The Bethesda Master Plan Appendix provided a blunt assessment of the need to redevelop the Apex Building beyond the desirability of the tunnel under Wisconsin Ave and the substantially reduced likelihood of the Apex Building ever being redeveloped:
Ventilation Tower in Bethesda’s Heart
The area in front of Barnes and Noble at Woodmont and Bethesda Ave. is the epicenter of Bethesda. Without redeveloping the Apex Building, there will need to be a ventilation tower right across the street in Woodmont Plaza that will be “40 feet wide by 18 feet long by 90 feet high.” But it could be incorporated into a redeveloped Apex building.
Longer Tail Track in Bethesda’s Heart
In his responses to my questions about the tail track, Mike Madden did not mention that the failure to tear down the Apex Building will result in a much longer tail track. According to the Master Plan Appendix, “the Purple Line tracks would extend 100 feet into the plaza.”
These tail tracks would be right next to Mon Ami Gabi, the movie theaters, and the restaurants in the new development. But if the Apex building is redeveloped, the tail tracks “would extend only about 30 feet into the plaza.”
It’s hard to see how a ventilation tower and tail tracks right smack dab in the middle of Bethesda comport with the desire to promote new development–a major Purple Line goal. It also will hardly aid the County’s effort to promote a vibrant nightlife.
Worse Purple Line Platform
Purple Line Project Manger Mike Madden says that the platform will now have 7 columns but the Master Plan Appendix indicates that “12 support columns for the Apex Building would be located on the platform” unless the building is redeveloped. I don’t know whose information is accurate. It gets worse:
The platform is on a slight curve so there would be small gap between the train and the platform. The estimated pedestrian level of service at this station is the lowest along the alignment under current plans.
No Bicycle Storage
As the Bethesda Master Plan Appendix explains:
With the redevelopment of the Apex Building site it is possible to reserve space for a full-service bicycle storage facility that is adjacent to the Capital Crescent Trail, the Red Line station entrance, and the Purple Line platform. A bicycle storage facility . . . is important to provide access to and from transit and for commuters to Bethesda.
Worse Red Line Entrance and Pedestrian Access
Mike Madden says sidewalk space will be preserved by eating further into Elm Street where the elevators will be installed. But the Master Plan Appendix states:
These elevators have a visual presence on Elm Street and provide a circulation area that is adequate but not ideal. . . . The elevators could be incorporated into the redeveloped Apex Building with additional space for pedestrian circulation. This would reduce the cost of the high-speed elevators by approximately $10 million (emphasis added).
The failure of vision and to provide infrastructure needed to support a project designed to aid the County’s economic development and long-term growth is an increasingly typical mistake in Montgomery County. It also seems part of a bait-and-switch tactic that Bethesda residents should expect as the Council moves forward with its current Master Plan review.