Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Washington Property Company unveils plan for La Madeleine site in Bethesda (Photos)

The property currently home to La Madeleine at 7607 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda hasn't changed much since the restaurant opened in 1990. But what is around it has, leaving the suburban-style eatery with surface parking to stand out among increasingly-dense downtown Bethesda. That will change, under a new plan unveiled by developer Washington Property Company at a public meeting last night in Bethesda.

One of the owners' daughters was at the meeting; the owners are in their 90s, and decided to sell to WPC. Attorney Bob Dalrymple represented WPC, and had to address the biggest issue in the room - residents' disappointment over the pending demise of La Madeleine.

"We don't want to lose it," one attendee said. Residents compared the loss of La Madeleine to the recent shuttering of Barnes & Noble, as the loss of a community gathering space, citing its atmosphere of "community and warmth." Some expressed a desire to have the French cafe return in the ground floor of the new building. Dalrymple cautioned them not to get their hopes up, noting that such an outcome would require mutual interest by the restaurant and WPC.

An employee of La Madeleine in attendance said high rent was the reason the Pike & Rose outpost of the chain closed. Rents aren't likely to be cheap in a new building in 20814 - that's just the reality of a jurisdiction that places massive taxes and costs on property owners.

What the new building will have, is 200 residential units and a modest 2500-2700 SF of ground floor retail. Dalrymple said the developer would like curb cut access from Old Georgetown and Commerce Lane, but that the Maryland State Highway Administration may restrict access to Commerce.

There were essentially no architectural or design details presented last night, but some massing diagrams were displayed. The building could be up to 225' tall.

Dalrymple said WPC plans to submit its Sketch plan to the County this month, with a Development Review Committee scheduled for April. A public hearing would likely be held by the Planning Board in June. If approved, the Preliminary and Site plans would be submitted in September, with a hearing on those held by the board in January 2019. Groundbreaking would begin as soon as just six months later, with an estimated delivery of the building in June 2021.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I understand having high density near metro but that is a tall building for a small space. That stretch of Old G Rd right in front of it is already a traffic jam every day at evening rush. Hope they don't close down a lane like the building one block up did when it was built. Going to be a mess!

Anonymous said...

Dyer finally covering a story about a development without a cemetery issue even after months of hints about it on this blog. Congrats, maybe the WBJ is looking for an intern...

Anonymous said...

5:29, what did WBJ do to you?

Anonymous said...

"the reality of a jurisdiction that places massive taxes and costs on property owners."

Um, no. The property taxes are high and increasing in Bethesda because land is very valuable - people want to live, work and shop here. Property taxes are based on the assessed value of the property.

All this kvetching from someone who has never paid a penny of property tax in his life.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a nice slender tower only steps from the Metro and Marriott HQ. I can imagine that if even 3% of the Marriott’s 3500 employees lived there, they could easily lease 1/2 of the units alone. I bet Marriott would lease a bunch just for their executives. Looks like a nice way to have more folks overlooking the central green space of Bethesda Place, and hopefully activate that area a bit. It would be nice if their amenities included access to the courtyard on the second level. Ho-wfully they can work with their neighbor to improve that space.

I do wish they would eliminate the garage entrance on Old Georgetown, and expand the retail for that whole frontage. 2500 SF is really only a token sized retail space, and if that could be increased to about 4000 SF, they would have a better chance to entice a much better tenant.

Of course I do not like the above grade parking portion, with blank facades, and suggest a deeper below grade parking would be a good idea. I believe the county is also concerned about the second parking entrance, and the small size of the retail. Maybe they could create a double layer of retail, with the upper level fronting on the courtyard.

With the nearby existing parking decks, primarily used for daytime office parking, I bet they could live with way les that 0.75 spaces per unit. Office nd residential uses are perfect for reciprocal shared parking arrangements, with peak parking demand and different times for each use.

Of course we all love La”Madeline, but if they want to cash in their chips on this very valuable site, I can see their motivation. You have got to sell quite a bit of Potato Leek soup to tie up this site that apparently can support a very tall building. Obviously the closure of their restaurant at Pike and Rose is a sign that like all retailers and restaurant owners, location and the value of the land are very important to their investment.

If they really want to stay in town, I suggest they could move into the Redwood space on Bethesda Lane, but I suspect they would have to charge $20 for that cup of soup to make their rent. It’s very good soup, but it’s not that good...

Anonymous said...

Great straight news reporting!

Were there any details on how the building connects to the higher level space?

Is the service corridor a drive in loading dock?

Anonymous said...

"Rents aren't likely to be cheap in a new building in 20814 - that's just the reality of a jurisdiction that places massive taxes and costs on property owners."

Robert, your poor grasp of basic economics never fails to embarrass. Rents are as high as the property owners can charge and that will always be the case. Federal Realty's fed tax rate was just cut by a third; do you see them lowering rents out of the kindness of their hearts? Of course not - they'll simply pocket the additional money or increasing their shareholder dividend.

Anonymous said...

Only the street level plan was shown, but it showed a single vehicular entrance off of Commerce that included access to the loading areas and to the ramp down to lower parking levels. A bit of coordination between device vehicles and folks entering and leaving the 100 or so spaces on the lower level will be required.

They also showed two levels of above grade parking with about 50 more spaces, accessed from Old Georgetown. This is the drive that apparently the county is not happy with.

About 150 total spaces on all levels, for 200 apartments.

They did say that no access from level two to the courtyard was planned, but they planned to work with the neighbor to improve the courtyard.

Anonymous said...

@6:54 AM

What the heck are you talking about Marriott leasing space for its executives? When's the last time you saw a company lease space for its employees? Employees must buy or rent homes on their own.

Not Me said...

Loss of community gathering space?

Maybe Bethesdans should go to church, synagogue or a mosque more often.

Anonymous said...

La Madeline was leaving anyway. They closed their locations in Silver Spring and North Bethesda just last year, and now this one is closing. I doubt "rents" are the only factor. We'll see how long the Gaithersburg and Columbia locations stick around.

It's a fish out of water anyway since its mostly a Southern chain, plus a few outposts in Maryland.

Anonymous said...

It’s pretty hilarious when residents complain about businesses going under or leaving in situations like this.

Roald said...

Have those folks worried about La Madeleine leaving tried Le Pain Quotidien on Bethesda Lane? That could be a similar meeting place for them.

Anonymous said...

"that's just the reality of a jurisdiction that places massive taxes and costs on property owners."

Okay, now explain why rents are just as high in your beloved Northern Virginia.

"When's the last time you saw a company lease space for its employees?"

It actually happens quite frequently. Large international companies rent apartments for executives making extended visits from remote outposts all the time. Even with the HQ hotel, Marriott will still probably need to lease at some apartments.

"I do wish they would eliminate the garage entrance on Old Georgetown"

Agreed. Old Georgetown isn't living up to its potential as a high-activity pedestrian boulevard. More curb cuts and blank walls will only make it worse.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

From your lips to God's ears!

Anonymous said...

Commerce is pretty much just a loading dock too.

Anonymous said...

What they all mean by "community gathering space" is "somewhere I can park myself at a table/chair for hours and hours while spending less than $10, usually on a single coffee." Free/nearly free hangout space. Unfortunately, basic economics makes this not very business friendly. See?

May I suggest the county library as an alternative, rather than another restaurant that would, by all rights, prefer to actually turn a profit and pay its bills?

Or, as someone else suggested, a church. Lots of social things happening, plenty of free seats, and the possibility of a little soul-cleansing. Bargain city.

Anonymous said...

The county/state should nix the Old Georgetown entrance and the county should require more retail at ground level. 2,500 sq feet is tiny and probably could only attract a bank.