Apex Developer Proposes 24/7 Demolition in Downtown Bethesda

As featured in Bethesda Magazine. 

Montgomery County is weighing a developer’s request to conduct round-the-clock demolition of the Apex building in downtown Bethesda starting as soon as August.

Working during nights and on weekends would speed up the demolition process, enabling crews to level the 150,000-square-foot building in roughly two months instead of four, according to developer Carr Properties. The company described its plans in an application for a temporary noise waiver for the hours from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. on weekends.

Two adjacent southbound lanes of Wisconsin Avenue will shut down at night and one will close during the day to protect passing motorists while the building is being razed, the application states. The company’s plan also calls for traffic signage and flaggers to help pedestrians navigate the closures.

Carr wants to replace the existing structure at 7272 Wisconsin Ave. with office and apartment towers that could soar 300 feet into the sky. The company has also agreed to construct a shell for a future Purple Line station beneath the complex, and despite the legal entanglements that have delayed the light-rail project, the Maryland Transit Administration is holding Carr to a late 2018 deadline, according to the June 19 waiver application.

Sticking to this schedule requires an expedited demolition process, Carr argues in its request for a noise waiver effective from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31.

Stan Edwards, Montgomery County’s chief of environmental policy and compliance, said the county’s noise waivers are good for 30 days and can be reissued for two 30-day periods. After that, the developer has to submit an entirely new application, he said.

The county publishes a notice of a noise waiver request and gathers public comment for at least 10 days before deciding whether to grant it. In this case, the county will allow extra time so that more people can offer feedback, Edwards said.

Carr’s application describes proposed tools and methods for the razing process and states the noise levels from a 50-foot distance should stay below 85 decibels, or about as loud as a blender or food processor, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

In the interests of minimizing noise, crews will not set off explosives or swing wrecking balls to flatten the Apex and instead use hydraulic pulverizers and shears mounted on excavators. They’ll also save jack-hammering for daytime hours.

Carr also has forged an agreement with neighboring retailers not to do weekend demolition on the side of the property that faces their establishments. And nearby office workers, drivers and pedestrians will suffer less disruption if the razing takes place at night, Carr argues in the application.

The only residences within a 500-foot radius of the site are the Darcy condominiums on Woodmont Avenue and the Seasons apartments on Bethesda Avenue, Carr has determined.

Edwards noted there are hotels near the Apex site. But he’s hopeful that the location of the demolition will help dampen the commotion.

“It’s surrounded by lots of big buildings, and that will serve as a good noise buffer,” Edwards said, although he added there “definitely will be a lot of people who will hear it.”

News that Carr had applied for a noise waiver was first reported by local blogger Robert Dyer.