The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), owner of the Apex Building in downtown Bethesda, has issued a statement confirming it is in negotiations with Montgomery County officials over the potential demolition of the structure, to make way for a Purple Line light rail station.
“This is obviously a big decision that requires a thorough and detailed analysis to determine if selling the building and moving to a new location is in the best interest of our members,” Senior Vice President and COO David R. Witmer said in the statement.
Witmer said the ASHP is talking with the Montgomery County Planning Department, and the county's Department of Economic Development, to reach a consensus on the feasibility of redeveloping the site at 7272 Wisconsin Avenue.
Demolishing the building would allow easier, and cheaper, construction of the Purple Line's western terminus station, Maryland transportation officials say. And would permit a more accessible and aesthetically-pleasing station design, they have claimed.
But the building's anchor tenant is Regal Cinemas, the loss of which would severely impact "dinner-and-a-movie" business for downtown Bethesda restaurants. And leaving a major downtown without a mainstream cineplex like Regal would contradict the county's stated goals of walkable urban centers, and a vibrant "nighttime economy."
The 40,000 member society employs 200 workers. While it has been headquartered in the Apex Building for over 20 years, its Bethesda roots go back four-and-a-half decades.
“We care a great deal about Bethesda and the County,” Witmer said, “and are willing to entertain an agreement provided that it benefits all parties.”
Planning officials have already debated the station construction options with or without the Apex in place. A public hearing is scheduled for the first week in November.
But state transportation officials say they need an answer from the ASHP and Montgomery County by December this year to avoid construction delays or loss of funding.
"This new plan requiring that ASHP decide by December 2013 whether or not to permit demolition of the Apex Building in less than two years is clearly a big change, and ASHP needs adequate time to conduct the necessary due diligence,” Witmer said.