Complications Surround New Second District Police Station
After nearly two years, negotiations between county and developer continue.
When Montgomery County chose developer JBG to build a new Second District police station, the real estate market had already begun to tank. Despite the clear need to replace the 50-year-old facility, it just wasn’t a good time to build a brand new station and redevelop the existing site at 7359 Wisconsin Avenue. Indications are the timing may still not be right.
Though the county chose the developer in early 2009, negotiations are still ongoing. “It’s complicated for a bunch of reasons,” said JBG Managing Director Ken Finkelstein. The deal basically calls for the county to hand over the current site at 7359 Wisconsin Avenue for development. In exchange, JBG would build the county a brand new police station at a new location.
But because the land on which the police station sits is valued less than what it would take to build a new facility, the county would have to sweeten the pot with additional cash, funding or tax incentives. That appears to be the main sticking point. The county and JBG can’t seem to agree on how sweet the pot should be. “It’s a complicated transaction,” said Finklestein.
Neither party would disclose financial figures that have been tossed around. “I can’t disclose that at this time. The negotiations are ongoing,” said Jim Stiles, who serves as Assistant Chief of Building Design and Construction for Montgomery County.
When they accepted JBG’s bid on the project, the land the police station sits on was valued at around $2.5 million. Stiles admitted that the ongoing instability of the real estate market is one of the reasons why negotiations continue. “Obviously, we’re trying to protect the financial interests of the county,” he said.
There’s another interest the county is trying to maintain -- providing more parking space at a new police station. It’s one of the reasons the county wants a new facility to begin with. Right now, many police department staff have to park across the street in a public parking garage.
JBG is well aware of the county’s concerns, and it may very well be another sticking point in the negotiations. One of the main sites under consideration for the new police station sits at Wisconsin and Cordell avenues. Finkelstein said unfortunately, the site brings with it parking issues. “It’s an urban site, so there are some challenges. It may be difficult to accommodate the amount of parking the county wants. Still, I think we can build sufficient parking for a new station,” he said.
Both sides say they’re confident the issues can be resolved. “We’ve been meeting on a regular basis,” said Finkelstein. “We hope to conclude the negotiations soon.”
As far as the current police station is concerned, it will eventually be torn down. The location, right in the heart of downtown Bethesda and just two blocks from the Metro, certainly makes it attractive for development. “It could be office. It could be hotel. It could be residential,” said Finkelstein. That’s an entirely separate process, one both JBG and the county hope can begin sooner rather than later. After the transaction itself is agreed upon, the long-term entitlement and approval process can begin. Until then, county officials must head back to the negotiating table. “I wish we could have had a deal done by now,” said Stiles.