The Chevy Chase Land Co. (CCLC) has revealed its long-awaited plans to rebrand and reconfigure two high-profile shopping centers in Friendship Heights.
The property owner last week submitted an application for a site plan amendment to the Montgomery County Planning Board, saying it intends to rebrand The Collection at Chevy Chase and adjacent Chevy Chase Center properties under the name The Collection and “create a more vibrant retail experience for all of its users.”
The reconfiguration would include creating smaller retail and restaurant spaces in the existing buildings along Wisconsin Avenue, just north of the Friendship Heights Metro station and Washington, D.C., line, according to application documents.
“We’re really going to make a place that the people of Bethesda and Chevy Chase are going to want to come to weekly, if not daily,” CCLC President and CEO Tom Regnell said. “If you look at Chevy Chase, there’s no place to have breakfast. There’s barely a place to get a cup of coffee.”
The row of luxury stores known as The Collection, billed as the “Rodeo Drive of the East Coast,” opened in 2006 with a reported half-million-dollar party that attracted political pundits, super models and a Libyan prince. The Collection includes luxury tenants such as Cartier, Gucci and Jimmy Choo. But with the opening of CityCenterDC, the new downtown project home to many of the same or similar luxury brands, reports began circulating last summer that CCLC was bracing for departures.
The Barney’s CO-OP at the shopping center closed in 2012 and the Dior store at the center closed earlier this year.
Regnell said CCLC has been looking to reenergize the shopping center “regardless of who came and who went,” and that the property owner is conducting a national search for high-end retailers and restaurants that would be new to the Washington area. Regnell wouldn’t comment on the status of existing retailers.
Site plan amendments proposed by The Chevy Chase Land Co. for its Collection and Chevy Chase Center properties, via Planning Department
The site plan application calls for a number of architectural, parking and public space changes designed to “strengthen the pedestrian environment, improve vehicular circulation, create more inviting public spaces, improve the buildings’ presence on the street, and introduce more uses and programmed activities that are intended to appeal to the surrounding community,” according to a memo introducing the proposal.
CCLC wants to build an amphitheater-style seating space where parking spaces exist today, remove outdoor sculptures and a fountain to make way for more public and private outdoor seating areas for restaurants, and reconfigure an internal street just to the east of Wisconsin Avenue into a “retail promenade.”
The plan would also move the parking ticket dispensers and barrier arm gates from the Montgomery Street entrance of the property to its parking garage farther inside the property “in order to provide a more welcoming feel and improve the center’s presence along the street.”
The end of Montgomery Street, the access road to parking for the shopping center that extends off Wisconsin Avenue, would be converted to a traffic circle with landscaping.
Shana Davis-Cook, village manager of neighboring Chevy Chase Village, said residents have indicated their support of the proposed changes after Miti Figueredo, vice president of planning and entitlement for CCLC, met with Davis-Cook and village leaders to discuss the plans. The changes wouldn’t include any additional building height or density.
“We are supporting their efforts to make the center more responsive to the surrounding community and that encompasses the internal circulation of the property itself and also more logical parking for the types of storefronts you would want to run into quickly,” Davis-Cook said.
The site plan proposal includes parallel street parking next to the row of shops and would reduce the total number of parking spots at the site to 1,293.
Tenants at Chevy Chase Center site along Wisconsin Circle include a Giant Food grocery store, Potomac Pizza and a county-run liquor store. Davis-Cook said residents are pleased the proposed changes signal more of those types of stores might come to the rest of The Collection property.
“I think it’s fair to say their original vision wasn’t geared so much to this area but also to people outside the area,” Davis-Cook said. “I think they’re now realizing that the resident base in this community is more likely to utilize the center if it has more community-based offerings.”