Bethesda North Marriott completes $25M renovation, eyes more conventions

As reported in Washington Business Week

Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center celebrated the completion of more than $25 million in renovations and additions with a launch party last week. Located just one block from the White Flint Metro station, the Rockville hotel has made changes to each of the 455 guest rooms by upgrading the bathrooms and replacing carpeting with solid floors.

In addition to new and improved lodging, the renovations brought a new concierge lounge, restaurant and some technological upgrades to the event and business space.

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Bethesda North Conference Center Garage Construction Starts Soon!

As we’ve posted before, the new Conference Center Garage starts construction this summer. The garage will replace the existing North Bethesda Conference Center surface parking lot with a six-level parking structure containing 650 parking spaces. Click here for the Planning Department’s staff report.

The garage is part of the Western Workaround which builds a grid system of streets in that part of the White Flint area.

The staff report recommends, among other things, that the garage provides a minimum of 6 car-share parking spaces, 10 spaces for motorcycles or scooters, and 7 parking spaces ready to be converted to electric vehicle charging stations. Staff also want the garage to offer a minimum of 38 bicycle parking spaces. . They also want artwork or green-wall treatment to enhance the appearance of the garage facades.

Here are a few pictures of the Western Workaround and the new garage from the Planning Department report.

A great looking new garage at the Conference Center

At last night’s White Flint Implementation Committee Meeting, Tina Benjamin, Chief of Staff at Montgomery County Economic Development, presented plans for the new parking garage for the Bethesda North Conference Center. The new garage is necessary because many of the surface parking lot spaces behind the Conference Center will disappear as the Western Workaround is constructed.

The six-story garage will have 650 spaces in a double helix design. Electric car chargers and bike parking are part of the design as well. A pedestrian bridge connect the second floor ballroom to the garage so there will no longer be a need to stumble through a slippery parking lot in formal wear and heels. Construction will take twelve to fifteen months, and they break ground this summer. The new garage will have entrances from both Executive Boulevard and Market Street which will run parallel to Marinelli Road and Old Georgetown Road. Some of the new roads that are part of the Western Workaround will be build at the same time that this garage is being constructed.

Thanks to creative work and dedication by the County Executive’s Office, the County will not incur any expenses for the new garage.

While there will still be some fine-tuning to the design, below are three images of this good-looking garage.



Finding the Right Balance

Something we’ve been demanding for White Flint is that we strike a balance when creating spaces for people to get around.  This means that car shouldn’t be king – nor should any other group.  We must find ways to encourage people to walk and bike, but also acknowledge that many will still drive (and need to park).  For too long, road design has skewed toward vehicles and created unsafe conditions for other modes of transportation – it’s time to shift that paradigm.

Yesterday on Greater Greater Washington, our friend Ben Ross looked at the ways public funds are still being spent to prioritize the car.  One project on which he focuses is the parking garage proposed for the Bethesda North Conference Center property.  Now, this is a project that we really like.  It allows expanded capacity of conference center parking, while also allowing us to build the western workaround, which requires the realigned Executive Boulevard to cut through the existing surface lot.  But, Ben suggests that the funding of the project could be executed in a smarter way that would result in more money for increasing pedestrian-friendliness around our area.

It’s just some food for thought… we’re curious what you think.  Read Ben’s whole piece by clicking here.

The timeline: Big moves, little moves

Part of an occasional series looking at how the new White Flint will come together.

The White Flint Sector Plan is made up of lots of “big moves,” like a new Rockville Pike, that will take a long time to complete. But there are also lots of smaller projects that will play a big role in the area’s evolution. Thankfully, they’ll happen much sooner.

Rockville Pike: A long time away

The most important part of the new White Flint may be a new Rockville Pike, reimagined as an urban boulevard. While the county has set aside money to redesign Rockville Pike in the CIP, work may get delayed if the County Council approves the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, which proposes a Bus Rapid Transit line down the median.

BF Saul proposes a pedestrian plaza along the west side of Rockville Pike.

The new Rockville Pike, as seen from BF Saul’s proposed Metro Pike Center project.

The plan will specify where stations should go and how wide the road will need to be, allowing planners and engineers to do more detailed design work. It’s possible that property owners along Rockville Pike will have to dedicate some land to accommodate BRT, meaning work can’t really start until the master plan is approved.

Dee Metz, the County Executive’s White Flint Implementation Coordinator, notes that White Flint is “ahead of the game” because the county is already asking landowners to dedicate land for the new Rockville Pike when they apply to build new developments. But there’s still no construction funding lined up for Rockville Pike, meaning it’ll be a while until anything happens.

Montrose Parkway: No word yet

Montgomery County has been talking about Montrose Parkway for decades, and a few years ago, the portion west of Rockville Pike actually got built. Not surprisingly, progress on the eastern part has been slow.

Montrose Parkway East

Map of the proposed route of Montrose Parkway from SHA. The section in yellow has been built and the section in purple has funding, but the portion in blue is still in design.

To save money, the county split Montrose Parkway East into two segments. Officials have already set aside $55 million to build the 1-mile section between Parklawn Drive and Veirs Mill Road, which will start construction in 2018 and finish in 2020.

Meanwhile, the State Highway Administration will spend $64 million to build the .62-mile portion between Rockville Pike and Parklawn Drive, including a new interchange at Parklawn. This section has been more controversial because of the interchange and a proposal to close Randolph Road at the train tracks, effectively cutting off White Flint from neighborhoods to the east.

The Planning Board voted to build this section while keeping Randolph open in March, but there isn’t much else happening. As of September, state highway planners were finishing design work on the parkway, but there’s no timeline for construction yet.

“I don’t see that starting anytime soon,” says Metz.

Maple Avenue: Could open by 2015

However, work could start soon on rebuilding and extending Maple Avenue, currently a dead-end street south of Randolph Road, to connect to Chapman Avenue. This is an important part of White Flint’s future street grid, creating a new connection between Marinelli Road, Randolph Road and the Montrose Crossing shopping center.

The $21 million street will include 5-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides, landscaping and street trees, streetlights, and stormwater management. In addition, the county will move utilities underground. Construction will start next summer and end by the summer of 2015.

New fire station and senior housing: In planning

As White Flint’s population grows, the area will need a new fire station. Meanwhile, an aging population will create a need for more senior housing, especially for individuals with limited incomes. Montgomery County plans to address both needs by building a  fire station with senior housing above at the southeast corner of Rockville Pike and Montrose Parkway, next to the new Maple Avenue.

That may seem like an unusual combination, but fire stations and housing have been built together before, including the Station at Potomac Yard, an affordable housing complex atop a fire station in Alexandria.  To build the two, Montgomery County will purchase land that the state of Maryland acquired to build the interchange at Rockville Pike and Montrose Parkway, but no longer needs.

Conference Center: New parking garage could open in 18 months, mixed-use development to follow

Within 18 months, Montgomery County will begin work on a parking garage behind the Bethesda North Conference Center on Marinelli Road. The garage will replace the current surface parking lot, freeing up room for buildings, since this site is not only adjacent to the Metro station, but behind the future White Flint Civic Green. County officials would like to see a mix of retail space and housing there, 30% of which would be set aside as affordable housing.

Right now, the county’s doing a feasibility study to figure out how to fit a parking garage and housing and retail space on the parking lot, part of which will get shaved off as part of the realignment of Executive Boulevard. With most of the funding already in place, Metz says construction on the parking garage could begin within the next 18 months.

New entrance at White Flint Metro: No funding

Likewise, residents will be waiting a while for a new northern entrance to the White Flint Metro station at Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road. The project, which is under WMATA’s jurisdiction, currently has no funding and no timeline for construction. Like the proposed south entrance at the Bethesda Metro station, money would probably come from Montgomery County and the state of Maryland, but it’s up to WMATA to ask for it.