Tuesday, August 18, 2015

8008 Wisconsin project hedging on apartments vs. condos in Bethesda (Photos)

The late conversion of the JBG Companies' 7770 Norfolk project from apartments to condos was the first indication of a potential comeback in the downtown Bethesda condo market. Now, Douglas Development is acknowledging it can't entirely rule out the possibility its current 8008 Wisconsin luxury apartment project could end up going condo.

At a community meeting last night, representatives for the applicant said the future of Bus Rapid Transit on Wisconsin Avenue - and the specific property demands it might ultimately place on their development site - aren't yet clear. But the County is pushing the developer to turn over right-of-way on the Wisconsin side of the project for BRT, and a potential BRT station at Cordell Avenue, anyway.

Never mind that this fanciful BRT right-of-way could never be extended all the way down to Bethesda Avenue as BRT proponents are claiming. So why punish this one property owner for a looney plan that has no chance of ever coming to fruition (homes and a historic movie theater stand in the way, to name just two examples of immovable objects that block the extension of the right-of-way)? I haven't heard a credible answer yet. But Douglas is going to comply with the demand.
Diagram shows how building will
bump out above the street-level lobby,
to provide room for BRT on
Wisconsin Avenue
After last night's meeting, BRT isn't the only fuzzy question in the future. With the condo market showing signs of rebound downtown, could 8008 Wisconsin flip in that direction? Emily Vaias, attorney for the applicant, said the project is proceeding forward as rental apartments. One person noted that the building will have only 40 residential parking spaces in the underground garage, which would likely be untenable to sustain the building's needs if the 140 units were converted to condos (people paying premium prices for luxury condos not only usually own cars, but also expect a parking space to come with their unit).

Vaias said an additional floor of parking could be added, or additional "parking systems," in the event of a condo conversion.

Speaking of conversions, the units with bedrooms and living rooms on the south side of the building will have east and west-facing windows, in case the southern windows have to be bricked-up should someone build a high-rise next door (former Bruce Variety building, for example).

The majority of the 4500 SF of retail space will still be taken up by a restaurant planned for the corner of Woodmont and Cordell Avenues. Douglas is counting on the lobby entrance to enliven Wisconsin Avenue, but the Cordell Avenue side of the property will pretty much be dominated by the garage entrance and loading dock area. What Cordell will have, is a bike lane, which Douglas is facilitating by donating a 5' right-of-way for that purpose.

Externally, the aim of the exterior design will be to utilize gray masonry, and there will be a sweeping curve to the structure on the Cordell side.

Inside, expect 1 and 2-bedroom units; no studios or 3-bedrooms are planned. There will be about 2 2-bedrooms per floor. The rooftop club level will incorporate a pool, spa, club room, game room and fire pit.

The applicant's next step will be to submit its preliminary plan, which was held up by the BRT absurdity. Douglas would prefer an extension so it can file the preliminary plan and the site plan together, Vaias said. If all goes according to plan, construction would begin in mid-2016, and take about 18 months to complete.

Staging for the construction site would be along Cordell and Woodmont Avenues.


Anonymous said...

I like the sizable retail space, but they should really have retail facing Wisconsin Ave too.

Anonymous said...

Yes! It's going to be dead from the Wisconsin side around the corner past the loading docks and garage entrances. Yuck.

Anonymous said...

The frontage on Wisconsin Avenue is so short, I don't think this is that big a deal. The bigger issue is the huge lost opportunity from the previous developer's screw up that is forcing this block to be redeveloped piecemeal.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the point of the setback to fit in a BRT station? It doesn't have anything to do with expanding the number of lanes on that section of Wisconsin, as far as I'm aware. I really wish these articles were factual and well-written so I could rely on them for accurate information. Instead, they're always just whining at the county for X or Y reason.

Anonymous said...

I had heard JBG had tried to do the whole block. Anyone know what happened? It is such a shame this is done in non cohesive pieces now. This was a big piece to really grow woodmont triangle.

The one residential facade does replace two retail spots there now. So it's -2. Definitely better than what is there now though.

Anonymous said...

From my understanding they would add one BRT lane. The "station" is just an entry/exit into the sidewalk. The bus would stop for just a moment in the travel lane for passengers to enter and exit.

Anonymous said...

I like that they are not wasting money on parking spaces. Hopefully this makes the rent of these units more manageable.

Robert Dyer said...

8:01: It is your comment that isn't "factual and well-written" - at no point in my article did I ever say lanes were being added to Wisconsin Avenue. I said the right-of-way is being added for BRT and the BRT station. You're the one who's whining anytime there's valid criticism of your beloved Montgomery County political cartel.

Robert Dyer said...

8:44: I believe they are not required to have as many spaces because the property is in a parking lot district.

Anonymous said...

Where did 8:01 get the lane addition idea from?
Just making stuff up and attributing it to Dyer.
There's plenty of fictional reporting on other local news sites already.

Anonymous said...

"8:01: It is your comment that isn't "factual and well-written" - at no point in my article did I ever say lanes were being added to Wisconsin Avenue. I said the right-of-way is being added for BRT and the BRT station. You're the one who's whining anytime there's valid criticism of your beloved Montgomery County political cartel."

You're talking about how "homes and a historic movie theater stand in the way" which doesn't make any sense because no lanes are being added to Wisconsin. Get it now, Bob?

Robert Dyer said...

6:29: You're just as confused as you were earlier. The basic right-of-way being taken from Douglas at 8008 is for BRT right-of-way - not including the BRT station, which is additional taking from Douglas.

This arbitrary BRT right-of-way is being sought from around Rosedale Avenue down to Bethesda Avenue.

And, as I correctly noted, the theatre and multiple buildings that will not be demolished for many decades, if ever, stand firmly in the way.

Hence, it makes no sense to require Douglas to give up land for a right-of-way that can never be realized the rest of the way down Wisconsin.

What about this is so hard to understand?

Anonymous said...

What "historic theater"? The Bethesda Theater? On the other side of Wisconsin and nowhere near this site? You're not making any sense. Please just link to the county plan outlining how "right-of-way is being sought from around Rosedale Avenue down to Bethesda Avenue." You can't, because that claim is just completely out of left field and doesn't make sense. There are relatively few ROW issues associated with the "MD 355 South" route and the ROW changes that are expected largely relate to station placement. That's exactly the case here, as there's a proposed station at "MD 355 and Cordell Avenue." Do you get it now, Bobby? No, the county isn't looking to expand the ROW up and down Wisconsin from "Rosedale Avenue down to Bethesda Avenue" - not even remotely close. Can't believe you just make shit up and don't bother linking to anything. You don't even pretend to back your claims up with facts.

Robert Dyer said...

9:04: All of the points I made about the width and length of the right-of-way are taken directly from the documents in which Douglas and the county were trying to work out the BRT issues!

I'm just repeating myself here, but the station piece is totally separate from the BRT line right-of-way that will extend all the way down Wisconsin between the streets I mentioned. Again, this is in the documents.

The width they are asking for all the way down could not be provided even if you tore down every building, because you can't tear down the Bethesda Theatre - its in the historic register.

If these weren't the facts, why in the devil would Douglas be giving up developable land in those precise widths, and talking about them specifically in their documents?

You're the one making things up.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Additional information can be found directly from the Montgomery County website

Anonymous said...

@ 7:37 AM - expect to be deleted and "banned".

Anonymous said...

I think Dyer is referring to the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club or whatever it is called. He just wasn't being clear. The theoretical right of way use for BRT would be on both sides of 355.