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Apr. 30, 2012

Mixed-Use Development Under Construction in Bethesda

By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Writer

Bethesda, Md.—Ground was broken last week on an ambitious mixed-use development in the heart of Bethesda, Md. The development will include The Darcy, an 88-unit luxury condominium, and The Flats, a 162-unit apartment building. Also featured are 40,000 square feet of street-level retail above a 1,250-space parking garage.

Participating in the project are StonebridgeCarras, PN Hoffman, Northwestern Mutual and Montgomery County, Md. “We started pursuing this site in 2004, when the county put out its RFP for a developer to do a private-public project,” StonebridgeCarras principal Douglas M. Firstenberg tells MHN.

“Over the last two years, as we came out of the depths of the recession, we really focused on the project in terms of what would work.”

Original plans called for 250 condominiums, as well as 40,000 square feet of retail, and “obviously that would not work in today’s market,” Firstenberg says. Plans were modified to reduce the number of condos and add apartments

“We closed with Northwestern Mutual in December 2011, and it took us a little over four months to get all our permits and construction contracts and documentation with the county done,” Firstenberg says.

The complexity of the project yielded a few challenges, he adds. They include closing a main road in Bethesda for 20 months, yet staging the project to allow the adjacent Capital Crescent Trail, an enormously popular biking and hiking trail used by 30,000 people a week, to continue to remain open without interruption.

“The Darcy is a building really designed to be a condo,” Firstenberg says. “The unit layouts, and the size and configuration of the floor plates, don’t lend themselves to an apartment. We had to get Northwestern Mutual comfortable, and ourselves comfortable, with the idea of being able to sell the units. And the market has responded positively. We have 30 percent of our projected revenue under reservation from prospective buyers.”

Monty Hoffman, CEO of PN Hoffman, reported his company is excited to see construction started on a project to meet growing demand for luxury residential units in central Bethesda. “The market’s response to The Darcy condominium has exceeded our expectations, and we will see interest grow significantly with the construction activity at the project,” he commented.

Noting, “it’s a fabulous location, including the fact it’s in Bethesda and where it is in Bethesda,” Firstenberg says the area around the development site is already extraordinarily vibrant and will only become more so. “The main intersection of Bethesda Row now has parking lots on two of the four corners. Now you’ve taken two parking lots and made them into an appealing high-end, mixed-use project, and solved the problem of parking. It completes Bethesda Row.”

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