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Northwestern Mutual Partners On Downtown Bethesda Residential, Retail Project

Condos and apartments planned for Bethesda, Woodmont Avenues.

In a move that promises to transform a key intersection in downtown Bethesda, Northwestern Mutual has entered as a joint venture partner with StonebridgeCarras and PN Hoffman for a large mixed-use development project planned for the parking lots across from Barnes & Noble at the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues.

The $200 million Bethesda project, pending since 2004, got a boost this week with the announcement of the partnership. Specific financial details were not disclosed.

The project, known as Lot 31, is a public-private partnership including StonebridgeCarras, PN Hoffman and Montgomery County. The county plans to build a large underground public parking garage at the site, and residential components include The Darcy, an 88-unit luxury condominium building, and The Flats, which will be a 162-unit apartment building.

The Darcy is planned for the Wisconsin Avenue side of Woodmont, while The Flats will be on the other side where the large parking lot now sits, according to Doug Firstenberg, a principal at Stonebridge Carras. Ground floor retail is also planned.

Long-term, the project could be a big boost for downtown Bethesda.

“We look forward to creating a vibrant mixed-use project built on the great success of Bethesda Row,” Firstenberg said in a statement.

Firstenberg told Patch that moving ahead with a mixed-use development project on this scale hasn’t been easy given the current economic environment. “We live in a market not fully recovered,” he said. “It’s been a challenge.  We’ve been working on this since 2004…but we have a great product and we’re in a great area."

Initial response for the luxury condominium building has been strong, developers said. “While we anticipated strong interest when opening The Darcy sales center a few months ago, the response has exceeded expectations and we are ahead of schedule,” said Monty Hoffman, managing director of PN Hoffman, in a statement.

Construction on the garage is expected to begin next month, and the construction work is likely to aggravate the already difficult traffic and parking headaches that exist on popular Bethesda Row.

The construction of the garage will require a 20-month closure of a portion of Woodmont Avenue south of Bethesda Avenue, and will also mean the loss of a 270-space surface parking lot currently at the corner for about 30 months. To help open up spots for shoppers, the county plans on shifting long-term parking out of the public garage between Bethesda and Elm Streets and adding 103 short-term parking spaces and nine ADA spots there, according to the Bethesda Urban Partnership.

Long-term spaces will be available at the Woodmont Avenue-Old Georgetown Road Garage and the Auburn-Del Ray Avenue Garage. Long term parkers are also being encouraged to take the free Bethesda Circulator to head downtown from outlying lots.

For more information on where to park during Lot 31 construction, visit Bethesda Urban Partnership's Lot 31 website.

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