Apex owners working to solve Bethesda Purple Line Station issue -- Gazette.Net


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The owner of the Apex building in downtown Bethesda — the site where state and county planners want to build the “optimal” station for the western terminus of the $2.2 billion Purple Line — has hired a consultant to assess the feasibility of the proposed plan.

In a statement released Oct. 15, David Witmer, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ senior vice president and COO, said the company was willing to work with Montgomery County on finding a mutually beneficial arrangement regarding the building at 7272 Wisconsin Ave.

Planners want to tear down the Apex building, which also houses the Bethesda Regal 10 movie theater, to build an “optimal” Bethesda station, which would allow access to both the Purple Line and Metro’s Red Line, according to county documents. The Purple Line is a planned 16-mile light rail linking Bethesda and New Carrollton.

Without tearing down the Apex building, the station’s platform would have to fit into the existing tunnel, planners have said. If the tunnel is rebuilt, it can be widened to make it safer and more accommodating for passengers.

But the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, which has about 40,000 members, employs about 200 people and has been in Bethesda for more than 45 years — the last 20 in the Apex building — learned of this only a short while ago, Witmer said.

And the Maryland Transit Administration has said it wants an answer by the end of the year.

That leaves little time for the nonprofit to process a lot of information, said David Silver, a lawyer with Holland & Knight, which is representing the owner.

Questions involve where the organization could find a comparable building to move to, how much it would cost to redevelop and what would be a reasonable sales price after new zoning and amenity incentives are taken into account.

“We need to be put back into a better position than we are in today,” Silver said.

Purple Line planners have acknowledged the need to sweeten the incentives for the owner to get on board, and that increasing the building’s allowed density after redevelopment won’t be enough. From $5 million to $10 million in public money might be needed to offset the costs related to the owner moving out of the Apex building, according to a county economic analysis.

To help figure all this out, the organization has hired a consultant and plans to hire an architect and engineer to evaluate the situation and put together a proposal, Silver said.

“It’s very disruptive, but they are trying to fulfill their responsibility to the community, and to their members,” Silver said.

ablum@gazette.net