Newly released planning documents detail the ambitious proposal to build more than 2 million square feet of development on what’s now a surface lot, wooded area and pond near the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station.
As envisioned, the Strathmore Square neighborhood in North Bethesda will one day encompass seven or more buildings, two of them 300-foot-tall towers and one a 220-foot high-rise. It will take decades to bring the entire plan to fruition, but Fivesquares Development is getting the ball rolling by submitting an application for initial approval from the Montgomery County Planning Board. In its application to county planners, the company wrote that the Strathmore Square project would “transform the current asphalt parking lot into a walkable and distinctive community in Montgomery County.”
“It will integrate the arts (given its proximity to the Music Center at Strathmore), residences, affordable housing, beautiful open spaces, and vibrant places with neighborhood amenities,” the sketch plan application states.
Last year’s passage of a new county growth plan for the area around the Metro station created the possibility of transformation on the property owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Fivesquares representatives have said it’s the last unfilled land around a Red Line stop and represents a special opportunity to establish the type of transit-oriented community that planners want to see in the county.
Height options for the Strathmore Square buildings. Fivesquares hasn’t decided whether to place its second 300-foot-tall tower on Parcel 4 or Parcel 6 (click to expand). Via Fivesquares.
However, some of the project’s neighbors have balked at its proposed size and building heights.
“Our concern has always been that the amount of development should be reasonable, and what has been proposed, in my view, is not reasonable for the size of the parcel,” said Marilyn Block, president of the Strathmore Park at Grosvenor Condominium Association.
More than 90 percent of the proposed construction is slated for housing, but the plan also incorporates about 318,000 square feet of nonresidential development, mostly ground-floor retail space. Fivesquares estimates the project will yield roughly 2,008 new housing units, with the exact count finalized later on in the approval process.
The developer plans to supply about 262,000 square feet of affordable housing in addition to the market-rate residential space.
The proposal puts one of the 300-foot buildings just south of the existing parking garage, which will be expanded to make up for the loss of surface parking. Fivesquares hasn’t yet decided if it wants to build the second tower near the northern intersection of Tuckerman Lane and Rockville Pike or on the southern end of the project, across the street from the Avalon at Grosvenor Station, an apartment complex.
Block said she and other Strathmore Park residents hope Fivesquares puts the second tower near the Rockville Pike intersection, worried that a high-rise near their condo community would cast a shadow over their homes.
The condo residents are also sad about the prospect of losing their view of the stormwater pond across Tuckerman Lane.
“What we see is a lot of green space, and that pond is a home to birds. We see ducks, we see geese in it. It’s very serene,” Block said.
Block added she does appreciate that Fivesquares is putting its shortest buildings across from Strathmore Park in an effort to create a transition zone to taller structures.
In its sketch plan application, Fivesquares also describes a number of transportation improvements and public amenities meant to enhance the area.
The developer plans to build a private street running north to south through Strathmore Square, from Tuckerman Lane to Strathmore Hall Street. The proposal also calls for widening the Metro access road at Tuckerman Lane, across from Strathmore Park Court. That road only allows vehicles to exit onto Tuckerman at this point, but the widening will enable cars to travel in both directions.
A 1.2-acre central park in the project’s center is designed to serve as a gathering place that could accommodate pop-up markets, performances, special events or public art. The existing Metro Plaza is also designated for a makeover and is slated to become more of an “active public square” with a possible retail pavilion and signs directing visitors to different parts of the neighborhood.
Diagram of the proposed layout for the Strathmore Square neighborhood (click expand). Via Fivesquares.
Fivesquares’ project application divides the roughly 15-acre site into six sections and describes the development plans for each:
- Parcel 1, along Tuckerman Lane near the intersection with Cloister Drive, is slated for a 220-foot-tall building encompassing about 430,400 square feet. The building could consist of two towers that could be 18 to 20 stories tall, “connected by perhaps a five- to six-story building, and located on top of a platform containing a shared five-story, architecturally screened structured parking garage.”
- Parcel 2 is just south on Tuckerman Lane and would have a 160-foot-tall building with about 195,000 square feet of housing.
- Parcel 3 is just across Tuckerman Lane from the Strathmore Park condos and would provide a buffer between these existing homes and the high-rises planned for Strathmore Square. The buildings on this site would be four stories tall along Tuckerman Lane, to match the height of the condo community, and would gradually rise to a maximum height of 100 feet farther away from the road. One of the multifamily buildings would have about 265,000 square feet of overall floor area, while the second would have about 176,000 square feet.
- Parcel 4 is the site across from the Avalon. The first option for this property is to construct a 380,000-square-foot building laid out in a C-shape, with a 300-foot tower rising from the center. The second option is for a 160-foot-tall building of about 300,000 square feet.
- Parcel 5 is between the Metro parking garage and the central park proposed by Fivesquares. It could include one of the two, 300-foot signature towers and would be the largest building, at 512,000 square feet.
- Parcel 6 is near the intersection of Tuckerman and Rockville Pike. If Fivesquares opts to put a shorter building on Parcel 4, it will construct its second 300-foot tower in this location. The 31-story building could become a hotel or a housing complex of about 385,000 square feet. The other option is to build a 160-foot-tall hotel on the site.
Now that Fivesquares has submitted its sketch plan application, the planning department will review it before presenting it to the planning board.
Bethany Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.