Bethesda slated for high end hotel -- Gazette.Net


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Parking lots to close

In late January, two surface parking lots at the intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues will close for 30 months during a construction project that will more than triple public parking spaces.
On Lots 31 and 31A, developers StonebrideCarras of Bethesda and PN Hoffman from Washington, D.C., will build two residential buildings with 250 units and retail space at ground level.
The lots have 279 spaces that will be replaced by an underground parking garage with 290 private parking spaces and 940 public spaces. One to two months after the project begins, Woodmont Avenue between Bethesda Avenue and Leland Street will close for about 20 months. The Capital Crescent Trail will remain open. Construction is expected to be complete in the summer of 2013.
The county will convert 103 longterm spaces at the Bethesda-Elm Parking Garage, between Bethesda Avenue and Elm Street, to four-hour spaces. A new messaging system at the garage’s entrance will show drivers how many parking spaces are available.
Alternatives for longterm parking include the Woodmont Corner Garage, Garage 11, at Woodmont Avenue and Old Georgetown Road, the Auburn-Del Ray Garage, Garage 36, and privately operated parking facilities surrounding Lot 31. Longterm parkers can also use the free Bethesda Circulator shuttle bus. Information on the circulator service is available at www.bethesda.org/lot31.
For information on parking in Montgomery County’s public lots and garages, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/parking.
Source: Montgomery County Office of Public Information

The days could be numbered for the Bethesda Court Hotel.

The 74-room boutique hotel at 7740 Wisconsin Ave. is slated to become a Westin Hotel, thanks to a redevelopment project in the Woodmont Triangle by owner The Bernstein Companies.

“We will be on the high end of the Westin spectrum,” said Marc Duber, executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Bernstein Companies.

If approved by county officials, Bernstein would raze the Bethesda Court Hotel, Japanese restaurant Tako Grill, and the Connor Building, a two-story commercial building, Duber said. The Bernstein Companies will work with tenants on a relocation plan, but a timeline has yet to be determined.

The project, known as the Bethesda Center, will go before the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday for a project plan review and preliminary plan review. The project was introduced last summer to county staff and adjacent property owners.

County planners recommended approval of the project plan and preliminary plan reviews, subject to more than a dozen conditions, including granting an easement to the Department of Transportation to install a bike-share station, preferably on Woodmont.

It is the kind of project downtown Bethesda needs — more office and hotel space, said County Planner Rose Krasnow.

County officials realized the need for more hotel space in the county during the 2009 AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club, said Ken Hartman, regional director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center. Despite a tournament located in Bethesda, players and their families stayed in northern Virginia hotels due to a lack of upscale hotels in the county.

Krasnow suspects a similar situation repeated itself during last year’s U.S. Open, which also was held at Congressional. She said hotels in northern Virginia are almost as close as some parts of Montgomery County, and they tend to be built on a grander scale.

There are 1,200-1,500 hotel rooms in downtown Bethesda, said Stephanie Coppula, a spokeswoman for the Bethesda Urban Partnership, a nonprofit that handles landscaping, maintenance and marketing of downtown.

“It seems to be exactly what’s needed,” Hartman said. “The fact that they have a signed hotel is such a good sign for the economy and such a good sign for Bethesda.”

County planners are seeing more projects in Bethesda, Krasnow said.

“We are definitely seeing a flurry of activity right now,” she said. “Developers see a lot of opportunity for hotel and apartments.”

There are a variety of hotel and apartments in varying stages of development in downtown Bethesda. Woodmont 7200 at the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont venues will include a hotel, retail, offices and residences.

Across the street is the Lot 31 project by Bethesda’s StonebrideCarras and Washington, D.C.-based PN Hoffman. They will construct two residential buildings with 250 units, retail space at ground level, and an underground parking garage with 940 public spaces.

“We have certainly talked to other people recently about sites where they would put a hotel,” Krasnow said.

The Bethesda Center is two buildings built above a 760-space underground parking garage, according to planning documents.

The south structure would be a 12-story hotel with a lobby facing Woodmont Avenue and retail facing Wisconsin Avenue at street level.

To the north would be an 11-story office building with lobby and retail space facing Wisconsin Avenue, and additional retail facing Woodmont Avenue. Buildings would be separated by a 35- to 40-foot wide pedestrian walkway connecting Woodmont and Wisconsin avenues.

Both buildings will have at least a 50 percent green roof, which covers a building at least partially with vegetation, and the project is designed to achieve at least a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Silver certification.

The Washington, D.C.,-based U.S. Green Building Council is a nonprofit dedicated to sustainable development. Developed by the council, LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a green building certification system.

The Bernstein Companies purchased the hotel about 25 years ago with the intention of redeveloping the block, Duber said.

“We’ve really been waiting for Bethesda to be ready for a project of this quality,” he said. “We’re patient and we’re committed to Bethesda.”

jablamsky@gazette.net