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Westbard Owner Asking For Public Support To Advance Redevelopment

By Aaron Kraut

Tuesday - 3/25/2014, 10:45am  ET

Westbard redevelopment area, via Equity OneThe company looking to bring mixed-use development to Westbard must first get it rezoned and it’s asking for the community’s support to do it.

Equity One, which hopes to redevelop much of the area surrounding the Giant Food store at 5400 Westbard Ave., sent an email on Tuesday asking residents to urge members of the County Council to move up the Westbard Sector Plan on the Planning Department’s work schedule.

Sector Plans provide studies and zoning guidelines for future development in an area. The Westbard Sector Plan, which was last looked at in 1982, is one of the oldest in the county.

While some have expressed reservations about additional density in the area, many residents have said they hope for more restaurants, better retail and a fresh look in the parking lot-filled shopping center that houses the Giant.

Equity One is asking people to send an email to the Council before its April 1 session, when its expected to review the Planning Department’s work schedule for the next fiscal year. The Westbard Sector Plan wasn’t even on a draft work schedule presented to the Planning Board in October:

Dear Council President Rice and Members of the County Council,

As a resident of the nearby community, I support the improvement and redevelopment of the Westwood Shopping Center and adjacent parcels owned by Equity One. I believe that an update of the Westbard Sector Plan is the appropriate way to study this redevelopment. I understand that you will soon be considering the timeline for the County’s review of this plan, which is the oldest in the County, and strongly support the initiation of this plan review as soon as possible.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

It is not uncommon for the Council to make changes to the Planning Department’s work schedule, especially if a developer is ready to move on a major piece of the plan area.

Last budget season, the Council agreed with the Planning Department’s recommendation to insert the Bethesda Purple Line Station Minor Master Plan Amendment, due to its time sensitive nature.

At a public meeting on March 18, Equity One presented its idea for a  a “signature” main street on Westbard Avenue with pedestrian crossings and upscale retailers to replace loading docks and driveways.

Residents who asked questions expressed reservations about additional traffic from new residential development and cut-thru traffic from drivers trying to travel between Massachusetts Avenue and River Road.

Some also said they were worried the shopping center’s existing businesses would be priced out. Equity One’s Michael Berfield promised to “make it economically reasonable for them to stay,” though the developer will look for large, national tenants.

Equity One bought Westwood Towers, Springhouse by Manor Care, Bowlmor Lanes and two Citgo stations last year and finalized the acquisition of Westwood Shopping Center and Westwood Center II early this year.

Photo via Equity One