Bethesda Metro Center Project Changed To Include 489 Residences

Bethesda Metro Center Project Changed To Include 489 Residences

Developers previously proposed retail and office space

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Photo Courtesy Brookfield

Developers of a 500,000-square-foot high rise in the heart of Bethesda have solidified plans that will include up to 489 new residences and some shops.

Brookfield Property Partners last year proposed two options for the project at 4 Bethesda Metro Center, one devoting the entire building to retail and office, and the other a mixed-use project with up to 465,000 square feet of residential space.

“With its unparalleled proximity to the Bethesda Metro Station and what will be one of Bethesda’s most prized public spaces, with expansive street-facing Metro Commons public meeting space, new shops and cafes and a spacious Central Lawn, we think 4 Bethesda Metro Center is an ideal location for new housing opportunities for local residents and will become an exciting destination for Bethesda,” Brookfield Properties Senior Vice President Simon Carney said in a statement.

New York-based Brookfield declined further comment Thursday. Developers first hinted they were leaning toward building a residential high-rise at Wisconsin Avenue and Old Georgetown Road in June during a public meeting.

Updated plans will be filed with the county Planning Department.
As previously approved, the building will stand at a maximum 290 feet, and developers also intend to renovate the Metro bus bays near the site to include a covered entrance, staircases and bike storage.

A promenade lined with restaurants and shops would lead pedestrians between the Hyatt Regency Bethesda hotel and the new building, ending at a central lawn that could accommodate pop-up programs, concerts and outdoor movie nights, according to Brookfield’s plan.

A project update posted by Brookfield on CoUrbanize, a website designed for developers and residents to engage about proposed projects, says the open space will be the largest privately-owned space designated for public use in Bethesda.

Speaking generally about Bethesda housing earlier this month, District 1 Montgomery County Council member Andrew Friedson, who represents Bethesda, said it’s important to provide adequate housing, but he hopes to make office and retail space more viable downtown.

“While we do need to build housing and aren’t keeping up with housing needs we have … we also need to make sure we’re growing jobs and amenities as well so the private sector economy is growing to grow the tax base and maintain a high-level quality of life,” Friedson said.

To make way for the new building, the developer’s plan is to tear down a former cafeteria space, a three-story appendage to 3 Bethesda Metro Center. That property is also owned by Brookfield and that leg of development was approved in conjunction with 4 Bethesda Metro Center by the Planning Board in July.

Clark Enterprises, with an office building adjacent to the property, has filed a legal appeal over the Planning Board’s approval of the project, and has criticized the layout for enclosing too much of the open space, hiding the plaza behind tall buildings and isolating it from the bustle of Wisconsin Avenue. A hearing date for the appeal is scheduled for May in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

The project will have to pass a school capacity test for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School area before final approval to ensure hundreds of new residential units would not bring too many new students and lead to crowding. The high school recently completed a $30 million addition that increased its capacity from 1,683 students to 2,408 students. About 2,100 students are enrolled this year.

Other schools in the service area for the project are Bethesda Elementary School and Westland Middle School.

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

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