Bethesda Church

by Nena Perry-Brown

8015 Old Georgetown Road (map)

The Montgomery County Planning Board Thursday is scheduled to review and possibly approve the site plan for a new $25 million building at 8015 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda. Christ Lutheran Church of Bethesda is planning to construct a 107-unit condominium building, new church facility and rec center at the site next year. The church, which partnered with a developer on the project, has been working to construct the new building since first proposing it in 2006. In addition to the condos, the seven-story, 65,000-square-foot building would include a worship center, childcare space, nonprofit offices, a commercial kitchen and a multi-purpose recreation center expected to contain a basketball court. Planning board staff has recommended approval of the project. The planning board is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m.

A Bethesda church has filed for final Planning Board approvals of a project that would bring a 107-unit condominium building and a new church facility and recreation center to Old Georgetown Road.

The Christ Lutheran Church of Bethesda and a partner developer plans to start construction in 2017 and finish in 2019, according to a timeline provided Tuesday by church representative Barry Lemley. The church will hold activities at Imagination Stage on Auburn Avenue in Bethesda for the duration of the project’s construction.

It’s been a lengthy process for the church and its nonprofit Graceful Growing Together, Inc., which is managing the project.

The church partnered with developer Bozzuto in 2006. But in 2007, the Montgomery County Office of the Hearing Examiner denied rezoning that would’ve paved the way for the project after some neighbors expressed concerns about its proposed density and building height. The rezoning was eventually approved in 2010.

In September 2014, Graceful Growing Together announced it had agreed on a development contract with Virginia-based Bush Construction Corp. and had secured a loan from Bethesda-based Eagle Bank to help finance the project.

Graceful Growing Together also got state and county bond bills and grants and plans to start a public fundraising campaign next year.

The seven-story, 64,000-square-foot Graceful Growing Together Center would include a new worship center for the church, space for child care, offices for nonprofit organizations, a commercial kitchen and multi-purpose space expected to contain a basketball court. The building is estimated to cost around $25 million.

According to a 2014 state bond bill for the project, $19 million of that total would come from the sale of part of the church’s 8011 and 8015 Old Georgetown Road properties to Bush Construction, which will build the nine-level, 107-unit condominium building as well as the Graceful Growing Together Center.

Lemley said Tuesday the church hopes to meet with local community organizations to discuss the project and make its pitch why the Graceful Growing Together Center will be a community benefit.

The church announced Tuesday it has hired Melissa Graves, former CEO of the nonprofit Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, to serve as the next executive director for Graceful Growing Together, which will also manage and lease out the center. Lemley will finish as executive director at the end of February and remain as the nonprofit’s board president.

“After seven years as the [Graceful Growing Together] Board’s founding part-time executive director, we have been able to see our plans move from vision into reality and the board agreed that it was time to hire a dedicated executive to partner with the board to fully implement that vision and mission,” Lemley said in a press release.

Graves will spearhead the group’s public relations efforts, programming for the new building and its capital campaign. Lemley said the group hopes to raise $4 million by the time the building opens in 2019 so the project will be debt-free.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/bethesda_church/11758

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