The Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday approved plans for a five-story, mixed-use residential and retail building on the site of the former Bethesda post office at 7001 Arlington Road.
Plans for the development call for 140 multi-family units, more than 15 percent of which will be moderately-priced; 211 parking spaces and 7,000 square feet of retail along Arlington Road.
“This is a tremendous improvement over what is there today,” said Bob Harris, an attorney for developers, at Thursday’s hearing. “It contributes to the transformation of south Bethesda to an urban, mixed-use environment from an industrial area.”
A traffic plan also calls for a new traffic light along Arlington Road that will direct traffic entering and exiting the new building and the Bradley shopping plaza across the street.
Access from the site to the nearby Capital Crescent Trail will be limited to residents of the development, planning staff said.
An original plan for the site, approved in 2008, called for fewer housing units and more retail space to accommodate the U.S. Postal Service facility. But after the USPS shuttered two Bethesda post offices – including the one on the Arlington Road project site – and consolidated them at a new Wisconsin Avenue location, developers re-worked the plan without the post office.
The Montgomery County Council approved the amended project plan in January. Thursday, the county Planning Board approved a more detailed site plan, giving developers the green light to move forward and seek permits for demolition and construction.
As one of the conditions of approval, developers agreed to enter into a covenant with planners to protect trees that are re-planted in a “green roof” on top of the garage as a way to offset trees cut during planning.
Planning Board Chairwoman Francoise Carrier raised concerns that replacing trees on a roof deck was a first for a developer forest conservation plan, and worried the trees might not survive without proper oversight.
“It will be setting a precedent that other people will potentially want to use,” Carrier said. “This is a serious decision in my mind to say it’s okay to do forest conservation planting on a rooftop deck.”
Developers said it was in their best interest to maintain the trees.
It wasn’t yet clear when demolition on the post office would move forward.
For more information on the development, view the planning staff report [PDF.]
What do you think about the plans for the new development on Arlington Road? Is a new Arlington Road traffic light needed between Bradley Boulevard and Bethesda Avenue? Tell us in the comments.