UPDATE, 1:30 p.m.: The groundbreaking date for the Lot 31 project is now April 10, when both lots at the corner of Bethesda Avenue and Woodmont will close to the public. The county is in the process of updating signs and its website, Hartman said.
We're told the April 10 date is "final and firm" and was finalized between the county and the developer Thursday.
Original post, 6 a.m.: After months of delays, the groundbreaking for a major public parking garage in downtown Bethesda – and the closure of Lots 31 and 31A, two popular surface parking lots -- is slated for April 3.
Initial groundbreaking timetables were pushed back from last summer to last fall, then to January, February and March.
Is it really happening this time? Yes, said Ken Hartman, director of the
“Delays have been due to finalizing the agreements between the county and the developer,” Hartman wrote in an email to Patch.
The project is a public-private partnership between the county and developers StonebridgeCarras and PN Hoffman, who are also planning on either side of Woodmont, with 250 units and ground-floor retail.
The project will prompt the 30-month closure of the two surface parking lots at Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues -- with 279 spots -- popular among shoppers, diners, and users of the nearby When complete, the garage will feature 940 public parking spaces.
The construction project will also mean the 20-month closure of a portion of Woodmont Avenue, between Bethesda Avenue and Miller Avenue. The Woodmont closure is expected 60 days following the groundbreaking, though the Capital Crescent Trail will remain open throughout construction.
The delays gave officials extra time to prepare for the closure of the two surface lots, Hartman said. More than 100 long-term spaces in the Bethesda-Elm garage have been converted to short-term spots, and officials have met with all local businesses about parking options for their employees, according to Hartman. “Many long term parkers have already made arrangements to park elsewhere in Bethesda or are taking transit,” Hartman wrote. “The upper floors of the garage are pretty empty now during the day.”
In addition, a is up and running outside the Bethesda-Elm garage, the Bethesda Circulator is boasting expanded hours and rush hour service, and officials are working with Bethesda Row management company Federal Realty to expand valet parking.
But many residents and local businesses are dreading the looming parking crunch on Bethesda Row, where spots are notoriously scarce.
Lee Fleishman, a manager at on Bethesda Avenue, told Patch in January the closure would be tough on employees getting to and from work and on their parking patrons.
“People will give it a try to park, but if they can’t find a spot, sometimes they’ll just call it a day and go some place with a private lot, like Giant,” Fleishman said.
For more information on where to park during Lot 31 construction, visit Bethesda Urban Partnership's Lot 31 website.
How will the closure of Lots 31 and 31A affect you? Will you take the Bethesda Circulator, walk, ride a bike or take Metro to downtown Bethesda rather than driving? Tell us in the comments.