JBG and MacFarlane Partners plot striking second act in White Flint


A rendering of the 345-unit residential building that would anchor the North Bethesda Market II project. (Courtesy of JBG)

The JBG Cos. wanted to make a bold statement in building one of the first mixed-use projects in the White Flint section of Rockville, and the result was the tallest building in Montgomery County, one featuring a Whole Foods Market and 397 apartments that fetch some of the county’s highest rents.

The company and its partner, MacFarlane Partners, are sticking to the script of big and bold as they prepare the next act for the project, located off of Rockville Pike across from White Flint Mall.

For the second phase of North Bethesda Market, the developers plan a 345-unit residential building that, at about 300 feet, would be slightly taller than the first. Its design, by architects at Studios Architecture, is anything but uniform; picture a Mayan Temple whose glass bricks have been shaken earthquake-like out of position.

The apartment building would overlook a public plaza designed by landscape architects Olin to emulate public spaces in Italy and Spain. On the far side of the plaza, the company plans a 175,000-square-foot office building built above a movie theater. In all, the project calls for 115,000 square feet of new retail.

Despite the additional costs, JBG opted for luxury finishes and dynamic architecture to help draw attention from passersby on Rockville Pike, said Gregory W. Trimmer, a development team leader for JBG.

“The last phase proved to us that there is an appetite for high-quality units, particularly units that are well-amenitized,” Trimmer said.

The first phase also drew investor interest. In May, JBG and MacFarlane sold a majority stake in the first phase for $200 million to the managers of Capri Urban Investors, a Chicago private equity fund.

Trimmer said the apartments at North Bethesda Market II were underwritten as apartments, but could be sold as condominiums depending on the state of the housing market when construction nears completion. “There is definitely a chance that it goes condo,” he said.

Nothing is certain, though. JBG and Grosvenor had announced plans to sell the 125 units they are building on 14th Street Northwest in the District as condos, but decided last week to rent the units.

JBG still requires county approval for the project, but hopes to break ground in the summer of 2012 with completion scheduled for 2014.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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