The new owner of a Bethesda shopping center wants to revamp the property — and is shopping around for ideas on what to do with it.
Michael Berfield, executive vice president of development for Equity One, said the New York company bought the Westwood shopping center on Westbard Avenue. The shopping center includes a Giant Food grocery store, Rite Aid pharmacy, plus a Bowlmor Lanes bowling alley across the street.
“We have been sort of slowly starting to examine the site and started thinking about what’s possible there,” Berfield said.
Equity One bought the 22-acre Westwood property, which also has a Manor Care nursing home, the Westwood Towers apartments and an office building, for $140 million in May, according to its website. The property, with 466,173 square feet, was previously owned by Capital Properties of New York.
Berfield said his company does not yet have any definite plans for the retail portion of the property and wants to hear ideas from people who already shop there or live in the area.
To him, the large surface parking lot in front of the Giant store seems especially ripe for development. The back of the store faces the road, and the property does not have good landscaping and stormwater management, Berfield said.
“Most people who have been to the site ... would agree that it’s probably not the most beneficial use of all the land that’s there,” he said.
Berfield said his company does not have any specific plans for the supermarket, but he expects at least some of the property to stay open during construction.
Equity One has launched a website, westbardvision.com, and held community meetings to get residents’ ideas for the property. Charles Maier, a spokesman for Equity One, said the company held two community meetings last week. One drew 250 people, and the other drew somewhere between 260 and 275, he said.
Berfield said the company wants to know what will drive people to the site.
“It’s been a very successful center, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be better,” Berfield said. “We bought it with the intent of improving it.”
Berfield said Equity One hopes to be able to start the planning review process sometime this year.