Bethesda Metro Development Gets Early Nod from Planning Board

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The Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a project that proposes building nearly 500 new residences near the Bethesda Metro Center.

In February, developer Brookfield Property Partners solidified its plans for the project, opting to take a residential focus. Previously, Brookfield was considering devoting the entire building to retail and office space.

The 500,000-square-foot building would include 479 apartments and up to 20,600 square feet of “non-residential uses,” according to Planning Board documents.

The building would stand at a maximum 290 feet. Developers also intend to renovate the Metro bus bays near the site to include a covered entrance, staircases and bike storage.
A promenade lined with restaurants and shops would lead pedestrians between the Hyatt Regency Bethesda hotel and the new building, ending at a central lawn that could accommodate pop-up programs, concerts and outdoor movie nights, according to Brookfield’s plan.

To make way for the new building, the developer’s plan is to tear down a former cafeteria space, a three-story appendage to 3 Bethesda Metro Center. That property is also owned by Brookfield. The Planning Board in July approved that leg of development in conjunction with 4 Bethesda Metro Center.

The project still must receive the Planning Board’s final approval before developers can begin con

struction.

Last year, the Planning Board approved the project’s sketch plan, the first step in a series of reviews by the board. Its approval was for two alternate designs — one residence-focused and the other for the retail and office building.

Clark Enterprises, which at the time owned an office building adjacent to the property, filed a legal appeal over the Planning Board’s approval of the project. The company criticized the layout for enclosing too much of the open space, hiding the plaza behind tall buildings and isolating it from the bustle of Wisconsin Avenue.

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge in June affirmed the Planning Board’s approval of the sketch plan. Judge David Lease said Clark, or any other individual or group, failed to air its concerns before the development plan gained preliminary approval, the proper time to raise the issues.

In his ruling, Lease highlighted that Clark could raise the same concerns when the Planning Board is in the final phase of reviewing the project.