Land Purchase Cost for New Bethesda Park Might Be Reduced

Agreement with state, sale of development rights could cut $8.5 million price in half


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County parks officials want to buy land near the intersection of Bethesda and Woodmont avenues for the creation of a new urban park.

VIA GOOGLE EARTH

Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner said the $8.5 million price for 0.4 acres near Bethesda Row could drop through a land-use agreement with the state and by selling development rights.

The county plans to purchase the property from developer Federal Realty to turn it into an urban park. The park would be created on a triangular parcel across from Landmark Theatre.

“People hunger for places where the community can come together,” Berliner said during a press briefing Monday. “It’s, in my judgment, an ideal spot for it.”

The location at 4801 Bethesda Ave. is next to where Bethesda’s new Purple Line station is being constructed in the former Capital Crescent Trail tunnel underneath the Apex Building.

“The purchase strikes some people as high,” Berliner said. “But the net [cost] to the county is expected to be less than half of that.”

Berliner said the state is expected to reimburse the county to use part of the land as a Purple Line staging area.

He also said the county might sell the unused floor area ratio (FAR) development rights to another developer in the area. A developer could purchase the rights, then construct a building with more units elsewhere downtown.

The county plans to pay for the land with money from its Advance Land Acquisition Revolving Fund (ALARF), which the county uses to purchase land for public use.

The park would include green space, trees and sitting areas, according to a sketch submitted to the County Council Tuesday.

The council introduced a resolution on Tuesday to approve the purchase and is scheduled for a final vote on whether to buy the property on Dec. 5.

The purchase will use up about two thirds of ALARF’s $11.5 million balance. A council staff memo noted that the $8.5 million purchase price “is supported by independent appraisals.”

Berliner said Federal Realty previously proposed a 14-story building that wasn’t developed at the site.

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