County leaders speak during a press conference on Thursday morning to announce a new development project in Bethesda. Credit: Photo courtesy Amanda Farber

Montgomery County leaders on Thursday unveiled plans to replace two public surface parking lots in the heart of downtown Bethesda with an apartment complex and condos, which will include an infusion of affordable housing they said is critical for the area.

Plans also include a “greenway” between Highland and West Virginia avenues that will create a new public open space in downtown Bethesda, a requirement of the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan, which sets the tone for development in the area.

The project, led by Broad Branch Development, will cover two blocks, starting at 7935 Wisconsin Ave.

During a press conference on Thursday morning, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said the plans for one parking lot include a complex with 224 rental units, 45 of which will be designated as affordable housing. An additional 34 units will be rented at 70% of the area median income (AMI), and 11 will be at 50% AMI, Elrich said.

On the second lot, 47 condos will be built, 21 of which will be rentals. Seven of the rentals will be listed at 50% AMI, with a 70% reduction in condo fees, Elrich said.

Listing some units at lower rates but separate from the county’s affordable housing program is important because it creates affordable housing for people who make too much to qualify for the program, but not enough to comfortably afford rent, Elrich said.

The median household income in 2020 in Bethesda was $172,873, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“This project demonstrates how we get things done by working and listening to community needs,” Elrich said. “It’s just the start.”

Chris Conklin, director of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, said there were “several viable proposals” from companies interested in completing the project, but Broad Branch’s was “by far the most creative and returned the most benefits to the community.”

Broad Branch principals Shane Crowley and Jason Weinstein said during Thursday’s press conference they are excited to invest in Montgomery County, where they grew up.

“We’re invested in this county, and not just financially,” Crowley said. “We have a deep-rooted interest in making the county great for the long haul.”

Montgomery County Council Member Andrew Friedson, who represents Bethesda, said it will be beneficial to replace the lots with housing and open space that community members can use.

“It is a good day for Bethesda,” Friedson said. “It’s a good day for Montgomery County. It’s a good day for housing and for building the type of welcoming community we talk so often about.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

Caitlynn Peetz

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com