Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Final stage of Bethesda Row opens, wins praises

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Charles E. Shoemaker⁄ The Gazette
The latest addition to the Bethesda Row complex in downtown Bethesda, as seen from Bethesda Avenue. The building will include close to twenty new restaurants and shops, as well as 180 apartments. Some shops opened in late April, and the grand opening for the complex is slated for June 14.
Over the past few weeks, the final stage of Bethesda Row, a multi-use mix of retail and restaurants, has been completed and tenants and shoppers alike are flocking to the new space.

The site, between Elm Street and Bethesda Avenue in downtown Bethesda, adds 43,000 square feet of new space to the 477,000 square feet of space that already includes Barnes and Noble and the Apple Store. Above the buildings is Upstairs at Bethesda Row, a 180-unit luxury apartment complex.

‘‘What we tried to do is look at what we already have and expand on it,” said Ralph Ours, senior leasing associate for Federal Realty Investment Trust, the owner of the property. ‘‘We wanted to continue our retail base, and I think we’ve brought a lot of personality to the area.”

Already open are women’s clothing and shoe stores lucy, The Little Shoe Box and Ginger, as well as furniture store Urban Country and beauty supply store bluemercury. Slated to open in upcoming weeks are the restaurants Redwood and Lebanese Taverna, as well as close to a dozen more shops and restaurants.

Upstairs at Bethesda Row, though not open, is 40 percent leased, said Robin McBride, vice president of asset management, East Coast, for Federal Realty. McBride said the company is happy with the rate of rentals, and the apartments’ location in the market makes them desirable.

‘‘The fact that what we’re offering is something unique is important,” she said. ‘‘There aren’t a lot of luxury apartments in Bethesda for rent, so we set ourselves apart.”

She said that many of the luxury units available in Bethesda are for sale, and not for rent. Rent prices range from $2,200 a month for a one-bedroom apartment to $3,600 a month for two bedrooms.

In terms of urban design, the extension of Bethesda Row is a winner, said Lisa Rother, executive director of the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit real estate research and education group based in Washington.

‘‘This makes good planning sense,” she said. ‘‘It completes Bethesda Row and makes the pedestrian experience there very good.”

The new shops front Elm Street, Arlington Road and Bethesda Avenue. Between Elm Street and Bethesda Avenue is a new private, one-way road nicknamed ‘‘Bethesda Lane,” Ours said. The street can be opened or closed depending on demand for traffic or shop owners’ whims, he said.

Retail and resident parking is available under the new building; about 240 spaces are open for residents, while another 225 are available to shoppers and restaurant goers. The parking garage is owned and maintained by Federal Realty, and is not county-regulated.

For shop owners already in their retail spaces, like Janie Griffin, owner of the high-end shoe boutique The Little Shoe Box, the space works.

‘‘We wanted something that was going to give us that feeling of urban, yet very charming,” she said. ‘‘And so far we have no complaints.”

The shop opened for business in late April.

A grand opening for the entire plaza is scheduled for June 14.

New shoppingand dining

Close to 20 shops and restaurants have already opened or will open in the latest phase of Bethesda Row, located between Elm Street and Bethesda Avenue in downtown Bethesda. They are:

Clothing and apparel: lucy, The Little Shoe Box, Ginger, Urban Chic, Tickled Pink, J. McLaughlin, City Sports, lululemon athletic, Tugooh Toys⁄ Yiro Children’s Clothing

Food and restaurants: Dolcezza Gelato, Le Pain Quotidien, Cork and Fork, Lebanese Taverna, Redwood Restaurant and Bar, Cacao

Beauty: bluemercury, Salon Cielo

Furniture: Urban Country