The partnership is off between two major developers involved in one of Bethesda’s most prominent pieces of land, according to a Montgomery County planner.
In a County Council Planning Committee discussion of the open space at Bethesda Avenue and Woodmont Avenue, planner Elza Hisel-McCoy said the partnership of Federal Realty and JBG — the two that planned the Woodmont East project for the site — is no longer, leaving one of downtown Bethesda’s few open spaces with an uncertain future.
The space, which includes a grassy area and Capital Crescent Trail connection to the Wisconsin Avenue tunnel, sits in the middle of Federal Realty’s Bethesda Row development and JBG’s Bethesda Avenue office complex.
The Woodmont East project called for a hotel on the existing site, connected by a bridge to a 143-foot tall residential tower that would replace Federal Realty’s existing parking deck on Elm Street. The project would also the include the redevelopment of JBG’s office property on Bethesda Avenue.
In the same Monday discussion of the Bethesda Purple Line Station Minor Master Plan, Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase) said he wants to make sure the open space — known as Woodmont Plaza — is protected.
The original Woodmont East plan, presented in 2007, garnered much criticism from the community because of a lack of open and green space. The developers came back with a plan that provided for a bike path separated from regular traffic along Bethesda Avenue. Montgomery County abandoned its right-of-way for an unimproved Reed Street in 2009.
“This is one of these places that you really want to maximize and make sure, in no uncertain terms, whatever you end up doing in that space has to respect this public space,” Berliner said on Monday.
Hisel-McCoy said some resolution to Woodmont Plaza’s future could come as a result of the Bethesda Downtown Plan, the master plan that is just getting underway.