Federal Realty is asking the board to restore building heights that were reduced on its "Woodmont East" and "Bethesda Avenue South" properties at a board worksession on the Bethesda Downtown sector plan on May 12, 2016. The Woodmont East building currently houses retail and restaurants, office space and the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema. Bethesda Avenue South refers to a 90' residential building Federal Realty is planning, that would fit behind and above existing retail structures there, including the Apple Store.
In a letter to the board, SVP for Mixed-use Development at Federal Realty Ramsey Meiser argues that the height reductions will reduce the economic viability of redeveloping those sites in the future. He says the company will have the option to move forward on both projects well within the stated 20-year scope of the Bethesda Downtown Plan.
The board voted 3-2 to reduce the height for Woodmont East from 250' to 145', and Bethesda Row South from 90' to 70'.
Meiser points out correctly that the Woodmont East site is directly adjacent to the future Purple Line station and future south entrance to the Metro Red Line station. He writes that the board made an error by using the existing engineering limitations at the site to justify a reduction in height.
Adding stories to the existing building is not possible due to the below-grade theater space, Meiser writes. But when the Landmark lease is up in 11 years, he says, Federal Realty will be free to redevelop the site, and would have no problem constructing a 250' building there.
|Proposed 90' residential building|
behind Apple Store, existing
Bethesda Avenue retail
"Because of the timing of the leases on Bethesda Avenue South," Meiser writes, "[Federal Realty] has the ability to move forward on its redevelopment plan as early as October 2018."
Federal Realty included several renderings that show its 90' building would not be imposing to single-family homes in the Sacks neighborhood adjacent to the Flats at Bethesda Avenue and Ourisman Honda. It is 300' between the proposed building and the closest house in Sacks, the letter says.
|View from second floor|
rear of house on Leland St.
in Sacks subdivision
(click to enlarge)
|View of future residential building|
from Leland Street (that's the
Ourisman Honda garage in the
center background, and the
Flats at Bethesda Avenue in
the right background)
In these seat-of-pants height decisions, I'm reminded of their worksession ruling to set the height for the Westwood Center II property by looking at a warped Google Maps image, which distorted the actual grade of the site. Only in Montgomery County!
Photo: Robert Dyer
Renderings via Montgomery County Planning Department