Mixed-use project proposed for vacant lot in Bethesda -- Gazette.Net


This report was updated at 4 p.m. May 1, 2012. An explanation follows the story.

The vacant Trillium lot could be home to 360 luxury apartments and a grocery, if plans are approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday.

The 1.6-acre property, 8300 Wisconsin Ave., is adjacent to the National Institutes of Health Open Space. A public courtyard will overlook the green space, and art will be integrated into the site, said Doug Firstenberg, a principal at StonebridgeCarras, which purchased the site about a year ago with Walton Street Capital.

We really support that, said Ginanne Italiano, executive director of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce. Its not the whole concept that the other organization had, but I think this is going to be an even better concept.

In 2006, the planning board approved as many as 200 residences. The project was proposed by developer Patrinely Group of Houston, before the collapse of the condo market left a block-long hole in downtown Bethesda.

Planning Board staff recommended approval with conditions, including LEED certification, with a good faith effort to achieve silver certification. LEED is a green building certification system that stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Certifications are certified, silver, gold, and platinum.

Other conditions include at least 12.5 percent moderately priced dwelling units, and onsite recreational facilities such as a swimming pool, indoor community space and indoor fitness facility.

The previous project included 25 percent moderately priced dwelling units and about 2,000 square feet within the main building for an arts incubator, which would have offered studio and exhibit space for emerging artists. The Bethesda Arts and Entertainment District offers tax breaks for artists who live in Montgomery County and work in Bethesda.

Some were sorry to see Stonebridge scrap the arts incubator.

Letters to the planning board from the East Bethesda Citizens Association, which represents 1,200 households; the Downtown Bethesda Condominium Association, which represents 830 condos; and Catriona Fraser, director of the Fraser Gallery in Bethesda, opposed eliminating the incubator.

Fraser said it would have provided local artists with affordable workspace, something that does not exist in Bethesda.

Firstenberg said Stonebridge had a different vision for the project, and the grocery will draw people to the site and help revitalize the area.

Stonebridge is hoping to break ground in the first quarter of 2013. Construction will last for about two years.

This report was updated to describe the LEED certification levels.