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Development at Arlington Road Post Office Gets Green Light

New Bethesda post office location is on Wisconsin Avenue; to be announced shortly, USPS says.

Update, 7:18 a.m.: The Gazette is reporting the current post offices will be consolidated into a new facility in three months, citing a USPS spokeswoman, Laura Dvorak. A postal service real estate specialist could not confirm a timeline to Patch but reported the new site is on Wisconsin Avenue, where a deal is "in the works."

Original post, 5:50 a.m.: The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved a project plan amendment that will bring a five-story, mixed-use residential and retail building to the Bethesda post office site at 7001 Arlington Road.

An original plan for the site was approved in 2008. Developers Keating Project Development, Inc. brought a plan amendment before the Montgomery County Planning Board last month that would decrease the amount of retail space from 30,000 square feet to 7,000 square feet – largely because of the United States Postal Service’s plan to close the Arlington Road facility, around which the initial project was planned.

The postal service announced last summer it planned to close the offices at Arlington Road and Wisconsin Avenue in the face of declining revenues and , possibly within the year.

The location of the new USPS retail operation will be announced shortly and is located on Wisconsin Avenue, “as close as we could get” to the current post office at 7400 Wisconsin, according to Dennis Perry, a real estate specialist for the USPS eastern facilities service office. A timeline for closures of the current post offices remains unclear, he said.

Besides shrinking the amount of retail space, plans for the Arlington Road development include increasing the number of residential units from 105 to 145, increasing the percentage of moderately priced units from 12.5 to 15.2 percent, reducing parking spaces from 287 to 215, and reducing the gross floor area of the development from 195,000 square feet to 172,000 square feet.

Rental units, rather than condominiums, are planned for the site, said Bob Harris, an attorney representing developers, at a Dec. 15 Montgomery County Planning Board hearing during which the board recommended approval to the council.

At the hearing, planning staff proposed adding public bike and pedestrian access through the site to the Capital Crescent Trail. That condition wasn't included as a part of the Planning Board's recommendation to approve the plans, however.

Beginning at the Arlington Road site, bikers and pedestrians could eventually be able to access the trail and Woodmont Avenue via the staff recommended. Lot 31, a major public parking garage with residential and retail planned above it at the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues, was approved with a connection between the Capital Crescent Trail and Woodmont Avenue along the southern portion of the development, according to the staff report.

 “The recommended on-site public trail…could then become a natural extension of the trail between Woodmont Avenue and Capital Crescent Trail to Arlington Road, and will provide a direct, viable, and attractive transportation/recreational route for area residents to the Capital Crescent Trail and other amenities in the area,” the report read.

Harris disagreed with the proposed trail connection at the Dec. 15 hearing, citing maintenance and liability issues as well as other popular trailheads in the area.

As planned for the original project, the development amendment greenlighted by the council Tuesday limits Capital Crescent trail access from the site to residents of the development.

The project will need to return to the Planning Board for a more detailed site plan review before moving forward.

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