Tuesday, May 05, 2009

JBG Discusses Plans for Bethesda Row


With preliminary approvals from the Montgomery County Planning Board in place as of last Thursday, the JBG Companies say they are now actively in development on Woodmont East, the large-scale, mixed-use project set to usurp the last vacant parcel adjoining Bethesda Row. Since first going public with the project in 2007, the project has lost one key component - a planned hotel that has since been revised as 208,579 square feet of office space. Meanwhile, the Capital Crescent Trail that bisects the site will remain open for, at the very least, most of the construction period.

"The amendment to the project and preliminary plan amended the use of that southern bit from hotel to office. Otherwise, not much changed…We did some modifications to the open space based on comments from the community. We did some modifications to the building, but not much. The envelope and the height have been pretty much intact from 2007 on,” said Matt Blocher, Senior Vice President at JBG. “It’s within the same density. They’re both commercial use and they’re both the same size buildings. It was purely market driven. “

Located at the intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues, Woodmont East will feature one tower of office space and a second with 250 residential units and 9,000 square feet of retail. Dividing them will be a landmark well-known to area outdoor aficionados - the Capital Crescent Trail.

“The trail will come right through the two of them,” said Blocher. “As far as what happened at the hearing, [the approval] permits us to close the trail for up to five days at a time if there is significant construction procedures. At this point, we’re not sure if we'll need to close it, except for at the end of the job when we have to do the paving.”

Joining JBG on the development team are Shalom Baranes Architects, as well the developers of neighboring Bethesda Row and owners of half of the Woodmont site, Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRT). Though both developers had initially filed separate site plans for the project in 2007, Kai Reynolds, a Partner at JBG, tells DCmud that the two have been working closely together since the development was first proposed.

“It was the same site plan [that was filed]. That’s just part of the venture. We have been together with FRIT on these efforts for about nine years now. It’s definitely a joint venture,” said Reynolds.

While Bethesda-ites and the developers alike are certainly hoping for repeat of the success of Bethesda Row, both will have to wait for development to get physical. Though nearing the end of the formal approval process, JBG concedes that there are still several key components that need to be worked out before construction can proceed.

"It’s still pretty far off because we haven’t yet begun to design the building beyond the site plan guidelines required by Montgomery County. Design and permitting is anywhere from 12 to 24 months, and then construction is 24 months,” said Reynolds.

Bethesda, MD, real estate development news

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