Executives from Canyon Ranch, one of the country's most exclusive spa companies, said yesterday they are close to completing a deal for a condominium, hotel, and 90,000-square-foot "healing" complex in North Bethesda.
In their first public comments on their plans, the executives said an agreement was in place with Penrose Group, a Virginia company, to handle development of the project. Penrose is in negotiations with the owners of a 53-acre tract of land at the corner of Interstate-270 and Old Georgetown Road where the project would be located, but Canyon Ranch officials said those talks could be wrapped up quickly.
"We hope it will happen very soon," said Larry Lamy, Canyon Ranch's vice president of development. "If not, then we can move on with our lives."
Penrose officials did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
Two 20-story towers -- with 434 high-end condos, 157 hotel rooms, and 87 luxury rental apartments -- are planned for the site. The project, which has cleared county development hurdles, could open by 2007, transforming an open field into one of the region's most exclusive addresses.
"This really adds panache to the area," said Larry Thau, the managing director of the Bethesda office of CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. "You talk about Rodeo Drive. Everyone knows where that is. You talk about Park Avenue. Everyone knows where that is. Now North Bethesda gets put on the map all over the country."
Canyon Ranch has been known mainly for its luxurious spa and wellness resorts in Lenox, Mass., and Tucson. A weekend stay can top $3,000. Guests can bask in spiritual awareness (tai chi, yoga) or behavioral health (memory fitness, hypnotherapy), movement therapy (pilates) and the old standards (massages, facials).
In recent years, Canyon Ranch has extended its brand to smaller spas in Las Vegas and near Disney World, and now the company has extended the brand even further with residential complexes, under the theory that the only thing better than visiting Canyon Ranch is living there.
Construction is underway on the first Canyon Ranch Living complex, a six-acre oceanfront site in Miami Beach with 151 hotel suites and 467 condos. Prices for condos started at about $700,000, but those smaller units are now gone, Canyon Ranch officials said. The cheapest price for a condo now: $1.8 million.
About 70 percent of the condos are sold. Some 63 percent of owners are in their forties.
"The residents come from all cuts of society," said David DuVal, Canyon Ranch's chief branding officer. "Some people will use it as their primary home, others as their secondary home."
Canyon Ranch officials declined to disclose how much condos would fetch in Bethesda, nor would they say how much the development will cost.
DuVal said Canyon Ranch picked Bethesda for its second residential location in part because a significant number of guests at the company's resorts are from the Washington area. But it is also a recognition of the wealth that has been generated here by the tech boom, government contracting and a soaring real estate market.
Thau predicted that the development, which will also feature about 350,000 square feet of high-end retail stores nearby, will attract affluent thirtysomethings with no children who have made a lot of money working for the region's technology companies along with empty-nesters whose homes have doubled and tripled in value recently.
"They'll love it because it's gonna be like a mini-Hollywood over there," Thau said.
The exclusivity of the project will also help cement North Bethesda, particularly the Rock Spring Park area, as a fashionable place to do business. The headquarters for Host Marriot Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. are nearby, and Penrose Group is reportedly planning about 600,000 square feet of Class A office space.
"Canyon Ranch is an amenity that is world-class in nature," said David Edgerly, Montgomery County's director of economic development. "It will add an even higher level of ambience than was already there before. It is going to be one of those elite, extraordinary business addresses that world-class companies want to be a part of."
"This project will make the area even more corporate than it is now," he said. "Everyone will want to be in the area."