Battery Lane Developers Aim To Provide 375 Moderately Priced Apartments

Battery Lane Developers Aim To Provide 375 Moderately Priced Apartments

Plans for redeveloping older Bethesda housing units show net increase of 1,021 units

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Doug Wrenn speaks with attendees of a meeting about redevelopment of apartment buildings on Battery Lane

Caitlynn Peetz

In a housing market with the highest average apartment rent, a new project aims to provide 375 affordable housing units in downtown Bethesda.

Developers of five properties on Battery Lane owned by Aldon Management Corp. unveiled a plan Thursday that will span more than a decade and replace five, 60-year-old, four-story apartment complexes with an assortment of buildings designed for a “mix of income levels.”

“The mix creates opportunities” Doug Wrenn, executive vice president of development for Brown Development, said during a presentation to about 150 people at Imagination Stage in Bethesda. “It’s a pretty important part of what we’re trying to do.”

Attendees of the meeting raised few major concerns about the project, but some questioned the its impact on nearby schools’ capacity. Developers are not required to determine school impact until later in the development process. Property owners and developers have met previously with current tenants, most of whom have shown support and excitement about the project, Wrenn said.

Bethesda’s one-bedroom median rent rate is $2,290, while the average two-bedroom apartment is $3,070, according to a recent report.

Two buildings owned by Aldon will remain, providing units that are more expensive than moderately priced dwelling units mandated by the county, but cheaper than market-rate luxury apartments.

County law requires 15 percent of the units in the Battery Lane District project be moderately priced dwelling units but developers are aiming to provide 25 percent affordable housing. None of the apartments being replaced are moderately priced units.

“Because we’ve owned the sites so long, we can do some things others would be challenged to do,” Wrenn said, adding many developers are tasked with purchasing expensive land for projects forcing more expensive units to make a profit.

Preliminary plans show new buildings will range from 70 feet to about 180 feet tall, with a mix of mid-rise and high-rise buildings. The 477 existing apartments will be replaced with 1,498 units, a net increase of 1,021 apartments.

Development will occur over 10 to 15 years, one building at a time, to allow current residents enough time to relocate.

Wrenn said management will help residents find alternate apartments in other Aldon-owned Battery Lane apartments if they wish to stay in the area. Redevelopment of the first building won’t start for at least three years, Wrenn said.

Developers plan to file more detailed plans with the county Planning Board in April as part of the county’s review and approval process.

As the current apartment buildings age, the return on investment decreased, Wrenn said, prompting redevelopment discussions.

“It’s at a point … where a decision needs to be made, how do we sustain these buildings and retain value for the next generation, and how do we provide decent housing for the residents of Bethesda?” Wrenn said.

Also included in the project proposal are improvements to The Bethesda Trolley Trail, which provides a pathway around the National Institutes of Health connecting Rugby Avenue to Old Georgetown Road. Wrenn said developers are considering widening and providing landscaping along the trail.

Additionally, Wrenn said the project includes streetscape improvements, such planting trees along the street to create a “canopy corridor.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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