2015 | News

Bethesda Property Owner Offered $5 Million For MoCo Lots

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A prominent Woodmont Triangle property owner says he offered Montgomery County $5 million in cash for two public parking lots in an effort to maintain the area's "sense of individuality and uniqueness." Leonard Greenberg, founder of Greenhill Capital, offered the county the sum for its metered lots on Cordell and St Elmo Avenues, which have a total of about 30 spaces and sit adjacent to Greenhill properties. Todd Brown, Greenhill's land use attorney, wrote a letter to Regional Services Center Director Ken Hartman in which he said Greenberg made the $5 million offer after seeing the Bethesda Parking Lot District is close to going broke. County officials hope to fix the problem by moving around funding sources in next fiscal year's operating budget. Brown also made the argument that the low-rise, commercial-only development that Greenhill does could be especially valuable as Woodmont Triangle welcomes three high-rise apartment buildings with more in the pipeline. "The Woodmont Triangle community has embraced a number of redevelopment projects, yet it has also expressed a need to retain a sense of individuality and uniqueness in the Triangle. Standard method development can help meet that need, at least in the near term," Brown wrote. Standard Method Development refers to redevelopment within existing zoning ordinance standards, as opposed to Optional Method Development. Larger development companies have used that route in Woodmont Triangle to build larger high-rise projects, such as 7700 Norfolk, Gallery Bethesda and Bainbridge Bethesda. A 16-story, roughly 210-unit apartment building between Fairmont and St Elmo Avenues is beginning the approval process. A 17-story, 72-unit luxury condo building has been approved for the corner of Fairmont Avenue and Old Georgetown Road. Both used the optional method in order to get the greater density. "Standard-method development of these properties can also create a new product type in the Woodmont Triangle; one that is distinguished from both existing single-story development and the 15+-story optional method product found in a number of locations," Brown wrote. Greenhill is rebuilding 4848 Cordell Avenue, the homeless shelter turned restaurant space that sits just next to the Cordell Avenue parking lot known as Lot 28. The company also owns 4823 St Elmo Avenue, the building now home to a summer camp store next to the county lot on that street. Brown wrote that Greenberg has been pursuing the two lots for years, presumably to build the sort of project he's pursuing for a different block of buildings along Norfolk, Fairmont and St Elmo Avenues. It's likely the county's recent willingness to sell off its public parking lots in downtown Bethesda played a part in the offer. The county partnered with a developer for a new underground garage at Lot 31. Construction is nearing completion on the condo and apartment buildings at the former Lot 31 space. Earlier this year, the county announced it came to an agreement with a private developer to sell off Lot 43 on Woodmont Avenue. In exchange, the developer would be allowed to seek a 310-unit, mixed-use apartment building. Brown asked Hartman if Greenhill could discuss the idea of buying the two parking lots at a future meeting of the Woodmont Triangle Action Group, an advisory committee of residents, county officials and business representatives. Photo via Google Maps