2013 | News

2013 In Review: Building, Building and More Building

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 Rendering of Chevy Chase Land Company's proposal for a 150-foot building at Chevy Chase Lake, via Chevy Chase Land Company First phase of the Pike & Rose project at Mid-Pike Plaza

Development is always a major issue in Bethesda and Chevy Chase. Here are the top five local storylines (as selected by us) related to development, planning and land use from 2013:

No. 5 | Westbard Next Up | December: The next major redevelopment for Bethesda popped onto the scene late in the year. Westbard, the area of strip shopping centers, apartments and gas stations along River Road and Westbard Avenue, will be mostly under the control of one company — Florida-based developer Equity One — by early 2014. The company bought up a number of prominent properties during 2013 and launched a website announcing community meetings in January about the future of Westbard. Bet on a large redevelopment project that could coincide with the upcoming Westbard Sector Plan rewrite. Also bet that the entire process will take years to play out.

No. 4 | Pike & Rose Outpaces The White Flint Pack | 2013: The White Flint project from Rockville-based Federal Realty Investment Trust will be the first major piece finished as a result of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, which dramatically changed the zoning and future look of the area. Federal Realty broke ground on Phase I of its Pike & Rose project in summer 2012 and has progressed at relative breakneck speeds since. Phase I, on the south side of the old Mid-Pike Plaza, is set to be complete in 2014 with a number of restaurants and amenities already signed on.

Meanwhile, other major planned development projects are just barely off the ground. The White Flint Mall project has been held up by a lawsuit from one of the Mall’s original anchor tenants. LCOR’s plans for the east side of Rockville Pike have progressed slowly and a plan for five high-rises along Rockville Pike will likely take years for a full build-out.

No. 3 | Woodmont Triangle’s Continued Transformation | 2013: The “old” part of downtown Bethesda is undergoing an explosion of new residential high rise construction that has brought heavy equipment and cranes to what seems like every block. When it’s all done, the redevelopment will bring 14 residential buildings (either under construction, awaiting construction or in the approval pipeline) to the area bounded by Old Georgetown Road, Battery Lane and Wisconsin Avenue.

The coming new landscape has meant some serious difficulties for existing businesses, but it also has helped usher in a new batch of restaurateurs and bar owners.

No. 2 | Controversial Chevy Chase Lake Gets Approval, But… | January-June: The master plan rewrite for Chevy Chase Lake was a unique test of Montgomery County’s stated smart growth priorities, but also of its desire to preserve established single family neighborhoods. At issue was the future for the 1950’s era shopping center on Connecticut Avenue between Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Manor Road, as well as housing facilities — including an older apartment complex known as Newdale Mews.

Developers wanted more density and said those additional residents, shoppers and workers would be supported by a future Purple Line station on Connecticut Avenue. But residents cried foul: It was a major redevelopment plan in an area without an existing mass transit facility and plenty of existing traffic. The Council agreed to require construction begin on the Purple Line before construction on much of the development could begin.

No. 1 | At The Apex, The Future Of Bethesda | April-???: It sounds like hyperbole. But county planners say it’s true. The future look and feel of downtown Bethesda centers on how the Bethesda Purple Line station fits under the existing Apex building at 7272 Wisconsin Ave., home to the Regal movie theater.

Planners and state transportation officials say tearing the building down before Purple Line construction would allow for a optimal station design, complete with wide platform areas, separate tunnels for the Capital Crescent Trail and a Metro connection on the same side of Elm Street. But tearing down the building requires the cooperation of the building owner, which stands to lose a lot of money from the sudden shift in thinking from Purple Line planners.

The idea of trading increased density for razing the building came about in April from a separate developer with properties across the street from the Apex building. The actual owners of the Apex building seemed uninterested in talking until August and it appears an actual deal would require millions in economic help from the county. The Council will begin to deliberate in January. The Maryland Transit Administration says it needs an answer soon.