2021 | Development

Post-pandemic expectations cause developer to rethink Bethesda project

More work spaces, live/work units planned on Old Georgetown Road

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A rendering of the project at 8015 Old Georgetown Road

via Montgomery Planning

Expecting permanent changes to how people work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a developer has pitched several changes to a Bethesda project.

In March 2020, the pandemic prompted Gov. Larry Hogan to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, and nearly all businesses shifted to remote work. Many continue to do so, or with limited office work.

As a result, developer JLB Realty LLC has filed an application with the Montgomery County Planning Board to modify a project planned for Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda to include “live/work” residences and several small work spaces for residents.

In 2019, the Planning Board approved the project — a 310-unit apartment building replacing a Lutheran church. The number of residences was slightly reduced in 2020, to about 297 apartments.

At the time, plans included large amenity spaces to promote gathering and socializing.

But, now, as the country makes a slow transition back to socializing, many anticipate “that the traditional 9-5 office environment with five day work weeks is morphing into a work from both home and office,” according to JLB’s development application.

And smaller companies are shifting away from having communal office spaces, instead opting for a work-from-home model, JLB wrote.

So, the developer anticipates people will continue to use their homes and amenity spaces for business.

“In light of all of this, JLB has been forced to reevaluate the form and function of its building and amenity spaces, and has drawn on its experience regarding how the virus has transformed the use and function of its other projects throughout the country in order to adapt its business plan,” the revised development application says. “JLB believes that, in the post-pandemic world, multifamily buildings will no longer be seen as static residential spaces, but instead will continue to be hybrid spaces of both residential and commercial uses, as they have been throughout the duration of the pandemic.”

In the revised plans, JLB has transformed an amenity space into a 6,000-square-foot “work space” on the first floor of the four-story building. The space will have areas separated by glass panels, where individuals or groups of up to four people can work. The space will connect to an outdoor courtyard with seating.

On the second floor, JLB has proposed an executive center, a club room and a conservatory that can accommodate larger groups. The spaces would also have accordion doors that open the spaces up to outdoor courtyards.

The developer has also proposed that 73 of the living units be designated as “live/work” units, which provide formal work spaces in the residences. All would be on the first three floors of the building, and would be constructed with concrete to create “a quieter working environment.”

There will be entrances with call boxes and waiting rooms, from which people renting a live/work unit can remotely communicate and allow guests to access the building.

Plans also include an approximately 274-space parking garage and an outdoor pool.

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