Rendering for Marriott headquarters in downtown Bethesda. Credit: VIA GENSLER

The past year was a busy one for development planners, and the next year shows no signs of slowing down.

Montgomery County in 2017 approved the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan, a growth document that will set the stage for the next couple of decades of development in the downtown area. Officials also finalized plans for large chunks of land in White Flint and Rock Spring and around the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station.

Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson said he expects to change gears somewhat in 2018.

“I think the next year or two are going to be more about implementation of those plans,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

A number of major projects have begun moving forward since the completion of the master and sector plans. The project team building the new Marriott headquarters in downtown Bethesda aims to break ground on the corporate campus in the next year, and work will continue on the office and residential towers that will go up in place of the demolished Apex building.

The Elizabeth Square project, a public-private redevelopment in Silver Spring, will continue to make progress over the next year, according to county planners. The project, which got the planning board’s go-ahead in December, will give rise to a government-operated fitness and aquatic center and provide affordable and senior housing. The first phase of the effort, renovating one of the existing apartment buildings, is underway.


Image of proposed Elizabeth Square development. Via KGD Architecture.

In early 2018, the planning board might make a final decision on a 309-home development at the WMAL radio tower site near the juncture of Interstate 270 and the Beltway. The board earlier this year gave preliminary approval to developing on the vacant 75-acre property.


Board members are also set to take up final project plans for a hotel and office tower at 7359 Wisconsin Ave., the site of an outdated county police station, and for a 235-unit apartment complex called ZOM Bethesda on Arlington Road.


Rendering of planned apartments along Arlington Road in Bethesda. Via ZOM Living.


Implementation of the Bethesda sector plan, which establishes new design guidelines and adopts a fresh approach to generating funding for parks, has been going smoothly since the document’s passage in May, Anderson said.

“I think that, really, things are falling into place in a way that was beyond what I’d even hoped to see happen,” he said.

He noted that through the plan’s park impact payment, the Marriott project alone will generate about $5.6 million in parks funds.


Outside Bethesda, more work lies ahead for major projects in White Oak and Montgomery Village, Anderson noted.

One, VIVA White Oak, is a mixed-use development of up to 12.2 million square feet across a 280-acre property that has been used for sand and gravel mining. The proposed community would surround the new Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital. It would include office, academic, hotel, retail, restaurant, entertainment and residential development, in keeping with the White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan.

The planning board signed off on the sketch plan for VIVA White Oak in November, but still has to review the preliminary and site plans for the project.


In Montgomery Village, plans are afoot to build up to 494 homes—26 single-family homes, two duplexes and 466 townhomes—on 147 acres near the intersection of Montgomery Village Avenue and Stewartown Road.

County planners also will have to deal with fiscal challenges in the year ahead. County Executive Ike Leggett recently asked for the planning department’s help cutting costs, as the government deals with a tax revenue shortfall. Anderson said the parks department in particular might feel the pinch, but he’s hopeful that the system can keep expanding its programs despite the fiscal limitations.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at


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