Thursday, October 12, 2017

Brookfield unveils plan for 4 Bethesda Metro Center development (Photos)

Developer Brookfield revealed its plans for a new mixed-use tower at 4 Bethesda Metro Center at a required public meeting last night in Bethesda. The presentation was heavy on the benefits of public space and art that would be incorporated into the development. In fact, it began with a video on the developer's Arts Brookfield initiative, which the developer will "fully utilize" at 4 Bethesda Metro Center.

Some major details, such as whether the building will be commercial or residential, were not revealed last night. That question will be decided before the end of this year, a Brookfield representative predicted. A sketch plan will be filed "in the near term," likely within 30 days.

Intriguingly, Clark Construction's Protect Bethesda Open Space group - which was the public expression of Clark's objections to Brookfield's plan to build on the existing plaza (which Brookfield has the property rights to do, it should be noted) - made a last public relations push on social media in the last 48 hours. It called on plaza preservationists to turn out in force wearing green at last night's meeting to advocate for "high quality, visible, and accessible open space." However, no formal protest ended up taking place, and no major objections were raised by attendees. What made the last minute communications intriguing, was that Clark had announced it was no longer opposing Brookfield's plan about a year ago.
Plaza on Wisconsin Avenue
side of the development, including
new Metro station entrance
4 Bethesda Metro Center can be as tall as 290' under the recently-approved Bethesda Downtown sector plan. The building will be prominently on the Wisconsin Avenue side of the plaza, with a 15000 SF central lawn behind it. A new 55'-wide pedestrian promenade, which Brookfield compares to Bethesda Lane at Bethesda Row, will be created between the Brookfield building and the Hyatt Regency hotel next door.
"The Promenade," which Brookfield
envisions as a Bethesda Lane-style
pedestrian plaza with retail and
restaurants on both sides
Brookfield believes that the new ground-floor restaurant spaces on that side of the Hyatt will further help activate the promenade, along with the retail and restaurant spaces in their new building facing the hotel. The rear placement of the central lawn is designed to make it the new "center of gravity" for the plaza, which one resident said is currently difficult to navigate.
The Promenade
The Gallery
"Active corridors," such as the promenade, and around the north and west sides of the new building, will be used to improve navigation for pedestrians. Those corridors are referred to as "The Gallery" in the plans. An "intimate outdoor passage," The Gallery is envisioned as an informal gathering space for visitors and building occupants, with permanent art installations - as the name suggests. Let's hope to God the art is better than some of the more recent public "art" downtown, which more often resembles vandalism than the civilization descended from the Greeks and Romans.
The Gallery
Improved access to Metro and
bus bays
Metro and Metrobus bay access will be more seamless and welcoming, the developer promised. A plaza in front of the building will be designed to "improve the arrival experience" for commuters.
The Plaza
Central Lawn
The central lawn is meant to be not only a gathering space, but also a "destination" that attracts people to the development. Arts Brookfield will have its own space prominently at the top of the central lawn between the green space and the building itself. It will be a "beacon" to attract visitors, Brookfield suggested. Permanent furniture will be limited at the lawn.
Arts Brookfield Zone
Residents attending the meeting were concerned that the architecture create a signature building for downtown Bethesda. It's encouraging that Brookfield is referring to some different developments than are usually shown as examples. Last night's presentation cited CityCenterDC, the Piazza at Schmidt's Commons and Dilworth Plaza in Philadelphia, Bailey Plaza at Cornell University, and the Village of Yorkville Park in Toronto, among others, in addition to the often-referenced Bethesda Row.

One of the main points that came from the community last night was the lack of places for kids to play downtown. An ice rink was suggested as one option. The Metro Center actually had one of those in its earlier years, but it vanished along with the giant Christmas tree that used to be a focal point during the holidays.

This development process is certainly the time to have the discussion about making the plaza the central focus of the downtown again.


Anonymous said...

Nice clean informative intuitive post!! Thanks for the update.

I seriously can’t stand developer/marketer/architect speak. So full of themselves with their “center of gravity” type BS.

Clark also is full of it. I too would love for my neighbor to not build a house on their lot. I will nominally contribute to build a park on their property. Preserve green space! And only now when my neighbor might seriously build something.

Anonymous said...

The Metro Center should be the center of gravity for Bethesda.
It's also the entry point into the city for everyone arriving via Metro. Very important.

Anonymous said...

7:07 AM - Thank you, Captain Obvious. Your work here is done.

Anonymous said...

"Let's hope to God the art is better than some of the more recent public "art" downtown, which more often resembles vandalism than the civilization descended from the Greeks and Romans."

Wow, that's exactly how I feel when I listen to your music and your fast-food reviews on YouTube.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update.

I think Bethesda's center of gravity is likely to shift south to Bethesda Row/Apex or north to Woodmont Triangle/Marriott HQ over the next few years.

Anonymous said...

The center of gravity is certainly not going to shift towards Bethesda Row. With Barnes & Noble closing at the end of the year, and many shops and restaurants already closed, it is going the way of Montgomery Mall and White Flint. Sad!


Anonymous said...

7:28 didn't your mother ever teach you that if you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything at all? I got a suggestion, don't actively go to YouTube and seek out the videos that seem to offend you so much. Do you have nothing better to do with your time than write nasty comments regarding an informative blog entry. Get a life.

Anonymous said...

7:28 here. Sorry, I should have said "listenED to [Robert Dyer's] music and your fast-food reviews on YouTube."

That's a mistake I won't make a third time.

Anonymous said...

Once again, poor use of images. The 16 images, as they are presented here, are too small and poorly focused to view them while reading the text. It is necessary to click and zoom each image individually, and that ruins the continuity of reading the article. Couldn't you have gotten images directly from the developer rather than taking photographs the images used in the presentation?

Robert Dyer said...

8:43: Clearly, your criticism is based on the fact that I have all the slides here, while the small and slightly-failing magazine has no images from the presentation at all. Which is providing better coverage of the meeting again? You're struggling, man.

Anonymous said...

So 7:28, let me get this straight so I understand correctly. You no longer listen to Dyer's YouTube videos, but you seem to be obsessed with him enough that you feel the necessity to revisit his blog multiple times an hour and see what new things he has to say. Did I get that right?

Anonymous said...

I hope the architects at SOM do not just create an generic glass box with radiused corners on this site. Even if it has an active and transparent base filled with cafes, restaurants and shops, a boring minimalist glass box, even with the parrolleogram shape site massing will not create the iconic tower that this site deserves.

SOM is a world class design firm, but they often produce some rather bland buildings. I would hope that can be challenged to create a new building at this site that could become a landmark for Bethesda, and not simply a slick infill project. It needs to have a provocative profile that will execute placemaking at an urban scale. It’s needs to be a counterpoint to the existing horizontal precast and ribbon windows of the adjacent buildings. It needs to create a signature for Bethesda, and not just a beautifullly machined mirror as shown in the conceptual plans.

It needs to express sustainability. To evoke creativity. To inspire and delight, not just be an object to generate income. It needs to be great, not just good. Otherwise the center of town will continue to only be a place to pass through to get to the cooler parts of town.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the current and future epicenter of Bethesda, I must disagree.

The current Metro Center is nearly devoid of pedestrians most of the time, other than during the rush hour commute from trains and buses. The Triangle is usually fairly quiet as well, but certainly comes alive at night with all of the restaurant activity. The one district that always seems to have a reasonable amount of buzz is the Row. Most folks who exit the Metro don’t even make it up to the plaza, and just cut through the bus bays to get to the Row or Triangle as soon as possible. Most folks who drive to the city to shop or dine, or see a film, head to the large decks in the south to stroll, shop or dine, or to have dinner in the Triangle.anoth much residential in the center, compared to the north and south doesn’t help make the streetscape very inviting.

I believe, the new south Metro Entrance and Purple Line Station, combined with the enhanced CCT, with be transformative and draw many away from the center. Even the future BRT stations seem to be planned to be away from the center. Why ride the long escalators at the north end of the station up to an empty plaza, when you will soon be able to take six high speed elevators up to a much more vibrant and walkable entertainment district? Of course the offices and Hyatt will still draw business traffic, and the night life of the wide variety of dining in the Triangle will still be a draw. I think that Brookfield and SOM will have to work very hard to create a reason to goor stay in the center.

An outdoor movie once a month in the the new plaza, and a few coffee shops, will not be enough to create a lively, vital and desireable destination to make this any more that the current “business district” of Bethesda. Perhaps a really strong anchor retail tenant or two could help. Maybe an Amazon Books or a large designation retailer like a new flagship Apple Store could be a start. It almost seems that Bethesda could become bifurcated into two districts if the center does not get enough thoughtful planning and energy.

Anonymous said...

Great comment above, 9:29. Thanks. And thanks for the article, Dyer, very interesting.

Anonymous said...

It is actually quite ironic the former food court has been occupied by Street Sense, a firm who is famous for the development, design, planning and execution of a wide variety of great urban spaces. Of course their presence does not make the Metro Plaza any better than any other office tenant, but I can’t help but think of all those creative minds designing cool urban spaces for other cities, while Metro Center seems to languish.

Yes the new retail lining the base of the Hyatt might be a start. Too bad they will still have the massive glass covered drop off area on Wisconsin. It really diminishes any hope of a lively pedestrian streetscape for a large part of the block. The remodeling of the post office into a fitness center appears to be a great adaptive reuse. It looks like the planned parking lot on the south side might be used as an outdoor exercise courtyard, which is a very good improvement. Hopefully they keep some openness to the public walkway to help enliven the streetscape. It seems to me that a bunch of folks doing exercise outside would be a good marketing effort as well.

The Clark Building is sad, and contributes very little to the streetscape. Maybe their apparent truce with Brookfield may allow an integrated approach to create a pedestrian walkway with ground floor retail on BOTH sides, with a cohesive design for planting, street furniture and lighting. Imagine how less vibrant Bethesda Lane would be if retail was only on one side. Maybe a good time to open up their base and create a more porous environment, even on the Old Georgetown Road side.

It is interesting that the very nice retail in the base of the Element 28 sits vacant for so long. I guess it proves that it takes a concerted effort of many developers working together to really make a difference.

I see that Brookfield is showing a vegetated plaza that folds up to create a covered entrance for new escalators and stairs to the Metro. I hope SOM can create a unique and memorable entrance for the Metro, and not rely on the generic curving glass canopy we see on so many Metro entrances. I hope they can be very clever and improve the bus bay finishes, lighting and street furniture.

The multimodal transit options should celebrated at this site, and expressed as a kinetic feature, not just a diesel fuel coated semi-scary place to wait. Maybe think about how street musicians help activate the space and create a more dedicated venue that they can perform. Maybe create some seating to pause and enjoy a bit of street music before or after your commute. Better lighting, and better ventilation would help as well. Think of the to- of the escalators as a true gateway to Bethesda, and not just a dirty bus area with a frequently non-working fountain and some poorly executed murals.

Anonymous said...

Give the guy a break. He obviously attended the meeting and was only able to grab photos of the projected images as presented. Clearly the developer did not release images as part of a press release. I actually;say found them quite readable, given the circumstances of the meeting.

Maybe Robert could contact the developer to discover a PDF of the presentation that he could post.

Anonymous said...

Robert, did you ask any questions during the presentation?

Steve said...

Having photos of the proposed development is a great addition!