Former owner buys Bethesda Marriott for $35.6 million -- Gazette.Net


Northview Hotel Group and an affiliate of Oaktree Capital Management announced that they bought the Bethesda Marriott hotel, which Northview sold for $90.1 million in 2007.

The joint venture paid only $35.6 million on Sept. 30 to buy back the 407-room hotel at 5151 Pooks Hill Road, according to state tax records. They plan to renovate the property under new Marriott designs that will debut next year.

Northview — based in Westport, Conn. — also owns the surrounding property, where it is seeking county approval to build three multifamily buildings on surface parking lots. The properties sit above Rockville Pike at the Beltway about a mile south of the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station.

Northview owned the hotel from 2004 to 2007 and oversaw a $13.5 million renovation of the guest rooms and HVAC systems, along with a complete renovation of the hotel’s public space and plant upgrade. The property was divided under Northview’s earlier ownership, setting in motion plans for developing 400,000 square feet of residential development.

That project must win a minor master plan amendment from the Montgomery County Planning Board.

Less density OK’d for Glenmont sector plan

The Montgomery County Council gave preliminary support to shrinking the amount of development that would be allowed in Glenmont under the new sector plan proposed by the Planning Board.

During a work session on Tuesday, council members reached consensus on allowing almost double the amount of existing commercial development and housing. The council is expected to vote by the end of the month on a final resolution that would provide zoning density for 743,000 square feet of commercial space and 6,355 housing units on 711 acres that stretch north from the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road to Weller Road in the blocks surrounding the Glenmont Metro station.

The Planning Board proposed as much as 813,000 square feet of retail and low-level office space and as many as 8,900 housing units.

“The basic vision of this plan is revitalization, which of course was the vision of the last plan, and we didn’t see much come out of that,” planning chairwoman Françoise Carrier said.

Dramatic change could come to the largely working-class neighborhood, which has seen no development since the last sector plan was approved in 1997, the same year that the Metro system reached the end of the line in Glenmont.

Things are different this time, with concrete development proposals already moving in the area, which the state has designated as a tax-preferred enterprise zone.

Metro also opened a second garage last year and the state plans to build an interchange starting next year to speed traffic past the Georgia and Randolph chokehold.

In the meantime, the board has given preliminary plan approval to redevelop the 1960s-era Privacy World garden apartment complex that sits across the street from the Metro. Plans call for eventually tearing down the 352-unit property and building 1,550 new apartments and townhouses and 90,000 square feet of commercial development.

The county Housing Opportunities Commission also is negotiating with a private developer to build a senior housing building next to the Metro garage on the west side of Georgia Ave.

The only question is if and when the dilapidated Glenmont Shopping Center might be redeveloped. The 196,380-square-foot strip mall is almost fully leased and features busy stores including CVS, Shoppers Food Warehouse, Staples and the Country Boy grocery. But it offers no upscale dining options and its redevelopment has been stalled by the fact that its 15 different properties have 12 different owners.

The council supported sector plan recommendations to encourage creating a mixed-use town center with retail and housing space and a height limit of 120 feet. Carrier and a number of council members said property owners are trying to work on assembling a parcel though would meet the sector plan vision.

Council members debated on the best way to preserve Glenmont as a center of affordable housing. The shopping center is surrounded by 1,459 rental units in three garden apartment complexes built in the 1960s and 1970s, which the sector plan would allow adding additional apartments and townhouses.

Planners said that any affordable units lost to redevelopment would be more than replaced by expanding the total housing stock, with either market rent or county-mandated moderately priced dwelling units (MPDUs).

“We ought to preserve this housing the way it is now,” said Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park. “Many of these residents will never qualify for MPDUs either for size of family, for household income.”

Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large), also of Takoma Park, said the sector plan strikes the right balance to allow new development while curbing gentrification that would drive up housing costs.

Apex owners negotiating with county on Purple Line

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists said it is in discussions with Montgomery County regarding demolishing its headquarters in Bethesda, which sits on the site of a possible future Purple Line station.

Removing the Apex Building is considered the cheapest alternative to developing the western terminal of the proposed light rail system, which would stretch from Bethesda to New Carrollton. Plans call for the end of the line to sit at Wisconsin Avenue and Elm Street, below the building, which also houses the Regal Bethesda 10 movie theater.

The county would like the pharmacy group to leave the Apex building at 7272 Wisconsin Ave. for five years. It would be razed to allow the station to be built. The county would give the pharmacy group denser zoning to rebuild its headquarters, which would allow it to split the cost of its new headquarters or sell the property to developers.

The second, more expensive option would be to leave the building standing and dig out the Purple Line station below it.

The county needs to move quickly on deciding which option to pick because the Federal Transit Administration is expected to issue a decision on whether to provide funds for the $2.2 billion rail line on Dec. 5.

ASHP senior vice president and chief operating officer David R. Witmer said in a press release that the society only recently approached by the county with a plan to demolish the Apex Building.

The society needs adequate time to conduct due diligence, he said.

The society, which represents more than 40,000 members, has been meeting with representatives of the Montgomery County Planning Department and the Economic Development Department.

Bethesda has been the group’s home for more than 45 years and the society bought its headquarters for $21.5 million in 1992.

“We care a great deal about Bethesda and the county,” Witmer said, “and are willing to entertain an agreement provided that it benefits all parties.”

The society employs about 200 staff and hosts several events each year that bring thousands of members and guests to Bethesda.

Blairs redevelopment plan goes to Planning Board

Montgomery County planning staff recommended approval for a massive mixed-use proposal to redevelop the 30-acre Blairs apartment complex in downtown Silver Spring, which includes the only major new office space near the Metro.

The Planning Board next Thursday will consider the Tower Cos. new 3.8-million-square-foot master plan for the property, which would include 450,000 square feet of commercial uses and 3.4-million square feet of residential space. The project would allow a 203,045-square-foot office building, a 125,000-square-foot hotel, and 2,800 housing units, including 1,110 existing units.

The property, which sits on Blair Mill Road, just east of the D.C. line at Eastern Avenue, would also include 121,955 square feet of retail.

Tower floated the plan in February, six years after it put its Blairs complex on the market. The Bethesda firm was looking for a buyer in 2007, just as the early signs of a real estate marking collapse were showing in advance of the 2008 world financial meltdown.

Since then, Tower has invested heavily in making world-class green building upgrades to its signature Silver Spring properties, which include 83,154 square feet of retail space, 69,517 square feet of offices and 1,397 rental housing units.

If approved, the first phase of the redevelopment project could start next summer, with demolition of Blair Tower Apartments. A second phase would involve demolishing the Blairs shopping center anchored by a Giant grocery at Colesville Road and East-West Highway, and replacing it with a new Giant, the office building and hotel, retail, town houses, apartments, and parks.

The build-out for the full master plan is about 15 to 20 years.