Planning Board To Vote on High-Rise Project at Former Steamers Site in Bethesda

As featured in Bethesda Magazine 

Montgomery County planners are expected to vote Thursday on a developer’s proposal for a 58-unit high-rise on the former site of Steamers Seafood House in Bethesda.

Planners earlier this week talked about the project to construct a 110-foot building called the Claiborne at the intersection of Auburn and Norfolk avenues. Steamers was open for 19 years at the 0.3-acre site, but its owners closed it in August 2015 amid financial struggles. Novo Properties of Washington, D.C., bought the site last year for $4.65 million.

Now, the developer, 4820 LLC, wants permission to build up to 73,200 square feet of residential space and 2,800 square feet of space for retail and other uses, according to a staff report that recommended plan approval.

Planning Board members on Monday said they appreciated the architectural designs for the building, which include a rooftop terrace and a decorative street front. Imagination Stage will be the Claiborne’s neighbor on Auburn Avenue, and land use attorney Heather Dlhopolsky said the developer wanted the building’s entryway to draw people into a creative part of town. The project calls for brick pavers arranged in a chevron pattern on the sidewalk and some “funky” seating, she said.

“We hope, as one elected official likes to say, it gives Bethesda a little pop,” Dlhopolsky said.

Proposal for artistic seating arrangement and sidewalk design in front of the Claiborne at Norfolk and Auburn avenues. Via Montgomery County Planning Department.

Planning staff had recommended asking the developer to contribute about $21,000 to the Bethesda Urban Partnership to help fund a study on improving signage and other ideas for helping people find their way around Woodmont Triangle. In exchange, the developer would receive public benefit points, or credit for providing transportation or quality of life amenities that serve the broader community. The county’s zoning law requires developers to rack up a certain number of points for their projects.

However, Dlhopolsky said the developer in this case already had attained the mandatory number of public benefit points and asked the board members not to impose the requirement.

After the discussion, the planning board members postponed until Thursday their final vote on the preliminary and site plans for the Claiborne.