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UPDATE: Lot 31 Groundbreaking Slated For April

Major public parking garage project will move forward after months of delays.

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.

David Heyman March 23, 2012 at 01:46 PM
It's going to be a long 20-30 months in that part of Bethesda. How many small businesses are we going to lose in that time?
Mark S March 23, 2012 at 02:21 PM
As a long time Bethesda resident, I've just about had it. Driving into downtown Bethesda used to be tough, but its gotten increasingly worse over the past few years and will become unbearable with this project. Is there such a thing as over development? Absolutely and Bethesda is going to change for the worse. Longer lines at restaurants; road/parking-rage trying to make it through intersections or find a spot to park, etc., etc. Fleischman from Bethesda Bagel is right to be worried.
Brad Longley March 23, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Mark. Didn't you move to Bethesda to take yourself out of the driving problem? Stop contributing to it and start walking.
Mike March 23, 2012 at 03:47 PM
This project will make one of the most dangerous intersections in the county much safer, will add parking spaces for these businesses to thrive, and beautify downtown Bethesda. The businesses shouldn't suffer just because people need to park an extra block away.
Erin Donaghue (Editor) March 23, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Thanks for the comments, all. Is anyone planning on parking in a garage further away and taking the Circulator downtown? Do you guys think that's a reasonable option or too much of a hassle?
John March 23, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I'll probably just park in the lot across Wisconsin that are only a block and a half away and are rarely full.
John March 23, 2012 at 06:06 PM
I was sick of trying to find a spot in Lot 31 anyway. It'll be nice once they've added that much more parking there.
marv March 23, 2012 at 09:22 PM
I'm pretty sure that the stores at Bethesda Row, which have some of the highest sales volumes in the country, will somehow make it.
Arlene K. Polangin March 24, 2012 at 12:29 AM
For those of us who've lived in Bethesda for 40 years, parking is getting more and more impossible. Adding walking even farther after parking will make it a place, unfortunately, just to avoid....
Frank K March 25, 2012 at 01:55 PM
As a longtime resident I'm sorry to say I no longer do any business in Bethesda unless I absolutely have to. Parking lot 31 was one of the few places I could find parking when I did go into Bethesda. I won't be using the new 940 car garage. Can you imagine tying to get in and out of there? Nope, Bethesda is a place to avoid at all cost. I'd rather shop just about anywhere else.
Debra Turkat March 25, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Most of the trips I make to Bethesda downtown are convenience and I will go elsewhere. I have already stopped dining in that area because it is impossible to walk with more than 50% of the sidewalks taken up by dining tables. Our Planning Staff Director says "congestion is good because it forces people to take Metro..." Well, not this person.
Arlene K. Polangin March 25, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Way too much of a hassle. Add time at home to get ready, time to drive, time to park, take the Circulator and walk; just not worth it!!
Don Platt April 10, 2012 at 12:30 PM
we visit woodmont/Bethesda 4-5 times a week. we've been dreading this situation and hope the businesses can survive; but, they will have to survive without us--no place to park, no place to shop, somebody isn't planning very well. Circulator is the pits

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