Bethesda's Capital Crescent Trail Tunnel could be saved after all
The on-going back-and-forth drama about what will happen to the Capital Crescent Trail through Bethesda just took another turn. But first a quick refresher:
Back in 2011, MTA determined that using the existing Air Rights tunnel through Bethesda - the one that the Georgetown Branch Trail currently uses - would be much more difficult and expensive than previously thought. During the following year, they considered and eliminated several options, like moving the station or putting the trail in a concrete box above the tracks, and they also took tearing down the Air Rights Building off the table. The Montgomery County Planning Staff determined that they could keep a narrow, pedestrian-only path in the tunnel, but that putting the trail above the tracks would be too expensive. And so it seemed the trail in the tunnel was doomed.
But, in the spring of 2013, they began to work a plan to tear down the Apex building, to allow for several improvements to the Purple Line and as a way to keep the trail in the tunnel. The options at that time were presented by the Coalition for the CCT. Things seemed promising as the county offered incentives to the building's owners to allow for its demolition.
But by that summer, prospects had dimmed when it was reported that the building's owners wouldn't even return the County's phone calls.
But then, a month later, it seemed like they were, in fact, interested.
But, by November they had announced that they were being offered too little, too late.
But, the County said they were considering eminent domain.
But, then they gave up and all hope was lost.
But...now...a miracle. The trail tunnel gets yet another chance. Tonight, plans for the redevelopment of the office building that sits on top of the location for the Bethesda Purple Line station will be unveiled at a public meeting.
The required “pre-submission community meeting” will include information on the sketch plan for redevelopment of the building, known as the Apex Building, at 7272 Wisconsin Ave.
it’s not yet known which developer is behind the project and how it might affect design plans for the Purple Line station.
[The trail tunnel] appeared dead until Oct. 29, when attorney Bill Kominers told the Planning Board that his client, ASHP, was still working with a “prospective developer” to redevelop the site.
Kominers convinced the Planning Board to allow for the removal of the historic Community Paint and Hardware building next door. He said the historic building, which was first moved about 50 feet in 1988 to make way for the Apex Building, makes the site too constrained for redevelopment.
Kominers said Monday morning the team behind the project won't reveal details about it until the Nov. 30 meeting, so everybody learns "the same set of facts."
I can't even wait. It's like Christmas.
A spokesperson for the Maryland Transit Administration, which is expected to select a winning team of contractors to design, build and operate the Purple Line early next year, said the agency is aware that the Apex Building owners are proposing to redevelop.
"MTA is open to the possibility of redesigning the Purple Line station in Bethesda with a new building should the existing Apex Building be razed, provided this adheres to the Purple Line's current construction schedule," said MTA spokesperson Sandy Arnette.
Update: Here's more on the deal to buy and redevelop the site.
Carr Properties has inked a deal with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHSP) to buy the Apex Building at 7272 Wisconsin Ave for $105.5M. Carr plans to demolish the 164,119 SF office building and replace it with a mixed-use development.
It’s unclear if the Apex Building would be demolished in time to make way for a more expansive Purple Line station below.
Montgomery County considered but decided against offering an incentive packageto convince ASHP to move out of the building and find a redevelopment partner. Razing the Apex Building in time for Purple Line construction would allow the state and a yet-to-be-selected team of private concessionaires to build a second tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue for Capital Crescent Trail users and other desired station features.
Earlier this week, a spokesperson for the Maryland Transit Administration (the agency in charge of the Purple Line) said it would still be possible to build the so-called “optimal” station design provided the redevelopment “adheres to the Purple Line’s current construction schedule.”