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Briefing Book Provides Facts, Figures Of Downtown Bethesda

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 3/21/2014, 11:25am  ET

Little Tavern, designated historic in 1994, now is home to Golden House  The Mrs. Withers' House at 7740 Old Georgetown Road has been deemed historic The Brooks Photographers Building at 7349 Wisconsin Ave. now is home to the Mustard Seed clothing shop
Wilson's Store and Post Office, also the Bethesda Community Paint and Hardware Store at 7250 Wisconsin Ave. was designated historic in 1986 The Bethesda Theatre, now home to the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club The Bethesda Post Office was in operation up to two years ago, and was designated historic in 1986

That tiny house that’s home to the Golden House Chinese carry out store on Wisconsin Avenue has actually been designated for historic designation.

That’s something you might not have known about downtown Bethesda that’s included in the Planning Department’s 56-page Bethesda Briefing Book, a must read for anyone interested in downtown Bethesda.

The book details historic properties, streetscaping challenges, how many cars pass through major intersections and a number of other tidbits.

Why is an ordinary looking Chinese restaurant historic?

Golden House used to be the Little Tavern, an early chain of hamburger restaurants that serves as a historical touchstone for today’s fast food restaurants. It is believed to have been constructed in 1939 and was one of four in the county (there were two in Silver Spring and one in Wheaton).

History — There are seven other sites designated historic in the downtown area, including the Madonna of the Trail statue, old Bethesda Post Office, Bethesda Farm Women’s Market and Bethesda Theatre.

There are also some less obvious ones, such as the old Brooks Photographers Building at 7349 Wisconsin Ave. It’s now the home of the Mustard Seed custom and vintage clothing shop.

Back in the late 1920′s, it was the home of Dr. Benjamin Perry, who had his office on the first floor and his residence above. Bethesda’s first dentist, Dr. Clendenin later took over the space. Then, longtime Bethesda business Brooks Photographers made it their own.

Parking — Many complain about finding parking in Bethesda. But according to the book, 32 percent of the overall parking space stock in public lots and garages goes unused.

Even without Lot 31 (currently under construction) the Planning Department says only 68 percent of the 6,180 total spots in downtown Bethesda were used, on average, in FY 2013. That, of course, has a lot to do with location and capacity.

Lot 28, the tiny lot of only 18 spots on Cordell Avenue, is 98 percent full on average. Garage 40, the garage of 327 spots near a busy row of restaurants and bars in Woodmont Triangle, was 89 percent full on average. Garage 57 at Bethesda Row and Elm Street has 890 spots and was 84 percent full on average.

Then there’s Garage 11, the largest garage in downtown Bethesda with 1,095 spaces at 7730 Woodmont Ave. From July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013 it was an average of just 48 percent full.

Employment — The number of jobs in downtown Bethesda in 2014 is estimated at 38,300, up from 35,000 in 2005. Those numbers don’t include NIH and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Those are two of the largest employers in the county that supply an additional 37,000 jobs combined, many in the facilities just north of the downtown.

Clark Construction Group is the largest employer in downtown Bethesda with more than 500 employees. Other major employers include Development Alternatives, Inc. (technical consulting services), ASIWorks, Inc. (payroll services), Capital Health Care Assoicates and EagleBank Commercial, a banking company. All employ between 250 and 499 people.

Commuters — Where do those people come from?

According to the Planning Department, only 2 percent live in Bethesda. Most people working in downtown Bethesda commute from other areas of montgomery County. Washington, D.C. residents account for 9 percent of “in-commuters,” and 26 percent of employees in the downtown are younger than 30.

Photos via Montgomery County Planning Department