County to Start Planning for Next Generation of Bethesda’s Suburban-Style Office Park

County to Start Planning for Next Generation of Bethesda’s Suburban-Style Office Park

Rock Spring Sector Plan must address Marriott's move, rising office vacancy rate and planned bus rapid transit route

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Rendering for Montgomery Row, a town home project slated for Rock Spring


Montgomery County planners are looking to hear from property owners in Rock Spring, an area of Bethesda known for a corporate office park that’s facing rising vacancy rates and the departure of one of its biggest tenants.

The Rock Spring Sector Plan will seek to address the issues facing Rock Spring Park, the suburban-style office park along Fernwood Road and Westlake Drive that’s home to the corporate headquarters of Marriott International and Lockheed Martin.

Marriott has already announced it plans to move out of the office park for a more transit-accessible location by the time its lease runs out in 2022.

Across the street, developer EYA is building 168 luxury town homes on a parcel of land originally reserved for another office building.

But with little demand for office space throughout the region—and even less demand for space in suburban-style office parks in Montgomery County—planners anticipate recommending big changes.

Planners hope to set up meetings in July or August with property owners interested in taking part.

The office vacancy rate in Rock Spring is 19.3 percent, much higher than the 14.7 percent vacancy rate for the entire North Bethesda submarket. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases left about 160,000 square feet of office space last year for a new location in more Metro-accessible Twinbrook, leaving Rock Spring with 10 percent of all vacant office space in the county.

“The challenges of developing the proposed Master Plan amendment focus on reevaluating a typical suburban office park with an automotive-oriented street network and large parking garages and surface parking spaces,” the Planning Department wrote in an introduction to the plan.

Drafting of the plan, which is set to start with a community meeting in early September, will look at a new street network, public use spaces, residential uses, infrastructure needs and links to the proposed North Bethesda bus rapid transitway—which would run from White Flint through the area to Westfield Montgomery mall.

Other properties key to the plan will be the 52-acre Davis Parcel, the site just north of Walter Johnson High School where plans for a massive mixed-use development project have mostly failed to get off the ground.

Also important will be the mixed-use residential and retail redevelopment planned for the Ourisman Ford site on Westlake Terrace, opposite Westfeld Montgomery mall.

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