Blasting restarts at Lot 31 site in Bethesda -- Gazette.Net


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Blasting at the Lot 31 construction site in Bethesda started up again Friday as crews excavate the property to build a mixed-use development and parking garage.

Construction crews are blasting through a layer of dense, hard rock as they clear space for a parking garage. The finished development at the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues will include 88 condominiums, 162 apartments, commercial space and a 950-car parking garage, according to a December 2011 press release from developers StonebridgeCarras and PN Hoffman. The site used to be a surface parking lot.

Doug Firstenberg, principal at StonebridgeCarras, said he expects the blasting during excavation to continue for a few more weeks.

“Construction will be finished about two years from now,” he said. “We’re in the excavation phase, so we’re working to the bottom of the hole.”

The excavation is about 80 percent finished now, Firstenberg said, and will be done in about two months. After that, crews can start pouring concrete and building back up, he said.

Clark Construction began the first round of blasting at the site Dec. 5, when the excavation reached a level of dense, hard rock. The Washington Post reported that some people near the blast site initially thought the noise and shaking buildings were due to meteors, car crashes or earthquakes.

At Amethyst, a jewelry boutique on Bethesda Avenue near Lot 31, manager Karen Cirrito said the construction has caused problems for the store.

“Nobody comes in,” she said. “Everybody complains about the parking. Everybody complains about the noise, the traffic. Everybody says they’d rather come anywhere than Bethesda, actually.”

Cirrito said she understands closing the parking lot to build a garage with more capacity, but in the meantime, customers have a harder time finding a place to park.

Firstenberg said inspectors checked nearby houses before blasting started and will check them again at different stages in the work to determine whether it caused any damage.

“The reality is, when you develop in an urban area ... there might be some level of impact on homes,” he said. “We have businesses and homes literally adjacent to the site, so we’re taking all the precautions that seem prudent and wise.”

Not everyone in the neighborhood is feeling the effects of the blasts.

Nina Malek, manager of Aveda Bethesda Salon and Spa across Bethesda Avenue from the construction site, said the blasting has not really caused problems for her business. When the blasting started in December, she said Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns Bethesda Row, warned her the construction might cause some tremors.

“We didn’t really hear anything,” Malek said.

Bethesda Urban Partnership posts updates about the construction at bethesda.org/lot31.

ewaibel@gazette.net