Downtown Bethesda will have a new park and civic space.
The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved the $8.5 million purchase of 0.4 acres next to Bethesda Row. The county plans to turn it into the “Capital Crescent Civic Green.”
The land is across from the Landmark Theatres Bethesda Row Cinema near the intersection of Bethesda and Woodmont avenues.
Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson said the land could be used for major public events, such as large street festivals on Bethesda Row, as well as for residents to relax and gather.
“We feel like this is going to be a centerpiece of the new Bethesda,” Anderson said shortly before the council approved the purchase. “I think we’re getting excellent value, even though it’s a large purchase price.”
Council member Roger Berliner previously said the county estimates the cost of the park could be cut in half because it expects to receive easement money from the state, which plans to use part of the land for Purple Line construction. The future Bethesda Purple Line station is being built next to the site.
The county also might be able to sell development rights for the site to a developer in the area who is interested in adding additional density to a project, according to Berliner.
Berliner described the purchase as a way to show residents the council is committed to creating community space. He described the park purchase as a “concrete manifestation” that the council has heard what the public wants and “we’re going to make it happen.”
The county purchased the property from Federal Realty, the Bethesda Row developer.
A concept rendering showing how the future park could look was included in the council’s agenda documents:
Anderson said Wednesday he doesn’t know when the park will be available for public use, but that the county hopes to develop an interim plan for the park while the Purple Line is being constructed. He said they’ll need more information from Purple Line Transit Partners, which is building the light-rail line, to determine how long and how much space crews will need for construction and staging equipment.
“I wouldn’t expect we would be able to do anything right away,” Anderson said. “My hope is we wouldn’t have to wait for the Purple Line to be operational to get the park into a state where it’s accessible and useful to the public.”
The Purple Line is scheduled to be completed in 2022. The Bethesda Purple Line station will be built in the tunnel under the former Apex Building on Wisconsin Avenue. That building is about half demolished and is being redeveloped into a massive mixed-use project by Carr Properties.
The Apex Building as viewed from Elm Street on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Credit: Andrew Metcalf