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JBG switches out office for more residential in Bethesda

By Aaron Kraut

Wednesday - 6/11/2014, 9:00am  ET

North Bethesda Market II rendering, via Montgomery County Planning DepartmentDeveloper JBG is switching out an approved office building and proposing an additional 80-unit residential building at part two of its North Bethesda Market project.

JBG Principal Greg Trimmer and architect Brian Pilot on Tuesday explained the change in a required public meeting, before the developer submits its amended plans to the Planning Board. The stalled out office market essentially froze the project, which will still feature a 300-foot apartment tower that would become the tallest building in Montgomery County.

The Planning Board approved the original plans in March 2012.

“The hold up has been two-fold. The office market is the weakest it’s been in 30 years. At this point, we don’t even see a medium-term recovery,” Trimmer said. “Also, the residential market has been exceptionally frothy.”

Rather than wait for an office market rebound, Trimmer indicated the developer wants to proceed with the project — and get its new residential units to the market before other major developers in White Flint/North Bethesda complete their projects.

Gone from the proposal is the office building planned to front Rockville Pike at the corner of the Pike and Executive Boulevard. In its place will be a two-story retail building. Between the corner and the existing mid-level office building at 11333 Woodglen Drive will go a 150-foot tall, 80-unit residential building that Trimmer said might end up being a condo.

The 25-story, roughly 400-unit tower that’s won acclaim for its design remains unchanged in the plans. The public plaza also remains unchanged, Pilot said. The movie theater planned to anchor the development is no longer in the plan. Trimmer said the new luxury theaters under construction at nearby Pike & Rose and Westfield Montgomery put attracting another theater off the table.

Pilot emphasized the public plaza during his presentation. The space will have an interactive fountain, wide staircase with public art and landscaping and could be closed off and transformed into a concert venue, outdoor movie festival or farmers market. Pilot said the space, which will be open to vehicle traffic, could easily fit 250 or 500 people.

This planned office building along Rockville Pike near Nicholson Lane is no longer part of JBG's NoBe II project, via Planning DepartmentThere will be an outdoor cafe space connected to the additional residential building. Trimmer said JBG figures to attract restaurant and design tenants, similar to its set up across Executive Boulevard at the existing North Bethesda Market.

The project would be built in phases. Phase one would include the two-story retail buildings along Rockville Pike, the 80-unit residential building and the plaza. Phase two would be the 300-foot tower. Phase three — which could be a long way off — would bring an improved office building to 11333 Woodglen, now the site of a mid-level office building on top of the Paladar restaurant.

Attorney Steven Robins, from the Bethesda-based firm of Lerch, Early & Brewer, said the group hopes to submit its amended plans to the Planning Department in the next couple of weeks. That would put JBG in front of the Planning Board in the fall and could mean the start of first phase construction in February 2015.

The units in the 300-foot-tall building will range from 525-square-foot studios to 2,000-square-foot luxury penthouses, with the bulk of apartments coming in the 850-900-square foot range.

Rendering via Montgomery County Planning Department