Marriott Checks In
Montgomery County poobahs are no doubt breathing a collective sigh of relief that the largest hotel company in the world and its 3,500 corporate employees won’t be going far when Marriott International relocates from its current Fernwood Road headquarters to downtown Bethesda.
For visitors and residents, the state-of-the-art glass office tower and hotel will energize central Bethesda’s geriatric skyline. Groundbreaking on the $600-million project is set to begin this summer, with eyes on July 2022 as the debut for the company’s new campus at 7750 Wisconsin Avenue. It will be one of the earliest manifestations of the county’s updated plan for downtown Bethesda, which allows for buildings up to 300 feet tall (about the height of Marriott’s forthcoming office tower).
Much has been made of that gleaming building. But what about the new hotel? Here are some answers: A pedestrian plaza between Woodmont and Wisconsin avenues will link the Marriott to the office tower. Besides enhancing street life along a dreary stretch of Wisconsin, the hotel will bring al fresco dining with a rooftop lounge and a ground-floor eatery featuring tables spilling onto a plaza. Also planned: 8,000 square feet of meeting and party rooms plus a parking garage with 800 underground spaces.
Anthropologie on Steroids
There are only six of the supersized Anthropologie & Co. stores in the whole country. Bethesda is getting the ninth one this fall (Georgetown and LA locations will arrive first) in the vacated Barnes & Noble space at the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues. The location will be about three times the size of a typical Anthropologie.
A shoe salon, bridal boutique, beauty-and-wellness shop, and furniture showroom are part of the plan for the three-story, 20,000-square-foot space, along with Anthropologie’s usual mix of women’s clothing, accessories, gifts, tableware, and bath products, albeit in greater quantities. The Bethesda store has also been singled out for a ground-floor restaurant and patio. The only other Anthropologie & Co. to have such an eatery is in Palo Alto.
No, we don’t mean HQ2 (though Montgomery County is in the running for it). As other Bethesda retailers shutter—goodbye, Barnes & Noble and Calypso—the e-commerce giant just opened a brick-and-mortar store as part of its effort to extend the reach of its online brand. Its Bethesda outpost—one of 18 Amazon Books stores open or in the works nationwide—arrived in June in the former Urban Country space at 7117 Arlington Road. (Urban Country moved next door to the former City Sports.)
The 6,000-square-foot store sells books based on Amazon.com customer ratings and sales, along with Kindle, Fire Tablet, Echo, and Fire TV devices. Naturally, Amazon Prime members have the edge, paying online prices for books and other merchandise, while nonmembers have to pony up the sticker price.
It was Metro that brought Bethesda into the future. The opening of the Red Line station at Wisconsin and Montgomery avenues in 1984 ushered in an onslaught of offices and retail. So it’s more than a little ironic that the development above the station now constitutes one of downtown’s most obvious relics.
But that may be about to change. Developer Brookfield Property Partners has submitted plans to overhaul Bethesda Metro Center Plaza, transforming it from a dowdy complex that once housed a food court into a 290-foot-tall, 500,000-square-foot tower with some combination of offices and apartments, plus a lawn for outdoor movies and a retail-lined promenade. It presented its proposal to the Bethesda Downtown Design Advisory Panel in April.
It’s not necessarily clear sailing from here, though. The biggest opponent is Clark Enterprises, a developer that owns a building overlooking the plaza. It has submitted an alternative design that would force Brookfield to alter its vision.
Capital of Chang
The New Yorker once devoted 3,000 words to foodies who chased the near-mythic Peter Chang all over the southeastern United States from dining room to dining room. When the peripatetic Beijing chef landed at 4500 East-West Highway last spring, Bethesda became their Mecca.
A year later, Q by Peter Chang continues to wow diners with signature plates such as cumin lamb chops, Peking duck with handmade pancakes, and the enormous scallion bubble pancake. As Chang’s flagship—he and partner Gen Lee have a mini-empire of more casual places throughout Virginia and Maryland—Q is a little more dolled up, with decor revolving around spring-green accents and laser-cut artwork. The soaring ceilings in the expansive space give a sense of occasion, which is fitting because a Peter Chang meal usually is one.