Report: County Nixes Deal For Optimal Bethesda Purple Line Station
Montgomery County will not provide financial assistance to a developer who would tear down the Apex Building and allow for a better Bethesda Purple Line station underneath.
In a closed meeting this week, the County Council decided to agree with a recommendation from County Executive Isiah Leggett not to pursue the deal, which reportedly would cost $70 million.
If Apex Building redevelopment is now off the table, it would mean the Maryland Transit Administration would revert to a station design that wouldn’t include a separate tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue for bicyclists.
It could also mean Purple Line tracks that extend into the grassy area known as Woodmont Plaza in front of the Bethesda Row Cinema and a number of other design features county and state officials hoped to avoid.
David Lublin, a former Town of Chevy Chase councilmember and author of The Seventh State blog, first reported the outcome of the closed Council session on Tuesday to discuss the proposal.
Montgomery County Economic Development Director Steve Silverman and other county officials had been discussing a deal with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, which owns the five-story office and retail building at 7272 Wisconsin Ave., and a third-party developer the ASHP had chosen to redevelop the building.
Lublin wrote that the deal presented in the closed session would’ve meant $70 million in costs to the county. It’s unclear how much of that money would have been for financial incentives, construction of the separate tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue or other costs related to the proposal.
Leggett spokesperson Patrick Lacefield confirmed that the county executive recommended against the deal because he felt it was too expensive, but said he couldn’t provide details because it was discussed in a closed session.
The optimal Bethesda Purple Line station would have included a separate tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue for bicyclists, an elevator connection to Metro’s Red Line on the same side of Elm Street and avoid having to build Purple Line tail tracks that extend as much as 100 feet into Woodmont Plaza.
But it could only have been built if the Apex building was razed.
To incentivize the ASHP to raze its building, the County Council approved a “mini-master plan” that would have allowed a new Apex Building to be built to 250 feet, the same height as the Chevy Chase Trust buildings near the Bethesda Metro.
But an outside consultant hired by the Planning Department concluded that increased density alone would not be enough to make up for the financial hit the ASHP would take by selling the building to a developer.
The ASHP could sustain tenant relocation and construction costs of up to $25 million, according to the consultant’s report released in September 2013. The property, which includes the Regal 10 movie theater, is profitable and serves as the ASHP’s own headquarters.
The report said $5 million to $10 million of public money could be required to close the ASHP’s financial gap, but didn’t recommend a specific amount of money for the county to dole out.
The Seventh State: Purple Line Station Downgrade, No Tunnel Under Wisc. Ave.