A third air rights building - with offices, specialty shops and enclosed walkways - is being planned along Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda.
Developer Roger W. Eisinger, who has already built two air-rights buildings that span the B&O Railroad tracks at 7315 Wisconsin Ave,. said he plans to break ground for a third building in February. The $20 million, 10-story North Air Rights building, as it is to be called, will include 300,000 suare feet of office and 60,000 square feet of commercial space. It will be bounded by Waverly Street, Montgomery Avenue, Pearl Street, and parkland to be developed by the county through a portion of what is now Elm Street.
The Montgomery County Planning Board is expected to decide in the next few weeks whether to approve the project and may recommend changes in the plans, according to John Hoover, spokesman for the planning board.
The builder's plans call for connecting the north building with the existing and east and west air rights office buildings with a series of walkways - at both a lower enclosed level and at an open terrace level above.
Eisinger said the new building will be the only office building in Bethesda with such walkways.
"We're trying to develop a system of movement from building to building," he said. Because of the slope in the street and the continous walkways, there is no part of the connected buildings that bars wheelchair access, he added.
Eisinger expects about 25 small, boutique-type stores to line part of the walkways and at least three restaurants to be part of the complex. "One will be a carry-out, and the other will be used for night," he said. The restaurants will serve as a night-time attraction in downtown Bethesda, Eisinger said.
The project, which Eisinger expects to be finished in a year and a half, has not drawn any major protest from community groups according to Hoover.
Residents of a section of the Town of Chevy Chase lying east of the complex said they wanted to be consulted about the way in which Eisinger will decorate a 200-foot concrete wall around the building parking lot adjacent to the planned park Eisinger has suggested a mural for he wall.
Opposition to the project has come from Bob Dalton, the business editor for WTOP radio and television, who owns a two-story 1912 house on Pearl Street, next door to the planned building. According to Dalton, the new building will block air and sunshine from his property.
Eisinger said that Dalton wants the walkways, which would jut from the new building near Dalton's property, moved back. That is something that cannot be done, said Eisinger.
"It's an enviromental question for me," said Dalton. "(Eisinger's) been trying to buy this property for two and a half years. We love this property. I told him if you can find me comparable property in this area, I'll trade."
But Dalton said, to the date, Eisinger has not found what Dalton feels is "comparable property." Dalton that his wife has an Oriental foods grocery store on the first floor of the two-story house that he is "trying to keep as is." Dalton added, "I thought this was what the planners wanted more of in Bethesda."