‘Beautiful’ Development Plan Proposed for Apex Building Site

County Planning Board review comes as Marriott weighs downtown Bethesda options


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The office and apartment complex proposed for the Apex building in downtown Bethesda was called “beautiful” in a Montgomery County planning report.

The Carr Properties site, at 7272 Wisconsin Ave., is one of a handful of locations in Bethesda that has been considered a possible future home for Marriott International Inc., which plans to leave its Fernwood Road headquarters by the time its lease ends in 2022. A decision on the hotel giant’s new location is expected in the first half of 2017.

Even without Marriott, the 2.69-acre site is expected to house the Bethesda terminus of the Purple Line, new access to the Bethesda Metro Station, a section of the Capital Crescent Trail, 720 parking spaces and a multiscreen movie theater, according to the sketch plan submitted by Carr Properties.

The Montgomery County Planning Board staff is recommending approval of the sketch plan.

“They have produced a complex design that efficiently accommodates this program; there are a lot of moving parts to this project, and they have made it beautiful,” the executive summary of the staff report reads.

The Wisconsin Avenue facade of the proposed complex at 7272 Wisconsin Ave. Credit: Montgomery County Planning Board

The board is expected to approve a sketch plan amendment, the preliminary plan and the site plan when it meets Jan. 5. The meeting will be held at its headquarters at 8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring.

The project—at Wisconsin Avenue and Elm Street—involves 937,184 square feet, well above Marriott’s requirement of 700,000 square feet, although the sketch plan provides for only 360,000 square feet of office space. The sketch plan also includes 14,572 square feet for retail and 480 multifamily dwellings. Moderately priced dwelling units, which would be considered affordable housing for households with incomes less than or equal to 70 percent of the average median income in the Washington area, would total 12.5 percent.

The complex, with a maximum height of 290 feet, would have a shared “podium” that contains parking, building entrances and retail, with an office tower on Wisconsin Avenue and multiple residential towers on Elm Street.

The building’s Wisconsin Avenue frontage would consist of a five-story base with ground-floor retail. According to the planners’ report, the plan calls for “a series of glass boxes,” set off center, which leaves the potential for terraces.

The residential towers, along Elm Street, would feature a four- to six-story base with “residential townhouse‐like units lining the structured parking, with building access and the Purple Line Station below,” the report says.

The project would have a vegetated roof with a soil depth of a minimum of 4 inches covering a minimum of 33 percent of the building's roof, excluding space for mechanical equipment.

According to the planners’ report, Carr would be required to provide, on site, a minimum of 7,500 square feet of public open space. That square footage equals 8 percent of the lot area; the zoning code requires 5 percent, according to the staff report. Utilities must be placed underground. Carr also would be required to relocate the history Wilson Store, consistent with a work permit as recommended by the Historic Preservation Commission.

Planners also are requiring a number of bicycle parking spaces: 63 long-term spaces and 10 short-term spaces for offices; two short-term spaces for retail; and 95 long-term spaces and five short-term spaces for residential use.

Carr would be required to construct a segment of Capital Crescent Trail, adjacent to the Purple Line light rail. The trail must have a minimum width of 15 feet, although planning department staff can approve an alternative width without a site plan amendment.

The staff report notes that the proximity of the Purple Line station “tail tracks” to the Capital Crescent Trail remains unresolved. The two are close enough to create “pinch points,” the report says. Planners, the county’s transportation department, the Maryland Transit Administration and Purple Line Transit Partners, which is leading the public-private partnership developing the light rail line, have been trying to find a solution.

The Elm Street elevation of the proposed complex at 7272 Wisconsin Ave. Credit: Montgomery County Planning Board

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