New Bethesda Mixed-Use Project Could Kick-Start Pearl District’s Transformation

Developer is proposing a 145-foot-tall building on the site of a parking lot


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Proposed mixed-use building at 4540 Montgomery Ave. in Bethesda.

VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANNING DEPARTMENT

A 145-foot-tall mixed-use project on Montgomery Avenue next to the Air Rights Center could be among the first redevelopment projects in Bethesda’s Pearl District.

The Montgomery County Planning Board on Jan. 11 is scheduled to vote on an initial proposal for the high-rise of up to 61,250 square feet. The building would fill a property at 4540 Montgomery Ave., a site now vacant except for a parking lot.

A staff report states that the developer, Promark Development, envisions the project as an “eastern gateway to Bethesda” for travelers on the nearby Capital Crescent Trail and Purple Line. Multi-family housing would take up much of the building, but retailers would occupy a portion of the ground floor, according to the initial plan.

Existing site at 4540 Montgomery Ave. Via Promark.

Paperwork filled out by Promark representatives states that the project would help kick off the transformation of the Pearl District, a collection of properties east of Waverly Street and north of the trail. County planners are looking to see the district grow into a hub for activity.

Project planners tried to design a building that would harmonize with the area and act as a “screen” for the heavy concrete of the neighboring Air Rights office complex, according to the developer.

“The glass façade of the building is intended to promote a lightness to the design to ensure that it is well integrated into the surrounding area,” according to a form submitted to the Bethesda Downtown Design Advisory Panel.

The Waverly Garage sits across the street from the redevelopment, and Promark hasn’t included any onsite parking in the project plan.

The project would contribute funds toward turning Pearl Street into a “shared street,” as envisioned by the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan. These thoroughfares often have slow speed limits and special pavement types so that drivers, pedestrians and cyclists all feel comfortable sharing the street, according to the plan.

As of Dec. 29, the planning staff hadn’t received any written correspondence from community members about the project, according to a report.

A Promark representative did not immediately return a call requesting comment on Thursday.

Rendering of the project at 4540 Montgomery Ave., as seen from Pearl Street looking northwest. Via Montgomery County Planning Department

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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