The Maryland Transit Administration is proposing a 92-foot ventilation tower be placed in popular Woodmont Plaza as part of an emergency ventilation system for the planned Purple Line, according to a county planning staff memo.
The memo provides a series of updates on how the planned, 16-mile light rail and re-constructed Capital Crescent Trail would mesh with surrounding communities in Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Silver Spring. The memo was prepared for a Montgomery County Planning Board briefing set for Feb. 28. The $2.2 billion project is in early design stages, but not yet fully funded.
The proposed location of the tower in the heavily used public plaza is "not ideal," planning staff wrote, though there are "many ways that MTA can mitigate its impact," including architectural treatments. One possibility may be an "iconic" treatment of the tower as an area landmark, planning staff wrote.
According to the memo, the MTA is proposing to locate two ventilation towers on either side of the Wisconsin Avenue tunnel, through which the Purple Line would run. The "fan houses" would be used only in emergencies to clear the tunnel of smoke, according to the memo, but would be tested about once a month.
A "fan house" on the east side of the tunnel would be concealed by the Apex building's parking structure, but a planned tower on the west side would be highly visible in Woodmont Plaza, near the Bethesda Row Cinema.
The tower, according to the memo, would be 40 feet by 18 feet, and 92-feet high.
The news was first reported by Bethesda blogger Robert Dyer.
It's not yet clear exactly where the tower would be placed in relation to the Woodmont East mixed-use development planned for the site.
The memo goes on to read:
Since the west side fan house is a substantial structure, MTA has looked at a variety of ways to reduce its visual impact, including alternative locations and architectural treatments. Based on existing conditions, the best place to locate the fan house is just outside the tunnel in the plaza area. Since there is some flexibility in its exact placement, MTA has reached out to Federal Realty to determine if there are minor adjustments to the location of the fan house that would have less of an impact to proposed development. However, the developer’s plans at this time are still in progress and they have not expressed a preferred location that works for MTA. It is also possible to reduce the impact of the fan house through architectural treatments. For example, it could have an iconic treatment that makes it a landmark in Bethesda, or it could be designed to fit in with the surrounding architecture. MTA is continuing the discussion about the location of the fan house with Federal Realty and plans to begin working on architectural treatments with the community in the coming months.
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