A developer looking to build a high-rise on the Bethesda Metro Center Plaza has created an online portal to gather community feedback about one of the downtown area’s most significant open spaces.
Residents, property owners and officials have long debated how to capitalize on the open space at Bethesda’s transit hub, and Brookfield Property Partners has already gotten pushback to its proposal.
The online portal, bethesdabrookfield.com, will give people an opportunity to make their opinions heard, according to the development team.
Since the website went live less than a month ago, more than 1,900 people have used the online portal, many leaving comments about what they’d like to see at the Metro Center property.
One commenter wrote that she’d appreciate a “small café, green space, comfortable seating … ice skating in winter, water play in summer” and a place for musicians to perform and children to play. Others mentioned seasonal markets, more greenery and shade and art installations.
The site also includes a survey that asks visitors about their preferred activities and features for the central lawn and how the revitalized plaza can honor the area’s history.
Brookfield is planning to build a roughly 500,000-square-foot high-rise on the plaza, at 4 Bethesda Metro Center. The developer has also proposed revitalizing an open space that hasn’t quite lived up to its potential.
“Bethesda Metro Center needs help. Poorly planned landscaping, inconsistent grade changes and physical barriers make it an outdated and unwelcoming space,” the Brookfield website states.
Brookfield’s proposal calls for arranging a central lawn, plaza, promenade and gallery area around the future building, which would replace a three-story appendage to 3 Bethesda Metro Center. The developer is also planning to improve the Metro bus bays near the site.
However, some community members and Clark Enterprises, which has a building overlooking the plaza, have found fault with Brookfield’s proposal, saying it hems in too much of the civic space.
Continuing a long-running debate between Clark and Brookfield over the use of the plaza, Clark maintains its own website, called Protect Bethesda Open Space, and has offered up an alternative proposal that would position more of the open space close to Wisconsin Avenue.
Brookfield’s proposal for the plaza, left, and Clark’s suggested layout, right (click to expand). Via Brookfield and Clark.
Clark argues that Brookfield’s plan would put too much of the lawn and gallery behind buildings, making them less visible and accessible.
Brookfield’s initial proposal for 4 Bethesda Metro Center is expected in June to come before the Bethesda Downtown Design Advisory Panel, which offers opinions to county planners on local development projects, according to a project spokeswoman.
Bethany Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org