Friday, March 02, 2018

Developer promises "adventurous and progressive" building on Auburn Ave. in Bethesda (Photos)

Auburn Building Associates, L.P. unveiled its plan for the site of the Auburn Professional Building and a parking lot, located at 4915-4921 Auburn Avenue in downtown Bethesda, at a public meeting last night. Backing up to single-family homes, and located across Auburn from Imagination Stage, the building's design is meant to be transitional between the urban downtown and adjacent residential neighborhood.
Promising an "adventurous and progressive" building, the development team noted the changes from a previous approved plan for their property. That building was essentially a uniform box, and had generated complaints for its size and shadow-casting potential. The new plan features a multi-tiered structure of varying heights. They plan to reduce the three existing curb cuts down to one, which will be on Auburn.
One of the major design goals of the project, is to create a pass-through for pedestrians to travel from Imagination Stage to Battery Lane Urban Park, which is scheduled for a major update under the Bethesda Downtown Plan passed last year. There is already an alleyway next to Imagination Stage, and the new Auburn building will have an alleyway through the middle of the property.

The new building will house 130-170 units, and 15% will be affordable MPDUs. An emphasis on strong design and high-quality materials will mesh well with the other new buildings in the Woodmont Triangle, two characteristics the Auburn's ownership feels are becoming the neighborhood's calling card. That design and engineering will come from the renowned architecture firm Shalom Baranes Associates and VIKA Engineering, a partnership representatives called "an amazing team of architects and engineers."

A restaurant with outdoor seating is envisioned for the ground floor retail space in the project. One nearby resident said he doubted a restaurant could be successful at that location, saying the area around it is too dead, but the owners feel new residential buildings nearby will boost foot traffic.

The building would have an internal service entry and loading dock, and more green shade than the site currently has. One disappointment that had to be worked around: the owner of the building next to the project on Norfolk Avenue refused to sell, forcing the project to wrap around it, and losing prominent visibility on the busier road.

One attendee of last night's meeting has leased office space in the Auburn Professional Building for thirty years, and was concerned about how soon it will be demolished. That won't happen before late 2019 at the earliest, according to the owners, who have owned the building for as long as that applicant has had an office there.

The applicant, represented by attorney Stacy Silber of Lerch, Early & Brewer in Bethesda, plans to file its sketch and preliminary plans in the next 30 days, with a potential public hearing before the Planning Board in late summer or fall. If successful, a site plan will follow.

One interesting thing about some of the
massing renderings - they have red outlines
of the heights allowed on the existing low-rise
properties around it

Old plan (left) vs. new plan (right)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The terraced building massing is a very nice gesture to those five single family houses on Glenbrook, and will certainly reduce the impact of this development. The large northwest facing roof terraces could be a great amenity for units on that side. I think the connection to the park is a bit forced, but does make the street level more porous, with some opportunity for semi-public passage through the site. Too bad they couldn’t include the building on Norfolk, the main street of the area. Maybe an ionic design for the wedge that does front on Norfolk would be a nice terminus for the street and mark the end of the mind-use district before is reduced back to single family housing.

Overall, a nice concept for a complicated site. I hope that Shalom Barnes can create some nice facades that don’t just melt into the fabric of the district. Something to draw folks down Norfolk, and visit the retail and restaurants in the base. This could be a nice foil to the very creative Imagination Theater facade, and really help define this end of the Triangle District with a nicely proportioned landmark building.

This will be a fun one to follow.