Why protect Bethesda Open Space?
We have a unique opportunity in the heart of downtown Bethesda for public, open space that transcends its size and location and brings life to a place for refuge, gathering and activity. The draft Downtown Bethesda Plan, currently moving through the planning and zoning process, calls the lack of urban parks and open space one of the greatest challenges for downtown Bethesda. However, their solution to-date is to target locations on the periphery of the planning area, where demolition of current buildings and/or zoning changes must be made to accommodate open space.A coalition of concerned citizens, community organizations, local businesses and stakeholders, including Bethesda-based Clark Enterprises Inc. have come together to protect this valuable open space for current and future generations.
Who owns Bethesda Metro Plaza?
Bethesda Metro Plaza is owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Brookfield Properties holds a ground lease for the plaza.
Why is Clark Enterprises invested in the future of Bethesda Metro Plaza?
Clark Enterprises is a stakeholder in the future of the plaza it helped pay for when it was created as a public amenity in the 1980s in exchange for higher development density. The company owns the office building at 7500 Old Georgetown Road, which is on the plaza. It has many tenants and—as one of Downtown Bethesda’s largest employers—thousands of employees who work in the building.The county Planning Department invited input from all property owners on the Bethesda Downtown Plan, which includes the Bethesda Metro Plaza. Clark believes the possibilities at Bethesda Metro Park offer tremendous benefits not only for our tenants, employees and visitors – but for the entire Bethesda community. We believe that any development at the plaza should be done in a way that protects the current large, visible open space.
What is Brookfield Properties’ plan for Bethesda Metro Plaza?
Brookfield Properties currently proposes a 25-story building in the middle of the existing open space along Wisconsin Avenue with a much smaller interior park hidden behind it. Not all open space is equal — Bethesda already has such “hidden” parks and plazas and these go largely unnoticed and unused.
What is Clark’s vision for a compromise solution?
Clark offered a plan for a redeveloped Plaza that moves the location of Brookfield’s building to the space that housed the former food court near the rear of the food court. Most critically, the large, visible community open space would be retained and enhanced along the Wisconsin Avenue frontage.
What is possible at Bethesda Metro Plaza?
Bethesda Metro Park could be an activated, expansive and visible green space at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Old Georgetown. This could include a great lawn and things like moveable furniture, ping-pong tables, a Bocce ball court, a splash fountain and a number of other features. In addition, it could include retail kiosk—perhaps for a coffee shop—and other measures to further enhance and activate retail around the park. The benefits of urban, open space include increased private and commercial property value, stormwater runoff control and new, recreation opportunities for our families.
What’s at stake?
Since 2014, millions of square feet of office and retail development have been approved in downtown Bethesda. The Bethesda Downtown Plan lists “parks and open space” as one of its biggest challenges. However, their solution to-date is to target locations on the periphery of the planning area, where demolition of current buildings and/or zoning changes must be made to accommodate open space.In the draft Bethesda Downtown Plan, the Planning Board recommends designation of three locations as “civic greens.” We believe that Bethesda Metro Park more than meets the requirements for a “civic green” and should receive the same designation, thus protecting it as open public space in perpetuity.