This edition of the MoCo development roundup features two vastly different projects that are underway in the county. The first, is a high-rise building approved for downtown Bethesda and the second is a park that will be dedicated to preserving natural resources and educating the public on the region’s indigenous history in its inception.
Mixed-use building with live-work units approved for downtown Bethesda
Plans for a 225-foot-tall mixed-used building across the street from the Montgomery Farm Women’s Cooperative Market in downtown Bethesda at 7126 Wisconsin Ave. were approved at the Sept. 14 meeting Planning Board meeting. One unique feature of the building will be the live-work units in the building.
The development will bring 330 multi-family units, with up to 130 units that can be converted to short-term rental units. Of all units, 15% will be moderately priced dwelling units (MPDUs). In addition, there will be up to 11,487 square feet of commercial space included on the first floor of the high-rise.
According to planning documents, the proposed height of the building varies from 200 feet on the western façade and up to 225 feet along Wisconsin Avenue. Documents state that the 2017 Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan recommends the building to only be allowed to reach the maximum height if the property develops in a way that “benefits” the Farm Women’s Cooperative Market.
In accordance with the Sector Plan, the Potomac-based applicant, Wisconsin Avenue Properties, LLC., has contributed $1 million to the owners of the Women’s Market and proposed to place a visual art piece at the intersection of Wisconsin and Bethesda Avenues, per planning documents. The art piece will likely have a theme that celebrates women’s history and contributions to agriculture in the county. They have also proposed to fund a study and application for listing the market on the National Register of Historic Places.
The development involves a complete demolition of the existing commercial buildings that are home to Jos. A. Bank, Le Chateau de Crystale Events, Rice Paddies Grill, Vace Italian Delicatessen, Lance’s Beer & Wine and Capital One Bank. This is one phase of a multi-phase redevelopment of commercial properties on the east and west side of Wisconsin Avenue.
Reaching the Bethesda Overlay Zone threshold
Upon the Planning Board’s approval of the development at 7126 Wisconsin Ave., development in the area of the 2017 Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan will reach the soft cap threshold of 30.4 million square feet of development within the Bethesda Overlay Zone (BOZ), according to the Montgomery Planning staff report for the project. The final threshold is 32.4 million square feet of total existing, approved and new development, according to the Sector Plan.
Now that the soft cap has been met, the County Council can choose to review and/or reconsider the 32.4 million square-foot development limit for the BOZ. According to the Sept. 28 Planning Board agenda, planners are scheduled to brief the board about the BOZ threshold.
MoCo360 will follow the next steps on the BOZ and the County Council’s decision.
Montgomery Parks to acquire Ednor Soapstone Quarry to create a park highlighting the county’s indigenous history
Montgomery County will be getting a new park in the future that is focused on the region’s indigenous culture and history, Ednor Soapstone Quarry Special Park. At the Sept. 14 Planning Board meeting, the board voted to approve the $2 million acquisition of the park, which is in the northeast of MoCo.
The site, located at 1701 Ednor Road, is close to the Patuxent River and the Browns Bridge & Rocky Gorge trail in Silver Spring. It is also an indigenous soapstone quarry. There are just 11 recorded soapstone sites in Montgomery County, only one surviving as an indigenous quarry, Montgomery Parks officials said at the meeting.
Soapstone is a naturally forming rock that was an important cultural resource to the indigenous population in the late archaic and early woodland period (6000 BP to 2000 BP), officials said. The raw material can be shaped into cooking vessels, ceremonial objects and other tools, in addition soapstone influenced travel routes and trading relations, according to Parks officials.
In 1897 the site was identified by William Henry Holmes of the Smithsonian and since the 1980s the property has been used as an equestrian facility, Parks officials said. On the property are horse barns, sheds, an indoor riding ring and a farmhouse. Those will be demolished to make way for the park.
The quarry was one of the top three cultural sites prioritized by Parks for acquisition, officials said at the meeting. They were interested in the site to create a public parkland, preserve the archaeological resources at the quarry, remove the opportunity for development of the land and educate the public about the history of the region.
Planners said the targeted audience for the park would be school groups and there would be trails to walk on with information about the cultural and natural resources of the land. Acquisition is the first phase of the project and facility plans for the park have not been produced.
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