Thursday, November 13, 2014


Should a 25-30 story building be constructed far away from any Metro station? Some at Capital Properties appear to think so. The previous owner of the Westwood Complex, a massive portfolio of properties along Westbard Avenue, Ridgefield Road and River Road, still holds the Park Bethesda apartments after selling the rest to Equity One. At a presentation to planners during the Westbard Sector Plan charette Wednesday morning, Capital Properties proposed adding two new high-rise apartment towers to its existing one, and demolishing the large surface parking lots that exist on the site today in favor of an underground garage.
Planner Marc DeOcampo makes
recommendations to owners of
the Park Bethesda site
A CP representative showed a series of renderings and said the firm was using downtown Bethesda's new 17-story buildings as the baseline, and wondered if they could go even higher. How high? 25 to 30 stories, he said, which are more indicative of White Flint's height limits than the current zoning in downtown Bethesda. The renderings showed options for the two towers of 300'/150', 200'/150', and 250'/150'. With the tallest tower on Westbard Avenue next to the existing Park Bethesda, the shorter 12-14 story tower would be close to the potential Crown Street bypass planners are considering. Planner Marc DeOcampo suggested CP flip the two buildings, as the one near Crown Street is significantly below the grade of Westbard Avenue. That would reduce the impact of such a tall building on the adjacent townhomes at Westbard Mews and Westland Middle School. DeOcampo noted that residents were interested in a much shorter height of 6-8 stories.

CP was open to a new road such as Crown Street on or through its property, but had mixed feelings about the feasibility of the proposed Crown Street bypass from Westbard to River Road.  It has its own Crown Street extension concept that goes through the property, rather than behind it. Their representative said mixed-use with retail on the ground floor was still a possibility, and that the taller buildings would allow for more green space on the site. One tower would be a "low-amenity building."

Not surprisingly, a good number of residents in attendance at the meeting expressed displeasure at the proposal, with one asking how a potential 2000 cars could be accommodated. Capital Properties suggested there could be 700-1000 units in total when the two towers are completed.

Capital Properties holds some leverage over the potential construction of a Crown Street bypass for Westbard Avenue, as it owns part of the land between the 2 existing County rights-of-way that the project would use. A 25-30 story building would take the title of Montgomery County's Tallest Building from North Bethesda Market. Park Bethesda is a former NIH office building converted into luxury apartments, and at 11 stories is a non-conforming structure grandfathered into the new zoning code.

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