A representative of the developer that wants to put a new high-rise on top of the Bethesda Metro station accused next-door neighbor Clark Enterprises of deceiving the public when it comes to the future of the site.
Simon Carney, a senior vice president for Brookfield Properties, said “members of the community have been presented with a false choice” by Clark, which has long opposed any development of the site and has pursued an aggressive public relations campaign to encourage residents and others to send emails and letters to the county’s planning board.
Clark Enterprises hired architect David Kitchens, known for his work on Bethesda Row, to devise a concept for a “Bethesda Metro Park,” a large green space that would directly abut the busy intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Wisconsin Avenue.
“Unsurprisingly, many people have chosen the open space,” Carney told the planning board in testimony on the Bethesda Downtown Plan Wednesday. “The reality, however, is that the new development at the Metro center will achieve both new transit-oriented development and significantly more open space. It is not an either-or scenario.”
Brookfield, which owns the ground lease for the site from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, is proposing a “Bethesda Central Park” on the interior of the building farther away from the intersection.
The developer, which also owns the 3 Bethesda Metro Center office building, hired its own public relations firm to press its case for the concept.
Earlier this week, Clark put out a flier showing what a 290-foot tall high-rise building would look like on the plaza. Planning department staff has recommended that as the maximum height for the site in its “staff draft,” which is before the planning board now.
The building Brookfield is proposing wouldn’t be that tall, according to company officials, but more in-line with the heights of the Clark building and other structures already on the plaza.
Flier distributed by Clark Enterprises urging community members to tell the Planning Board not to allow a high-rise on the Bethesda Metro Plaza. Credit: Clark Enterprises
Clark Enterprises and other neighboring property owners have long opposed a new high-rise on the site.
In 2008, Clark Enterprises, the Chevy Chase Land Co. and Chevy Chase Bank fought a proposed 16-story office building from the spot’s previous owner in a rare public spat between developers.
The companies claimed it would ruin views from their buildings and hurt any chance at improving the public space. The planning board didn’t approve the new building, despite a recommendation to approve it from planning staff.
Miti Figueredo, vice president of public affairs for the Chevy Chase Land Co., said the company isn’t weighing in on Brookfield’s proposal this time around.
The rewrite of the Bethesda Downtown Plan, the downtown area’s sector plan, has allowed an opportunity for zoning recommendations allowing more density.
Carney said Brookfield’s proposal includes quality ground-floor retail, the park and improvements to the Metro station bus bay below that would “be a significant improvement over the existing state of the area today.”