Thursday, June 12, 2014


A new project proposal for the Lot 667 site, along St. Elmo and Fairmont Avenues, includes a rooftop deck. The 3-story retail-office building, designed by the architecture firm of Steven J. Karr, AIA, Inc., would also feature a pedestrian plaza connecting St. Elmo with Fairmont, as the neighboring Bainbridge Bethesda project does. That Lot 667 plaza appears to be wider than Bainbridge's, and would include seating and a covered, shaded area. Use of the rooftop space is not specified. Renderings do not show a bar like the neighboring Roof restaurant, so it is unclear if the rooftop is limited to office tenants (like 7550 Wisconsin) or could accommodate a dining/nightlife tenant.

While the building will house 7,000 SF of floor space, the ratio of retail-to-office is not known at this stage. That could be determined by market conditions and potential interest. The upper floor window designs could be appropriate for either use. Glass facade atriums that appear to rise the full height of the building on the Fairmont and plaza sides are particularly nice elements, I think.

The surface grade of the site would descend toward St. Elmo, and be made navigable via stairs and a handicapped ramp. So the St. Elmo side would be dominated by public space, rather than the building itself. That location is currently home to the Red Tomato Cafe and BCC Automotive buildings and driveway. Structures that would be demolished to make way for the new building on the Fairmont side are the former homes of Dansez Dansez and Fresh Grill, and a driveway.

Importantly, the proposal again leaves 4901 Fairmont Avenue intact at Norfolk Avenue. 4901-B is currently leased by Bold Bite, and 4901-A is available for lease, after former tenant BlackFinn failed to pay rent. SJKAIA has been retained by property owner Greenhill, which is exploring options for the Lot 667 properties. Hanaro and Bangkok Garden are not part of Lot 667, and will remain in place.

Overall, the project is architecturally more ambitious than the initial proposal, while the modest height will limit vacancy risk in Montgomery County's currently-miserable office space market. It also appears to meet the demands expressed by residents for more public space in downtown Bethesda. Certainly, the proposal is an upgrade over what is there now.

All renderings courtesy of Steven J. Karr, AIA, Inc.
All rights reserved
Renderings drawn by Andrew Bzdega

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