Bethesda Row, Federal Realty Investment Trust’s pedestrian-friendly

Bethesda Row, Federal Realty Investment Trust’s pedestrian-friendly redevelopment of part of downtown Bethesda, Maryland, continues to get rave reviews. “Delightful” was design critic Roger K. Lewis’s word for it recently in the Washington Post. The University of Maryland architecture professor described it as “more reminiscent of a populated a Parisian streetscape lined by bistros and cafes than a once-dormant suburb.” The big question now is whether Federal will be allowed to replace a one-story Giant supermarket with 180 high-end rental apartments over 60,000 square feet of shops. The Montgomery County Council last September gave Federal the leeway it needed to build five stories of apartments above stores. Neighborhood groups nearby have protested. They say the Council should not have overruled a previous zoning plan limiting building height near the neighborhoods to 42 feet, or three stories. Federal spokesman Kris Warner says the company needs five stories of residential to make construction economically feasible. Federal has shaved the height from 75 feet to 67 feet at the peak and reconfigured the main building as an “E” in plan to make it less massive along the road it fronts. “We are pretty confident” the revised proposal will be built, she says.