Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bethesda Church Plays the Development Game

The Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bethesda-Chevy Chase in Woodmont Triangle is getting an education in what it means to be a developer - from parting ways with project team member Bozzuto Group, compromising with disgruntled neighbors, and now starting over after a zoning defeat. Back for more, the Church recently received two positive reviews from the Montgomery County Park and Planning staff and Montgomery County Planning Board and is waiting on two more from the County hearing examiner and then from the County Council. The process should commence in earnest by this June, God willing, when the search for an amenable development partner begins anew.

On the boards is an eight-story residential building with 107 residences and six-story church and community center, combined for an unlikely architectural partnering.

The original plan called for separation of church and, well, community center, but concerns raised by neighbors and the hearing examiner compelled the Church to adjust its plans and marry the two uses into one 53,000 s.f. structure, reducing the size of the overall project by 25,000 s.f. The church and community center will sit next to the new residential building. Virginia-based MTFA Architecture is the project architect.

The Church project will sit on two-acres, currently occupied by a church building and attached community center, several single-family homes and a surface parking lot, all of which will be razed. All parking for the new project will be in two levels of below-grade lots.

The Church originally partnered with Bozzuto in 2006. When the hearing examiner denied the application in 2007, thereby lengthening the development process, and the economic situation took a turn for the worse in 2008, the team "reevaluated" their relationship, according to Barry Lemley, the owner's representative for the church. Lemley said the partners looked into revising the sale agreement, but when "it became apparent we still had some differences, we agreed to not renew the sale agreement" in April 2009. The break up left the church without a private development partner and Bozzuto with the right of first refusal should the project be resurrected. Lauren McDonald, Manager of Corporate Communications at Bozzuto, confirmed that the company was "actually not involved in the project anymore."

"We are not your normal developer," said Lemley, "we are not in this for profit and we brought this to market - we were not approached by Bozzuto or another developer." Lemley was optimistic that the new plans would be approved and that either Bozzuto or another developer would come to the Church about partnering on the project. Lemley said the Church wants a developer to build the core of both structures and to finish the residential project. Another developer with expertise in such structures would likely work on the interior of the new church and community center. Suggestion: talk with First Baptist in Silver Spring to see how they're doing things, but MFTA has a similar project on the boards with the Views at Clarendon.

The building will include 17 moderately-priced dwelling units.

Bethesda real estate development news


Timothy R. Hughes on Mar 16, 2010, 4:10:00 PM said...

Interesting project.

FYI, it is MTFA Architects ...

Shaun on Mar 16, 2010, 4:23:00 PM said...

Oops. Corrected, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Its a bit unclear what we are looking at in the aerial photo. Where is the site? What are the streets?

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