The first building of LCOR's $850 million, 32-acre, four-architect North Bethesda Center project will open its doors this Sunday. The "luxury rental" Wentworth House apartment building is the first of four residential towers in the ginormous project that will encompass eight city blocks, and will include 1,274 multifamily housing units at its completion. With 930,000 s.f. of office space designed by HOK, a 220,000 s.f., 320-room Westin Hotel, and 202,000 s.f. of retail space designed by Cooper Carry, including a Harris Teeter grocery store, the former golf course above the White Flint Metro welcomes the first of its many occupants this weekend.
Despite the ambitiousness of the plans, tenants in the 18-story, 312-unit building, designed by Dorsky Hodgson Parrish Yue, may be a little lonely in the short term. Developers said it will be another two-and-a-half years before we see another residential tower on the site; the team hopes to break ground by the end of the year. The second and third towers, Westmoreland House and Winthrop House, designed by WDG Architecture, will come around the same time as the first office building - in the last quarter of 2010.
Developers will treat half of the new tenants to a view of the first green-roofed Harris Teeter in the chain, when the store opens in October, giving them something nice to look at until they have neighbors. "The green roof is really an amenity to a lot of the residents in the first tower. Half of the units will overlook that instead of a normal unsightly roof with mechanical equipment. It really will be very nicely landscaped," said Mike Smith, Project Executive at LCOR.
"We came up with L-shaped design so there were minimal residential units right on top of the grocery store. Visually, it helps the majority of the residents because it looks out on a nice green roof. We also wanted to give the main entrance a strong identity because the lobby faces the central green. The mezzanine level faces the park, in the Harris Teeter that is the prepared food and buffet area. Tenants in the office space will eventually come and use that," said Sandy Silverman, Partner at Dorsky Hodgson Parrish Yue.
"We used a variety of masonry to break up the scale and give it more of an urban look in a mid-suburban area. We want to make a more urban-looking area surrounded by office and retail. It will have a very different feel as more of the project is delivered," Silverman added.
"The notion was to create a center for North Bethesda, an emerging neighborhood at the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Nebel Street adjacent to the White Flint Metro Station. It has been a catalyst to stimulate development near the Metro. An early indication of success was the conference center built by the county that opened three years ago across from the station. The hotel that was built with it will double in size from 250 rooms to 450 rooms. So, there is a big push to put more density near the metro," Smith said.The massive project will also go green. Shooting for a Silver LEED rating, the project received a Smart Growth Recognition Award from the Urban Land Institute/Smart Growth Alliance in 2002 and was recognized as the Smart Growth Project of the Year in 2003 by the DC/Maryland Chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks.
But all that recognition hasn't gone to the developers' heads, "We've been buying a lot of green paint for the project, for some reason people give us credit for that" said Smith, referring not to the color of the paint, but its environmental qualities. "We do have the first green-roofed Harris Teeter in the chain of 160 stores, so that led the effort to embrace LEED within our company, but we have also able to broaden that to include tenants."
Located on Rockville Pike, the project will also include an eight-screen, below-grade movie theater/restaurant complex or a 43,000 s.f. health club as well as a 7,500 s.f. day care center and community room on the ground floor of the Wright House. The project will also feature a "Wishbone" suspension bridge over the metro tracks.
The developer specializes in large-scale, complex urban development with offices in the New York, Philadelphia, D.C., and San Francisco areas.