Two Town of Chevy Chase residents and a Bethesda businessman are trying to stop the county from allowing the relocation of a historic former hardware store building from its Wisconsin Avenue site—an effort that could impact a major Bethesda redevelopment project and construction of the Purple Line.
John Fitzgerald and Deborah Vollmer of Chevy Chase and Gautam Prakash, managing director of Monsoon Capital in Bethesda, filed an appeal with the Montgomery County Board of Appeals last week, claiming the county’s Historic Preservation Commission erred in granting a permit to allow the former Community Paint and Hardware Store to be relocated.
The county plan approved in December by the commission calls for moving the building to county parking lot 41 on Middleton Lane—about a half mile from where it now sits. The appellants claim moving the building would “cause a substantial alteration in this historic property,” according to documents filed with the appeals board.
Relocating the building would allow developer Carr Properties to move forward with the demolition of the Apex Building at 7272 Wisconsin Ave. and the construction of a 290-foot-tall building complex on the site. The project, which has received preliminary approval from the Montgomery County Planning Board, would include 480 residential units and 937,000 square feet of space. The project would also include construction of the Bethesda Purple Line station underneath it. The site is among a handful of downtown Bethesda locations that Marriott International is rumored to be considering for its new headquarters.
The appeals board is scheduled to hold a hearing on the appeal March 1. David Brown of the Rockville law firm Knopf & Brown is representing Vollmer, Fitzgerald and Prakash in the appeal.
It’s not clear if the March hearing date would affect the expected demolition of the Apex Building. A land use attorney representing Carr did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Fitzgerald is also one of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit that has delayed the start of construction on the 16.2 mile light-rail Purple Line. He did not respond to a request for comment about the appeal.
Vollmer said she remembers going to the hardware store while growing up in Chevy Chase.
“They’re taking away a historic landmark from the community it once served,” Vollmer said Thursday. “Moving it could damage the building itself.”
The former hardware store building was constructed in 1890 and originally held a community general store and post office known as Wilson’s Store before becoming the Community Paint and Hardware Store. It was designated historic in the 1980s, but was also moved about 50 feet from its original site in 1988 when the Apex Building was constructed.
Vollmer said she also opposes construction of the Purple Line and Carr’s redevelopment plans for the Apex site. She described the developer’s proposed building complex as “horrible.”
“The respect for our history and also the character of our neighborhoods and quality of life is being threatened by all these high-rises going up,” Vollmer said. “It’s too close to our town, it’s going to cast a shadow on Elm Street and our town.”