Monday, November 11, 2013


WMATA is fishing for a developer to build housing and retail on 4.5 acres of its Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station property in Bethesda. The solicitation to jointly transform part of the busy subway and bus station includes an area currently used as a parking lot, as well as air-rights development above the existing Kiss-and-Ride area.

The transit authority readily acknowledges some of the topographical challenges of the site. These include steep slopes, a forest preserve section, and a stormwater management facility that will either have to be left untouched, moved, or expensively buried as an underground vault.

Bound by Rockville Pike (MD 355) to the west, Tuckerman Lane to the north and east, and a one-way access drive to the south, the Grosvenor station is also adjacent to the Strathmore music complex. One restriction in Metro's bid solicitation is that construction work cannot disturb Strathmore concert events.

Metro's plan is to have the eventual winning development firm design, finance and build a garage expansion that will replace the 404 parking spaces that will be lost. The developer will also have to preserve a 10 bus bay capacity, and provide 87 additional secure, covered bike parking spaces. Those spaces will have to be either by the station entrance, or on the ground level of the new garage. The new mixed-use development will have to have its own parking garage underground, and its own entrance driveway off Tuckerman Lane. Metro says traffic from the new development will be allowed to share the site exit currently used by buses. The new entrance curb cuts must be at least 200 feet north of the Tuckerman/Strathmore Hall Street intersection. Finally, the developer can have air-rights to build 16'9" over the Kiss-and-Ride area. Meaning that the building could jut out at that height above the passenger drop-off area, for example.

What does the developer get for all this? 4.5 acres potentially zoned as PD-25, or 25 units per acre. At 4.5 acres, my calculation is 112 units. That sounds somewhat low for a building literally on a Metro station. No height is specifically given, but WMATA says the development must be compatible with the existing residential communities south and east of the site. Metro describes those as garden apartments. However, the Meridian is a high-rise right by the station. There are additional high-rises across Rockville Pike from the station. So it's unclear how they are determining "compatibility." Having said that, density in the area is certainly far lower than in downtown Bethesda.

Retail space can be on the ground floor of the building, or in a separate, one-story structure. Parking minimums for the new development can potentially be less than one space per unit, according to WMATA.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The solicitation concepts (Concept B is superior, but more expensive due to the stormwater and K&R facility relocations) estimate 475-600 units total which seems to be about right. Building heights will likely be between 143-175 ft. To calculate the FAR density, the entire Metro property will likely be used.

I'm sure the planning board will agree that the area is well suited to high-rise development since the site is surrounded by multifamily (including a 15-story building), there are no single-family residences nearby (plus there's forest buffer), and there are 5 15-20 story high-rises across 355.