Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ourisman Ford site redevelopment (Bethesda, MD)

The Montgomery County planning board approved the site plan for redeveloping the former Ourisman Ford dealership near Montgomery Mall. The plan is to put in 340 apartments, 42,000 square feet of retail, and 12,000 square feed of restaurant space. The project is located at the corner of Motor City drive and Westlake Terrace. It backs up to Interstate 270 and is across Westlake Terrace from Montgomery Mall. The Ford dealership closed a little while ago and the site is currently unused.

The building will be 6 stories tall with an internal street to provide access to some of the retail and restuarant space. From above, the building will look like a U with the base of the U towards I-270.
The developers asked for, and received, a parking waver so that all the required parking for a building of this type and size isn't on-site, some of it would come from the parking lot at the former Expo Design Center building. The planning board supported this bucause it could descourage driving and promote alternative transportation. (Several different bus routes come in to the Westlake transit center, right across the street.)

The noise from I-270 can be significant. To address this, the area closest to the interstate will be outdoor recreation areas, including an inground pool, a putting green, and a patio with fire pit. The pool will have a 6 foot high concrete wall on the north side. The developers will add a berm or barrier along the east side to keep the noise in the recreation area below 65 decibels. The walls of the building closest to I-270 will have extra noise-reducing properties (windows and doors rated at 34 STC and walls rated at 56 STC).

I'm a bit suprised by both the intended use and the design of the building. I expected this to stay fully commercial. The design, with mixed residential and commercial is more what you expect to see in a downtown area, not right next to a suburban mall. This doesn't make it bad, in fact, it makes a certain amount of sense. I'm sure a lot of people would like to live right next to a highway entrance, a good chunk of your commute can be just getting to the main road. If you like shopping, being one parking lot away from Montgomery Mall is pretty attractive. I think for this to really work though there will need to be more residential, like if they redeveloped the Expo Design building into residential. To support the on-site retail you either need lots of people living within walking distance or you need to draw people from outside the area there. With the mall and the other strip-mall shops in the area, and lack of on-site parking, getting people from outside the area will be tough. Having another large apartment complex right next door would be helpful.

You can find out more at the Park and Planning website.

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