Wednesday, July 03, 2013


JBG has submitted a site plan amendment for its long-delayed Woodmont East project to the Montgomery County Planning Board.

Already approved for construction in this massive Bethesda Row-area redevelopment, are a 14-story luxury residential building on Elm Street (where the parking deck currently stands), and a small retail/office building in the vicinity of the former Reed Street, which was abandoned by the county several years ago.

The new amendment acknowledges the lack of demand for office space in downtown Bethesda, by restoring a 182,950 square foot hotel to the plan, in place of additional offices.

Building this hotel will require what will quite possibly be the largest-scale demolition in the history of Bethesda. The existing office building, opposite The Seasons, is the tallest building to be demolished in Bethesda ever, if my memory serves.

Most demolitions in Bethesda are accomplished by brute force with heavy construction vehicles. That won't be possible in this case. Will the wrecking ball finally come out? Or is there some new, slow, low-tech process used today to bring down tall buildings in less dramatic fashion? Suffice it to say, we're going to find out in the near future!

The proposed hotel design isn't quite as avant-garde as JBG's Wisconsin Avenue project, but still looks pretty good, with a modern theme. Will it have a Las Vegas-style nightclub, and/or a rooftop, is what I want to know. What we do know, is that the hotel will house ground floor retail.

A second major part of the amendment adds the existing Artery Building to the site plan.

Finally, the amendment reduces the size of the residential units in the Elm Street building, while keeping the total number of units at 210. So, it doesn't sound like it's positioned to compete with nearby ultra-luxury projects like The Lauren and The Darcy.

There are a few answers we won't have about Woodmont East until the Apex Building rumors are resolved. If the Apex remains, the Capital Crescent Trail will be rerouted at-grade, along Bethesda Avenue, by JBG.

Were the Apex to be demolished, the 9-story smokestack proposed for the Purple Line tunnel would be hidden within whatever development replaced the Apex. If the Apex stays, camouflage of the exhaust fan smokestack will require cooperation by JBG in Woodmont East and the state of Maryland.

The Master Plan amendment that would allow demolition of the Apex - and possibly other buildings across Wisconsin Avenue - remains highly controversial, as it would shut out traditional public input on the changes.

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