.

The two-level garage that would sit below the development would open onto Auburn Avenue, according to the description.

The Montgomery County Planning Department is reviewing the sketch plan and preliminary plan application, which will head to the Planning Board for consideration. A project representative has estimated the demolition of the existing buildings won’t begin until late 2019.

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

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