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Bethesda Marriott Headquarters Gets Important Green Light

by Nena Perry-Brown

Bethesda Marriott Headquarters Gets Important Green Light: Figure 1
Rendering of new Marriott headquarters from southeast on Wisconsin Avenue.

Bethesda has had a banner year for development hitting the boards, and a centerpiece of the downtown area is now one step closer to coming to fruition.

Yesterday, the Montgomery County Planning Board granted unanimous approval to the conceptual and site plans for the planned Marriott headquarters at at 7750 Wisconsin Avenue (map). Those approvals came with conditions proffered by planning staff, primarily as it relates to the accessibility of the new project.

As planned, the development would deliver a 12-story, 238-key hotel with ground-floor restaurant in October 2021 and a 21-story, L-shaped headquarters building with a public plaza between. The hotel will also include an 8,000 square-foot meeting space and a third-floor “innovation lab” on the third floor that will allow Marriott to test out concepts and furniture for replication at other hotel outposts.

The boardmembers, applicants and county staff spent a good deal of time discussing accessibility concerns at the project, as approval of large developments has been contingent upon whether the surrounding public space is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A lot of improvements would need to be made to the public space surrounding the site at 7750 Wisconsin Avenue (map) in order for the headquarters to be deemed ADA-compliant.

Bethesda Marriott Headquarters Gets Important Green Light: Figure 2
Rendering of the development from Woodmont

While the development team of Marriott and Bernstein Companies was required to ensure that the project would be ADA-compliant within 500 feet of every point of the property, they admitted during the hearing that they didn’t realize this requirement extended beyond the need for ramps. Consequently, the full scope of the improvements needed is not yet known, but could include everything from sidewalk- and crosswalk-widening to the location of light posts and fire hydrants to issues on adjacent private property.

The developer asked that their ADA responsibilities be limited to ramps to ensure they are aware of the upfront costs associated with compliance; planning staff felt this solution to be incomplete.

“My question relates to, how do we not provide obstacles to you to be able to meet your schedule and get this done,” boardmember Norman Dreyfuss asked the developers. “[The ADA compliance issue] needs some definition, at a minimum, as to where the scope of your liability lies.”

Ultimately, the board instructed the development team to collaborate with planning staff on finding a more equitable way that the developers could commit to the improvements being made, including potentially having the development team pay a set amount to the county to implement improvements.

Planning Board approval puts the headquarters on track to break ground in the third quarter of 2018, ostensibly enabling Marriott to move into the new headquarters building by their “drop dead” date of July 2022.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/bethesda_marriott_headquarters_gets_important_green_light/13376

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