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Artist Workspace Planned for Fairmont High Rise

Studios are planned as a part of a mixed-use residential development at the site of a BP gas station.

More artist studios are planned for downtown Bethesda as a part of a 17-story, mixed-use residential development at 4990 Fairmont Ave., detailed Friday morning at a meeting of the Woodmont Triangle Action Group.

Bethesda community leaders have long pushed for more artist workspace downtown. Studios planned for the Trillium development at Wisconsin Avenue and Battery Lane fell through when the development project fizzled.

The studios are planned for the ground floor of the high-rise at 4990 Fairmont, a site at the corner of Old Georgetown Road where a BP gas station currently sits.

Two thousand square feet of artist work space will border retail space and a residential lobby on the ground floor of the development, said property owner Thomas Albert of the Chevy Chase-based Starr Capital. The workspace will run parallel to an alley with an entrance on Old Georgetown Road that separates the property from an adjacent property garage.

The workspace will have glass frontage, and lighting is set to liven up the alleyway to encourage pedestrians to come through and view the artists at work, Albert said.

“You’ll walk down this alley under a little cover, and we’ll do something with lights or signage, something that makes it attractive and appealing and a nice place to go into,” Albert said.

Developers plan to turn management of the space over to the Bethesda Urban Partnership, under similar conditions worked out in a signed agreement between BUP and the developers of the former Trillium property.

"This is a great location for the artist workspace—it's better than the Trillium, it has more foot traffic," committee member Debbie Michaels said.

Developers will file plans for the development with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in several weeks.

An above-ground parking structure, set to take up four floors above the retail space, won't be visible from the outside of the building, Albert said.

"We don't want it to look like a building on top of a garage," Albert said. "We want it to look like a sexy building."

About 75 condo units are planned in the 17-story building, along with more than 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The artist workspace will join more artist studios in the works in the Bethesda Metro pedestrian tunnel known as "Studio B."

Correction: This article has been updated to indicate Thomas Albert represented Starr Capital at the meeting. We regret the error.

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