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Developer Proposes Townhouse Community In Bethesda Office Park

By Aaron Kraut

Monday - 7/7/2014, 9:00am  ET

Overhead image of Rock Spring office park, via Montgomery County Planning Department Site plan of EYA-proposed townhome community at Rock Spring Park, via Montogmery County Planning Department

Developer EYA will seek approval to build 168 townhouses smack in the middle of a suburban office park.

Bethesda-based EYA will go to the Montgomery County Planning Board on July 17 with plans for the townhome community in an area of Bethesda that has been predominantly commercial office for a very long time.

The 10-acre property is across Fernwood Road from the corporate headquarters of Marriott International and a short walk along Rockledge Drive to the corporate headquarters of Lockheed Martin. A building constructed for IBM in the 1960s sits just north of the site, an empty swath of land reserved for two more office buildings and a parking garage.

But Montgomery County office vacancy rates remain in the double-digits, there are new ways of working that require less office space and some federal government agencies — the primary drivers of the local office market — are downsizing or consolidating.

Rendering of EYA-proposed townhome community for Rock Spring Park, via Montgomery County Planning DepartmentThings have improved significantly in Rock Spring office park since the recession. A July 2012 report by management company Transwestern showed that 6710 Rockledge Drive was 76 percent vacant and 6700 Rockledge Drive was 63 percent vacant. Other buildings were 25 percent vacant.

Listings now show the 6710 Rockledge Drive building is 65 percent leased and the 6700 Rockledge Drive building is 78 percent leased. Those figures should be helped by NIH, which is reshuffling its Bethesda office portfolio to the benefit of those buildings.

Still, the improvement apparently wasn’t enough to warrant holding the land for future office projects. County planners, while recognizing that the area’s master plan “did not specifically recommend residential uses” for the site, recommended approval of the townhouse community project.

The developer is offering the county right-of-way along Fernwood Drive for a future North Bethesda Transitway, which would run bus rapid transit from White Flint to Westfield Montgomery mall.

BRT station and route along Fernwood Drive, via Montgomery County Planning DepartmentEYA is proposing a total of 304 parking spots, which is actually 32 parking spots fewer than required by county code. The applicant is asking for a waiver of those spots, claiming that it will offer residents two-car garages that could prevent any issues.

The townhouse community has also worked out a deal to use 72 parking spaces for guest overflow parking in a next-door office parking garage.

The project will require a school facilities payment at the middle school and high schools level, as nearby Walter Johnson High School is over capacity.

Images via Montgomery County Planning Board