But Montgomery planners say construction of a light-rail Purple Line would change that, along with life for residents of Chevy Chase Lake’s leafy neighborhoods. Planners say their newly proposed 20-year growth strategy would take advantage of a proposed light-rail station to focus new building, encourage walking and create a town center to unite the 380 acres between East-West Highway and Jones Bridge Road.
“Connecticut Avenue is a very powerful force and really divides the town center,” said Montgomery planner Elza Hisel-McCoy. “They’re missing the connectivity across Connecticut Avenue.”
On Monday, Hisel-McCoy is scheduled to present the planning staff’s vision for the area to the Montgomery County Planning Board. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for mid-September. The County Council would have to approve the plan.
Because of Chevy Chase Lake’s location, the impact of its growth is likely to ripple far beyond its residents. In addition to being a rush-hour bottleneck on the Connecticut Avenue corridor, Chevy Chase Lake handles some east-west traffic between downtown Bethesda and Silver Spring. Thousands of commuters who work at the nearby National Institutes of Health, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and in downtown Bethesda also travel through the area.
Under the planning staff’s latest recommendations, the two mostly single-story shopping centers could be replaced with buildings up to eight stories tall. The area could get up to 1,000 more townhouses, apartments and condominiums. There also would be a new public park and playground, improved bike trails and pedestrian crossings, and a compact “town center.” The maximum 1.5 million square feet of new development would be limited to the 25-acre town center along Connecticut, between Manor Road and Chevy Chase Lake Drive.
Chevy Chase Lake poses a challenge, planners say, because it is one of the longest-established residential areas along the proposed route for the 16-mile light-rail Purple Line between Bethesda and New Carrollton. Planners in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are factoring the state’s $1.93 billion project into local growth plans, even though it has no construction funding.
“The important question that’s going to be answered by this is what does transit-oriented development look like in these communities that are established?” Hisel-McCoy said.
Many in the area say they would welcome more restaurants and shops within walking distance.
“We’re inside the Beltway — the urban, dense development is coming,” Mike Koch, a Chevy Chase resident, said as he left the Starbucks in Chevy Chase Lake one recent morning. “If you want to live in the suburbs now, you have to go to Frederick.”