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Could Condemnation Be In Play For Apex Building?

By Aaron Kraut

Thursday - 9/26/2013, 4:40pm  ET

Rendering via Montgomery County Planning Department Rendering via Montgomery County Planning Department

Planning Department staff on Thursday revealed new renderings of what Bethesda Row could look like with the Purple Line station design it doesn’t want.

The county will be left with a 90-foot ventilation tower and “overflow” tracks that jut out near Bethesda Row Cinema if it can’t convince the owners of the Apex building to redevelop before construction of the Bethesda Purple Line station.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists owns the building and is also a tenant.

The renderings above show what the Bethesda Row plaza would look like with the non-preferred station. The new development on the right is now a small grassy area. The building on the left contains the Mon Ami Gabi restaurant and Bethesda Row Cinema.

Rendering via Montgomery County Planning DepartmentAn economic study presented to the Planning Board says $5 million to $10 million of public money could be required to make razing the building worthwhile for the owner, even if the county agrees to allow more density and height on a new building.

That prompted Planning Board Commissioner Casey Anderson to ask if the county should consider just condemning the property (7272 Wisconsin Ave.) in order to build the station and new Capital Crescent Trail tunnel.

“If the county just decided they wanted to take the building and start over, it sort of streamlines the thing,” Anderson said. “There are none of these negotiations with the tenants.”

The Board will defer to the County Council on any decision to take the building.

The Pharmacists group hired an attorney in August for representation in the process. David Silver, with D.C. firm Holland & Knight, said the group was not interested in considering any proposals from the county and state.

On Thursday, the Planning Board approved a draft mini-master plan for a public hearing on Nov. 7. The Maryland Transit Administration says it must have some sort of understanding on the future of the building and station by the end of the year or early next year. It hopes to begin construction on the 16-mile light rail system in 2015.

Renderings via Montgomery County Planning Department