Thursday, April 16, 2009

Donohoe Galvanizes Bethesda Development in the Woodmont Triangle


The Donohoe Development Company is in the early design and planning stages on what looks to be the largest mixed-use project to hit Bethesda since Bethesda Row went and upped the area’s chi-chi quotient a few basis points (see this month’s issue of Forbes for proof). Now, on the other side of town, in the decidedly less dapper (but getting there) Woodmont Triangle area, Donohoe has teamed with WDG Architecture to realize Woodmont Central: a multi-phase, mixed-use project that will bring office space, retail and, yes, apartments to Wisconsin Avenue and beyond.

Within the next few years, Phase 1A, as Donohoe is calling it, will be the 8280 Wisconsin - a commercial complex with 80,792 square feet of Class A office space, along with 10,820 square feet of ground floor retail, at the corner of Battery Lane and Wisconsin Avenue. At present, it's the site of a Texaco that boasts the area’s only car wash. Unfortunately for area auto buffs, both will be razed prior to build out. It will, however, be the first sign of new development at the very same intersection that had previously been slated to host the now indefinitely on hold Trillium Condominiums.

In a first for Woodmont Triangle development, Donohoe's office building will be followed by Phases1B and 2 - but not at the same site. It’s a split that will allow the development team to benefit from a recent amendment to Bethesda zoning statutes. Said Jad Donohoe, Donohoe's Development Director:

[The parcels] are three blocks apart, but in the same project…Back in 2006 there was an amendment to the Bethesda Sector Plan for the Woodmont Triangle. For the first time it allowed this transfer of density between sites that aren’t contiguous or are even across the street from each other…It’s a new idea and the thought was that because there is such fragmented ownership in that section of Bethesda, this would be a way to bring the density needed to make more of a Bethesda Row-type of experience. If you look at what Federal Realty Trust did on Bethesda Row, those things have been happening on that side of Bethesda for 10 years. By contrast, Woodmont Triangle has been kind of struggling. This is the solution and it’s one of the first projects to take advantage of that provision.

And take advantage they shall. Currently the home to a surface parking lot and "some old two-story buildings", the corner of Rugby and Del Ray Avenues will eventually host The Gallery at Bethesda - a high-rise with 457 rental apartments (including 51 MPDUs), 9,051 square feet of ground floor retail and public park that Donohoe describes as being comparable in size and scope to the nearby Veteran’s Park. "It’s really going to be one of the few green spots there in the Woodmont Triangle for public space,” said Donohoe.

Though still “a couple years away from breaking ground,” Donohoe speculates that "The Gallery will be home to approximately 900 new Bethesdans, with occupancy beginning in 2013. 8280 Wisconsin will deliver in late 2012." The team's first project plan was filed with the Montgomery County Planning Board in January and they're currently scheduled to make a second appearance before the Board on April 23rd. Bethesda real estate is for sale.

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