Farm Women’s Market Development Receives Preliminary Approval
Developer says project will reposition market as a ‘destination’ for visitors
Rendering Courtesy EYA
Plans to redevelop the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market received preliminary approval from the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday.
The initial development proposal, to add residences and green space around the market, was approved in a unanimous vote.
The development plan also calls for a roughly 6,000-square-foot addition to the market itself.
The project was met with opposition when first introduced in 2018. Plans then called for more residences and less gathering space. Bethesda-based developer EYA Holdings in July unveiled rejiggered plans that eliminated a 70-foot-tall building behind the market and 18 townhomes on a parking lot to the east.
A 175-foot-tall high-rise residential building was modified to remove about 30,000 square feet of space on what is now parking lot 24 to increase the amount of park space in the project.
The revised plan received support from county officials and Chevy Chase Mayor Barney Rush. Rush said community members are also excited about the proposal.
The Farm Women’s Market was founded in 1932 along Wisconsin Avenue and is considered a Montgomery County “historic property.”
In total, developers propose building 585 new homes and 32,000 square feet of retail space. An underground parking garage will be built as part of the project.
In an “alternate” plan pitched to the Planning Board, developers said they could eliminate the expansion of the market and some of the green space. But the preferred plan, they said, includes expanding the market.
McLean Quinn, vice president of land acquisition for EYA, said the project will be a “rebirth of the Farm Women’s Market as a new civic destination for Bethesda.”
“Our goals have been around how to make this a vibrant place that’s a destination not just for folks who live or work around the market, but for those who visit,” Quinn said.
Deborah Vollmer, a longtime opponent of the project, told the Planning Board on Thursday that she feels adding an addition to the market “completely alters” its character. She also said she feels strongly that Bethesda has too many high-rise buildings that make it impossible “to see the stars.”
In a list of conditions of approval, the Planning Board said the project is limited to a maximum of 650,305 square feet of total development. At least 10% of that space must be dedicated as public open space.
At later stages of the development approval process, project leaders will have to submit a 3D model of the proposed development, provide a study about shadows the new buildings will cast and refine design details.
Planning Board documents say the project could change before receiving final approval. There are “many parts still moving and potentially not in play,” documents say.