Luxury Set in Stone
A Bethesda quarry is transformed into the latest in condominium living
Beyond the privacy factor, eliminating hallways running down the center of buildings allows for a “core” architectural design known as “sunrise-sunset,” Agnoli says, because units enjoy views to the east and west. The Quarry Springs elevators will make it possible for each unit to have “through-views” onto the community’s inner gardens and pool, as well as outward onto the quarry walls, he says.
Unlike many condo developments, pets of all sizes will be welcome—though they must take service elevators. The landscape designers also have included a bike path and a community garden, where residents will be able to tend to vegetables or flowers as they might have in their single-family backyards.
Priced at $700 per square foot, the condos sell for $1 million to $3 million and up. Brault says one of the reasons he decided against an indoor swimming pool was to keep monthly condo fees at about 50 cents a square foot.
John Pobiak, president of Maryland Home Realty in Bethesda, thinks Quarry Springs is coming at the right time.
“There are a vast number of homeowners in the Bethesda-Potomac area who are looking to downsize but want to stay in the area, near their families. There’s not much out there that they like,” Pobiak says.
Quarry Springs offers proximity to Congressional Country Club and other attractions. “I don’t know of anything else like it anywhere on the East Coast,” Pobiak says.
Brault signed on to the project in 2001. He was still figuring out how to transform the old quarry into a site suitable for condos when the real estate market imploded.
“The stars just weren’t aligned; we weren’t ready,” he says.
Brault originally planned to incorporate the quarry walls into the site, but he abandoned the idea after learning that they were severely fractured from years of mining. Wondering “how to make an 80,000-square-foot retaining wall gorgeous,” Brault traveled to Barcelona to check out Antoni Gaudi’s famous Park Guell, which was built with stones quarried within the park, as well as to Vancouver and Toronto, where he saw examples of “vertical landscaping” that he could incorporate into Quarry Springs’ retaining wall.
Once among Brault’s biggest headaches, the crescent-shaped wall now going up at Quarry Springs has become a signature element. Created from cement treated to look like stones, it rises 15 feet to 60 feet around verdant terraces, to be planted with “a botanical garden, a very lush parameter that you can actually walk through,” says landscape architect Joe Gordon, president of DSBoca Landscape Architects and Planners, based in Boca Raton, Fla.
Plans call for a manmade waterfall to descend from the northeast and run along a walking path that meanders past a gazebo and over a wooden footbridge toward the outdoor swimming pool and clubhouse in the center of the property. Boulders salvaged from the quarry will be incorporated into the landscape, which will transition from indigenous greenery to manicured lawns and flowerbeds.
By mid-August, developers had taken refundable deposits on nearly half of the units in two of the four residential buildings, a prerequisite for securing bank financing. If groundbreaking begins on the first two buildings and clubhouse before year’s end, they’ll be move-in ready before the end of 2013, Brault says. If they take deposits on enough units in the other two buildings, he says, builders may opt to put up all four buildings at once, with a completion date of late 2013 or early 2014.
Though Quarry Springs is just a short drive from downtown Bethesda, Potomac Village, the Capital Beltway and several country clubs, it’s nonetheless in a car-centric location, unlike other Bethesda condos.
The website walkscore.com gives it a 29 out of 100 points for its proximity to supermarkets, shops, restaurants and schools. The Parc Somerset condos, by contrast, score an 83 thanks to Friendship Heights shopping and nearby restaurants.
Martha Bindeman and her husband, Stuart, have put a deposit on a Quarry Springs condo. They appreciate having the chance to redesign the kitchen before moving in and the reasonable condo fees. But Martha Bindeman wishes she could walk to doctors’ appointments, the shopping mall or out to a restaurant, as her sister-in-law does from Parc Somerset.
Zelda Heller, a designated sales agent for Quarry Springs who happens to live at the Somerset, would say Bindeman’s sister-in-law is an exception. She says most Somerset residents drive to neighborhood establishments.
Like the Bindemans, Kenneth Greenberg is a pre-construction buyer at Quarry Springs. He’s swapping a nearly 6,000-square-foot showplace in Glen Echo—a neighborhood he says he’ll miss—for a 3,800-square-foot unit.
A real estate investor and developer, Greenberg wasn’t actively looking to move out of his home of 22 years, but he was captivated by Quarry Springs’ spacious floor plans, 24-hour concierge service, outdoor pool, clubhouse and gardens.
“You still feel like you are in a residential area,” he says, “but you have all the conveniences of a condo.”
Christine MacDonald is the author of Green, Inc.: An Environmental Insider Reveals How a Good Cause Has Gone Bad (Lyons Press, 2008). She lives in Washington, D.C., and has written for The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The Nation.