There are 26 projects totaling more than 3,000 apartment or condominium units on the way for downtown Bethesda.

To many, there aren’t enough parks, civic spaces and other public areas to serve the area’s existing population.

With more people coming, Montgomery County planners will use the upcoming Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan process to address what current residents have long said is among the downtown area’s most pressing issues.

In their proposed Scope of Work for the Sector Plan, to be presented to the public on Monday, planners put an emphasis on creating and improving public plazas, green spaces and even sidewalks to connect those places.

Priorities include “Re-imagine under-performing public spaces to revitalize them as community assets,” “locate new parks and open space to better serve the needs of the Bethesda Downtown community” and “extend green space further into the Downtown for both recreational and environmental benefits.”

The lack of a true civic space in downtown Bethesda was among the many issues brought up during a public meeting in November. It’s also been a frequent topic of discussion for residents and government officials.


Councilmember Roger Berliner recently brought up the grassy area near the Landmark Bethesda Row Theatres at the opening of the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel. In the context of possible redevelopment of the Apex Building above, Berliner said, “It just breaks my heart how long this space has sat there. It is such a prime space for something wonderful to happen.”

Another frequently mentioned spot is the Bethesda Metro station plaza, which serves as the center of downtown Bethesda at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue, East-West Highway and Old Georgetown Road. The last Sector Plan envisioned the plaza as a community gathering space, complete with a since shuttered ice skating rink.

In a regular email blast on Friday, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Director Ken Hartman asked for input on how the county’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane) could better serve as that “civic center of Bethesda.”


The nondescript building shares a courtyard with The Metropolitan apartments and is home to most public meetings (including tonight’s), civic gatherings and related activities that happen in downtown Bethesda.

“In the spirit of the Bethesda Downtown Plan, I’ve been thinking about what the BCC Regional Services Center can do differently as the ‘civic center’ of Bethesda,” Hartman wrote. “When you think of a civic space in an urban center, what would would you expect to find there? How can this public space better serve you?”