The owner of a high-rise office building in downtown Bethesda is taking steps to protect pedestrians from falling glass that the company blames on faulty windowpanes.
On Friday, traffic cones and barriers went up around 4500 East West Highway to reroute foot traffic and block off areas of the plaza in front of the building.
The safety plan described in two memos by Carr Properties, the building owner, also calls for a protective covering above Q restaurant and several other interim measures as it works on a long-term solution for the windows.
In recent months, a couple of people have complained to the county about windows breaking at the three-year-old building, while other community members have voiced concern on social media.
Bethesda resident Naya Robitaille said she was walking past the site in late April when part of a windowpane fell from an upper floor and crashed on the pavement just behind her. Another woman spotted workers replacing a different window in late June.
On Sunday, local resident Amanda Farber brought attention to a glass panel bulging out from a ninth-floor window. Work crews showed up later that evening to knock out the old window and replace the glass.
So far, the company has identified six exterior panes of tempered glass that were affected by a “defective condition,” according to a statement from Carr. The company did not state exactly how many panes overall in the building might be flawed, only saying that it was a “limited number.”
After initially agreeing Friday morning to set up a phone interview with Bethesda Beat about the window problem, Emily York, Carr’s senior director of marketing and branding, emailed a statement later in the day.
“We are investigating the cause and working with our contractor, glass manufacturer and installation firm to resolve the issue,” the statement read. “We are also consulting with county officials and taking all precautions necessary to protect the public and our tenants.”
The county received one complaint in April and another Tuesday about broken windows at the building, Diane Schwartz Jones, the director of permitting services, wrote in an email this week. Her office sent out an inspector after the April report.
She also wrote that the county was looking into the current complaint and was working with Carr to gather more information. The county directed that a structural engineer be brought in to examine the situation.
On Wednesday, Carr sent tenants a message vowing to investigate the issue and take precautionary measures.
“We are aware of potential defects in several glass panels that were installed on the building during original construction,” stated the memo by Karyn Rozek, the general manager director of operations at Carr. “Our on-site team, together with 3rd party engineers and consultants, are investigating the issue.”
The memo noted that the high-rise was constructed with high safety and quality standards and that it’s Bethesda’s only building with LEED Platinum status for environmental sustainability. A follow-up message sent Thursday outlined Carr’s future plans to:
Set up barriers to direct foot traffic safely along the sidewalk
Close part of the plaza in front of the building
Rearrange Q’s outdoor seating for safety and provide an overhead covering
Temporarily remove the benches along Pearl Street and Montgomery Avenue
Put out pedestrian signs near affected areas of the sidewalk
Try to install a canopy at the building’s main entrance.
Rozek’s message stated the company was “working with experts now to develop a long-term solution.” Carr representatives and the general contractor, Clark Construction, have met with Montgomery County officials about the situation, the memo stated.
Reached by phone, Robitaille said she hadn’t heard from Carr directly but was glad to learn the company was working on the problem.
“At least they’re publicly addressing it and letting people know that they’re doing something,” she said Friday.