Strathmore Square on the Planning Board Agenda’s This Week

CR-3.0 C-0.5 R-2.75 H-300 and R-60; 14.6 acres; located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Rockville Pike and Tuckerman Lane adjacent to the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Station; 2017 Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Area Minor Master Plan.

A. Request to modify lot lines and associated conditions of approval, street sections and design, park boundary and loading/entry points for Lot 3.
B. Request for approval of Phase 1 with up to 304,445 square feet of development, including up to 9,000 square feet of commercial development and up to 295,445 square feet of residential development (up to 225 220 dwelling units).  In accordance with Zoning Ordinance Section.7.3.3.I, the Site Plan will amend the conditions and binding elements of Sketch Plan 320190010 to increase the building height from 100 ft to 105 ft for Buildings 3A and 3B (while maintaining the required step-back along Tuckerman Lane), clarify maximum height allowed for all buildings, modify the public benefit schedule, and update site design and future coordination conditions.
Staff Recommendation: Approval with conditions and Adoption of the Resolution

Learn more at: Strathmore Square: Preliminary Plan Amendment No. 12019018B & Site Plan No. 820220070 

Developer moving ahead with Strathmore Square project in North Bethesda

First phase will have 220 units; total project could have about 2,200

From Bethesda Beat

Plans are moving ahead for the first phase of a 2,200-unit development in North Bethesda. The project will create a walkable neighborhood near the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station.

The first phase of the Strathmore Square project will have 220 units in two buildings along Tuckerman Lane. One building would have 50 units and 93,000 square feet, including 3,500 square feet for retail. The other building would have 170 units and 212,000 square feet, with 7,000 square feet for retail. Both buildings are expected to have apartments, although the smaller one might be condominiums.

Work on a new parking garage at the Grosvenor metro has been completed. The garage will have an area to park about 100 bicycles.

The Planning Board’s early approval in 2018 was for a project with 1.9 million square feet, including an 11-story hotel, retail space and office buildings. For now, though, the developer is focused on the two buildings in the first phase.

Read the rest of the article at Bethesda Beat.

Community Briefing on Strathmore Square

From Matt Harris, Andy Altman and Ron Kaplan of Fivesquares:

We wanted to reach out to let you know about a community briefing on Tuesday, September 21 where we will present the final site plan for phase 1 of Strathmore Square that we will be submitting to M-NCPPC next week. While it has been awhile since we last met (via zoom), we have been hard at work advancing Strathmore Square to bring it to fruition.

The community briefing, as required by M-NCPPC, will be held via GoToMeeting on Tuesday evening, September 21, and it would be great if you could join.  The link for the online meeting is

Click here to see the presentation we will be giving that describes phase 1, which includes buildings 3a and 3b, the park and the main spine road serving the site.

With moratorium over, Strathmore Square project back for approval of more residences

From Bethesda Beat

After a residential building moratorium stunted a large development in North Bethesda, project leaders are trying again to expand their plan.

The moratorium has been lifted, though, so they will return to the Montgomery County Planning Board this week in hopes of moving forward with the full project, which aims to build more than 2,200 residences near the Grosvenor Strathmore Metrorail station.

In November 2018, the Planning Board gave preliminary approval to a project with 1.9 million square feet of total space, including an 11-story hotel, retail space and office buildings.

Developers on Thursday will seek approval from the Planning Board for 909 residences and remove the age restriction from the 400 previously approved residences.

If approved, all 2,218 residences originally proposed could be built.

Plans for the North Bethesda project call for a roughly 1.2-acre park to sit in the center of the development. It would be framed by seven buildings up to 300 feet tall.

The park is designed to “be the heart of the project,” and provide space for informal community gathering. The park will include amenities such as a dog park, pop-up markets, performances and community art, planning board documents say.

Read the rest of the story on Bethesda Beat.

Why developers are offering ‘experiences’ to attract suburbanites

Katherine Shaver of The Washington Post just wrote about the Pike District, suburban urbanism, and mixed-use developments in a must-read article. The first part is below.  Visit The Washington Post to read the entire article.

The new Strathmore Square being planned for Montgomery County will have all the markings of an urban-suburban development: upscale apartments in mid- and high-rise buildings and perhaps office space or a hotel — all at a Metro Red Line station.

More striking is what it won’t have: The usual slew of well-known chain stores and restaurants. No Gap or Anthropologie. Not even a Starbucks.

Instead, the ground floor of the new buildings in North Bethesda will have performance space and classrooms for lectures or music and dance classes. At the center will be a 1.2-acre “civic green” with an amphitheater.

Any stores or restaurants will be small and locally owned. The emphasis, the developers say, will be on helping residents and visitors connect over the arts and nature, not shopping and eating.

“Our goal,” said Ron Kaplan, of Fivesquares Development, “is to capi­tal­ize on amenities to create experiences.”

It’s the latest buzzword among developers seeking to transform automobile-centric inner suburbs into walkable urban hubs. Increasingly, offerings of “experience” are replacing “vibrancy” as a way to appeal to suburbanites.

(L-R) Leona Parker, Jonathan (18 months) Parker, and his dad Jonathan Parker, who live in the Pike and Rose neighborhood, enjoy a brief “snowfall” during the “Let it Snow” event where snow was being made at the Pike and Rose neighborhood in Rockville, Md., Dec. 22, 2018. Developers say providing such “experiences” for residents make communities more attractive. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

The shift has occurred as the bricks-and-mortar stores intended to help provide that vibrancy and “sense of place” in compact, mixed-use developments — places where residents can easily walk between work, shopping and entertainment — continue to suffer from online shopping.

Developers say they’re also tapping into a market hungry for social connection, especially among suburbanites isolated in cars. They cite studies showing that people in general feel lonelier, particularly as social media and working from home have increasingly replaced personal interactions.

Read the rest of the article here:

Plans for Strathmore Square Revealed

As reported in Bethesda Beat

Over the next few decades, Strathmore Square at Grosvenor-Strathmore metro will include seven or more buildings, transforming the current asphalt parking lot into a walkable and distinctive community. Fivesquares Development is submitting an application for initial approval from the Planning Board.

Fivesquares’ project application divides the roughly 15-acre site into six sections and describes the development plans for each:

Parcel 1, along Tuckerman Lane near the intersection with Cloister Drive, is slated for a 220-foot-tall building encompassing about 430,400 square feet. The building could consist of two towers that could be 18 to 20 stories tall, “connected by perhaps a five- to six-story building, and located on top of a platform containing a shared five-story, architecturally screened structured parking garage.”

Parcel 2 is just south on Tuckerman Lane and would have a 160-foot-tall building with about 195,000 square feet of housing.

Parcel 3 is just across Tuckerman Lane from the Strathmore Park condos and would provide a buffer between these existing homes and the high-rises planned for Strathmore Square. The buildings on this site would be four stories tall along Tuckerman Lane, to match the height of the condo community, and would gradually rise to a maximum height of 100 feet farther away from the road. One of the multifamily buildings would have about 265,000 square feet of overall floor area, while the second would have about 176,000 square feet.

Parcel 4 is the site across from the Avalon. The first option for this property is to construct a 380,000-square-foot building laid out in a C-shape, with a 300-foot tower rising from the center. The second option is for a 160-foot-tall building of about 300,000 square feet.

Parcel 5 is between the Metro parking garage and the central park proposed by Fivesquares. It could include one of the two, 300-foot signature towers and would be the largest building, at 512,000 square feet.

Parcel 6 is near the intersection of Tuckerman and Rockville Pike. If Fivesquares opts to put a shorter building on Parcel 4, it will construct its second 300-foot tower in this location. The 31-story building could become a hotel or a housing complex of about 385,000 square feet. The other option is to build a 160-foot-tall hotel on the site.

Read more on Bethesda Beat


Grosvenor-Strathmore Plan Approved by Planning Board

From Bethesda Beat

Cool new metro car kiosks coming to Grosvenor metro

As reported in The Washington Post

In sculptor’s hands, Metro’s old rail cars become kiosks

  April 20 at 5:32 PM

Tom Maher, 40, center, of Long Island, N.Y., and other Rustic Rebels employees work on a project to transform the vehicle and its parts for new use as outdoor kiosks, outdoor benches, industrial art and other useful objects. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

There are probably a lot of Metro lovers who would happily pay admission to watch a sculptor chop up a subway car.

Metro haters would probably pay even more.

The work is violent, noisy, smelly and at times even beautiful — as when Robert “Mojo” Mojeski climbs onto the rail car with a welding device and zaps the steel carcass in a blue-and-white shower of sparks.

The work goes fast, too. Mojo, as he prefers to be called, needs to transform a 40-ton rail car into retail kiosks that will be installed at Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station next month. He has until the grand opening May 17 to finish the job he started five days ago at a warehouse in Brookeville.

In that time, the Metro car’s distinctive, push me-pull you seats and their 1970s orange upholstery will go, to be cut free and transformed into park benches. Metro’s system map, with its classic graphic design of multicolored spaghetti, will stay to brighten the kiosk’s interior. When Mojo and his team are finished, the kiosks will be placed on the pedestrian plaza that is now mostly a concrete wasteland populated by newspaper boxes.

“It’s about, ‘How do you enliven this dead space?’ ” said Ron Kaplan, a co-founder of the real estate firm behind the project.

Mojo’s functional artwork came about as part of a proposed housing development envisioned for the Grosvenor-Strathmore station. Fivesquares Development, which built Symphony Park close to the station and Montgomery County’s Strathmore Center performance hall, is in the early planning for a mixed-use development atop the station called Strathmore Square.

Kaplan and co-founder Andrew Altman have experience working on projects such as London’s Olympic Park, Bethesda Row, the Anacostia riverfront and Whitman-Walker Health’s Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center on 14th Street NW in the District.


The kiosks are part of a broader experiment by Metro to allow pop-up retail stands that could bring in money without, the agency hopes, littering its trains with food. The kiosks at Grosvenor, for example, will sell prepared food but only on a few days of the week and only during the afternoon and evening rush hour.

Kaplan said the idea is that people will be able to pick up a loaf of bread or other small items on the way home.

Kaplan said he liked the idea of reusing one of the Series 4000 rail cars that Metro has been scrapping since February after a quarter-century of hard use. The cars — which were built by the Italian company Breda Costruzioni Ferroviarie Sp.A. — went into service in 1991 at a cost to Metro of about $1.3 million each. By the end of their run, each had logged about 1.5 million miles.

In recent years, however, their unreliability became the bane of Washington commuters. Many were happy to see them go; Kaplan’s firm is betting many will be happy to see them return — as shops.

That’s where Mojo, 45, a former commercial fisherman from Sag Harbor, N.Y., comes in. His métier is kinetic sculpture — flying blue oil drums, rolling bowling balls and the like — that he fashioned in the spirit of Alexander Calder and Rube Goldberg, according to an interview he gave to a Hamptons newspaper.

An industrial hacksaw was pressed into use to cut up the rail car into seven segments. From there, Mojo had to figure out a way to cover the sharp, exposed edges. He and his Rusted Rebels crew then began welding, grinding pieces back together.

The thing that surprised him the most, he said, was how sturdy the Italian railcar’s construction was. The narrow partition where two windows met appeared to be made of extra thick metal and reinforced several times over with layers to make up for the relative structural weakness of the window glass.

Mojo was also surprised at how much of the railcar’s workings were jammed into its undercarriage. Electronic circuitry. Cables. Metal couplings. as super tightly packed under there,” Mojo said. “You had very minimum room. So you had to kind of work your way into the next piece to the next piece to the next piece.”

It took two days to hack away all the unneeded pieces in the undercarriage. Other surprises were not as fun, Mojo said. He was removing a metal footstep that looked a lot lighter than it was when the thing landed on his hand.

“You remember the little one single [expletive] footstep?” Mojo asks. “I cut the [expletive] thing off and it was made of steel, not aluminum, so it was heavy. It hit the ground and just nailed me,” Mojo said. “Of all the things.”

It broke his finger.

WMATA Board Agrees To Allow Development Next to Grosvenor-Strathmore Station

From Bethesda Beat:

A new neighborhood could rise over the next decade on the site of a surface parking lot at the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station in North Bethesda.

On Thursday, Metro’s board of directors authorized the transit system to negotiate a development agreement for its 412-space parking lot with the developer Fivesquares Development of Washington, D.C. The agreement would allow the company to begin the planning and design process for a mixed-use residential project that would include at least 534 residential units.

The existing surface parking lot at the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Metro board member Michael Goldman said during the meeting the project could bring up to 1,000 units to the site, but Fivesquares Principal Ron Kaplan told Bethesda Beat on Thursday the number could be higher than that.

The number of residential units permitted will be determined by Montgomery County officials, who are working on a “minor master plan amendment” for the property to determine its development potential.

“I don’t think there’s a limit yet,” Kaplan said. “They’re exploring a whole range of opportunities.”

In the past few years, county officials have typically granted higher height limits and increased density to projects on property next to or within walking distance of Metro stations as a way to promote development where residents are more likely to use mass transportation and to minimize the traffic impact on local roads.

The price Metro receives for the lot will be negotiated between the two parties based on the density approved by the county and the fair market value of the project, according to Metro board documents. To replace the lost parking spots, Metro plans to add 412 spaces to the existing parking garage at the station.

Metro is facing a projected $125 million shortfall in fare and parking revenue as well as declining ridership this year. Given the transit system’s funding issues, Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner in December urged Metro leaders to sell valuable land it owns near its stations as a way to provide needed revenue.

Thursday’s board decision appears to show Metro is making efforts to find other sources of income, while Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld also pushes for a regional tax to provide the transit system with a dedicated source of revenue.

Kaplan said local residents shouldn’t expect construction on the project to begin soon. The proposed development, which could contain between four to six residential buildings with ground floor retail and a village green, first must be approved by county planners. Then Fivesquares plans to build in phases, constructing one building and then taking real estate market conditions into account before beginning work on another in two or three years, according to Kaplan. He projected construction on the first building could begin in 2021 once plans are approved and that development may extend into the 2030s before the project is completed.

A slide from a Metro board presentation showing sketches of what the project could look like along with information about Montgomery County’s minor master plan approval process.

However, the agreement approved by the Metro board also includes elements that commuters can expect to see implemented soon.

The board waived its longtime ban on selling food and drinks at Metro stations in order to allow Fivesquares to experiment with pop-up retail stands outside the station during the afternoon and evening.

Goldman, the Metro board member, said the retail stands would allow commuters or those riders going to the nearby Music Center at Strathmore to pick up food or drinks and be entertained by musicians at the plaza in front of the station. It would be “kind of like a tailgate party,” Goldman said.

However, Kaplan tempered that statement by saying Fivesquares is trying to determine what kind of permanent retail stores the community wants by piloting the pop-up shops in the plaza. He said vendors would sell items such as flowers, family meals or bread and there could even be kiosks for weekly needs—such as a place to drop off dry cleaning.

The retailers would most likely be outposts of local shops interested in expanding their presence, according to Kaplan. He said commuters may start seeing them as soon as late May. The pop-ups that fare the best at the plaza may be added to Fivesquares’ permanent retail lineup at the development as the buildings are constructed, according to Kaplan.

Fivesquares is confident Metro can fix its issues and be an asset for the new development, Kaplan said. The transit system has been addressing a growing list of well-publicized issues ranging from safety concerns to declining ridership over the past few years. Kaplan said Wiedefeld is doing a “fantastic” job by implementing an improvement plan to make the system sustainable in the future.

“We are very much a believer in transit-oriented development,” Kaplan said.