Can large condominium projects improve the aesthetics of an urban park? In the case of Bethesda's Battery Lane Urban Park, the answer may be yes. Montgomery County has approved a plan to renovate and improve the degraded Woodmont Triangle park, at the expense of local condominium developers.
Planning is complete, with upgrades that will retain the general feel and facilities of Battery Park, while seeking to "enhance both active and passive recreation opportunities" within. Potential enhancements include a widened bike path, more attractive park entrances, relocation of utilities underground, a new gathering area for picnics, enlargement of the playground, and, less predictably, adding an "art and science theme into the site furnishings." Landscape architect Oculus has already prepared a detailed project plan, which the county approved, though the project would still require construction documents.
The wrinkle? The $2.1m price tag for planning and construction. The initial planning documents were picked up by Polinger, Shannon and Luchs, the developer, on paper, of the nearby Rugby Condominium, a 61-unit project at 4851 Rugby Avenue that has yet to break ground, in lieu of public space amenities the developer would have been required to build. The Rugby condo developer had been rebuffed in its efforts to build a 10-story, 71-unit building to the immediate southeast of the park, but a little shrinkage (to 9 stories) and a donation for park love helped cement approval, but construction on the condo shows no signs of commencement. But that still leaves the county to come up with the remainder of the $2.1m, which, according to MNCPPC, the county is not even close to. Perhaps a few more condo projects could overcome the shortfall.
Architects envision regrading the layout and replacing weed trees with native hardwoods, while removing some of the trees that block sitelines through the park. The extreme makeover also foresees acquisition of the two properties at the southern end of the park for better frontage along Rugby Avenue. Planners will likely close the park for the duration of construction, but that has yet to be determined. "The trick was to add and improve features to the park without damaging the things that people enjoy" said Justin Aff, a landscape architect with Oculus, who noted "alot of drainage issues" in the park at present. Oculus has also designed southwest waterfront metro plaza, which is in the final stage of construction. Polinger would not comment for this story.