Monday, April 16, 2012






No One Could Blame You for Walking

Down Del Ray Ave. and Thinking So!

Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!

Del Ray Avenue looks like Optimus Prime and Devastator went mano-a-mano over there. Partially-destroyed townhomes, and giant piles of metal and concrete debris, litter a lot where small businesses and a public parking lot once were. A heavy metal bulldozer blade rests in front, as if it had been torn off the front of an earthmover.

Is this the set of Transformers 4? The site of a UFO invasion? The return of Godzilla?

No, it's The Gallery of Bethesda. Or, at least, it will be. Right now it's out with the old, and it is quite a scene of destruction.

"That 70s Building"

The Gallery of Bethesda is going to be 17 stories, which - given its vague proximity to Metro - rates a shrug of the shoulders as far as density is concerned. About 210 units. Mmm... Not bad, not great. You could argue for greater height, but of course, the county council and Planning Board have approved projects of equal or lesser height much closer to the Metro than this. I'd like something taller, but it seems unfair to criticize this particular project for that, given its relatively longer walking distance to Metro.

The name? "The Gallery of Bethesda," I'm guessing, relates to the public art features planned for the outside of the building. Alas, the art ends there with this design.

Frankly, I'm not a fan. Maybe it will be refined. But the renderings on the Donohoe website aren't impressing me right now. Instead of a modern, avant garde design, it is a 1970s throwback. I love the 70s. But with the infrastructure costs these projects place on the taxpayer, I think the Planning Board should be setting the bar higher.

"Mr. Angelino, please!"

This appears to be another mixed use building cut-and-pasted from the library that came with the design software. I like the interesting fountain design between the building and its future partner on Rugby Ave. At the same time, what they are claiming will be a "pedestrian street" between the buildings comes off as a wide sidewalk. The rendering shows no pavers or archways or lighting. Booriiing.


It seems kind of unusual to not have more screening of a demolition site (green walls, for example). Diners out on the upstairs patio at Tia Queta certainly have an interesting perch to monitor the action. Sad to see some longtime Bethesda buildings being knocked down. Especially when the replacements aren't very exciting. On the other hand, Del Ray has always been an unbalanced street, with Triangle Towers and the Palisades looming over 2 story structures across the street. Now it will be more unified. Expect a lot more destruction on this side of town once the real estate market recovers.

"Book 'em, Danno"

Of course, the ultimate appeal of The Gallery will depend on its ground floor restaurant, nightlife and shopping tenants. And maybe the 70s design works in a part of town where the 70s still dominates architecture. They could give a free 70s color TV with every unit. A disco ball in the party room. How about a 70s coffee bar in the lobby, when you had two selections; coffee or decaf? Simpler times in a building where every tenant's greatest wish is an invite to dine at Captain Stubing's table.

Pull up in your brown Plymouth Fury, with whitewall tires and 8-track stereo. Here comes Ralph the Doorman - make sure to give him a tip!

Thanks to the Montgomery County Planning Board, Singapore has The Sail @ Marina Bay Tower, Hong Kong has the Bank of China Tower, Dubai has the Burj Khalifa, and Bethesda has... "That 70s Building."

"Who loves ya, baby?"

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