Westbard Shopping Center Development

UPDATE: November 13, 2014

LFWA's Vision for Westbard

For the Sake of the Environment,
The Westbard Sector Master Plan Must . . .

1)     State of the environment in the area covered by the Westbard Sector plan is poor. The Little Falls Branch is one of the County’s most urban streams with very poor water quality and very little aquatic life. The Willett Branch, which flows through most of the area covered by the Westbard sector plan, meets the Little Falls Branch at Little Falls Parkway; during large storms the creek has and continues to flood the Parkway. The Westbard plan must take into account the carrying capacity of our local environment and address the ecological damage that over 70 years of unsustainable development has caused and not simply focus on slowing down degradation.

2)      57% of the Westbard area is paved, similar to very urban downtown areas. Such impervious surfaces prevent rain from filtering into the soil. The extensive impervious surfaces in our neighborhood has caused storm water to run off the pavement and into the paved channels of the Little Falls and Willett Branches at a very high velocity, while carrying pollution and dirt into the waterways, causing major damage to downstream reaches of the creek and carrying sediment and other contamination into the receiving waters of the Potomac river. The original stream drainage pattern in Westbard has been extensively channelized and altered over time. The Sector plan must have effective stormwater management, using ‘green’ technology to greatest extent possible to reduce and eliminate harmful stormwater runoff. Impervious surfaces in Westbard must be reduced in the redevelopment areas owned by Equity One and others covered in the Sector Plan.

3)     Specifically the Willett Branch runs right through the area covered by the Westbard Sector plan. Right now it is a dumping ground for all the businesses that back up to it. It is concrete lined and the walls of the creek are covered with graffiti. Shopping carts, parts of abandon cars and piles of trash line the banks. But it doesn't have to be an industrial blight. The new Sector plan should make the Willett Branch a focal point for the neighborhood much like other areas have turned their industrial waterfronts into beautiful parks. The Willett Branch and access to the Branch must be cleaned up and ‘greened’ to provide a public gathering place and passageway from the Equity One properties to River Road and the Capital Crescent trail.

 4)     The 1982 Westbard sector plan contained recommendations to improve the Willett Branch portion of the Little Falls watershed and provide for some type of stream protection and buffering, as well as gateway green features in the Westbard area. None of that happened. Had those plans been implemented, perhaps some of the stream degradation in the Little Falls watershed would have been avoided and surely our neighborhoods would have been more pleasant areas in which to live. The new Sector plan must insure that such stream buffering and green gateway features are, in fact, built. The Westbard plan should also lead to the removal the concrete channels and regenerate the streams in as much of the Little Falls and Willett Branches as possible.

5)     Forest and other natural vegetated areas in Westbard only cover 16% of the land area, mostly on publically owned land. Most of those forested areas are unconnected, preventing wildlife with useful habitat and most are infested with non-native invasive plants. Of the areas of Westbard not forested, most of the land area is unshaded with half of the buildings, roads and parking lots exposed to the sun. This contributes to thermal pollution in our streams and contributes to the urban heat island effect. The Sector plan must provide for adequate shade over streets and parking lots and should provide for green space including pocket parks and green buffering zones to improve the natural environment and increase human amenities. 

UPDATE: March 11, 2014

Vision Workshop Notes Available for Review

Equity One has released the notes from the Vision Meetings for the Westwood Shopping Complex  - a 22 arce parcel off of River Road in Bethesda that includes the Westbard Shopping center and six other properties.

You can view the notes HERE

Equity One is collecting comments on the notes until Feb. 24.   Comments should be sent to info@westbardvision.com

March 18 - Design Principles Presentation

7:30 p.m.
Walt Whitman High School Auditorium
7100 Whittier Boulevard, Bethesda, MD 20817
The meeting will last about one hour.
After reviewing feedback from the two public workshops and the comments received through the website, Equity One is working to develop design principles which will be presented at this meeting.  Additionally, moderators will take additional comments and answer any other questions.
Read their latest newsletter HERE


UPDATE:  February 10, 2014

From Equity One Email: Hundreds of Bethesda residents share their vision for Westbard

More than 500 Bethesda residents gathered to discuss the future of Westwood Shopping Center and its adjacent properties at two workshops hosted by new property owner Equity One last week. Those in attendance shared their thoughts and ideas regarding any potential improvements or re-purposing of these sites.

Although the stores and businesses at these properties are supported by the community, “We do think there is an opportunity to improve upon them,” said Michael Berfield, Executive Vice President of Development for Equity One. “We always come to a property trying to figure out how to make that property better.”  He pointed out that the design of the center is not very pedestrian friendly, nor is it up to current environmental standards.  Berfield, a native of Bethesda, emphasized Equity One’s commitment to developing, owning and improving great retail centers. “We’re here for the long term,” he said.

Following a presentation by Equity One that described how they intended to work with the community and what their guiding principles for the properties were, participants rotated through several break-out groups.  These groups included design character; programs and amenities; landscaping, sustainability and environment; and mobility, access and connectivity. Summaries of attendees’ comments will be posted on WestbardVision.com by Friday, February 14. That input will also be used to inform the design process.

In the coming weeks look for further details about the next community meeting, currently planned for March 4.

To view Equity One’s presentation to the community, click HERE


Background and Initial Meeting

Equity One, a Florida based developer that has been buying up pieces of the Westbard Shopping Center and surrounding commercial district in Bethesda will host two community meetings to present their ideas for redevelopment of the area.

Vision Meeting for Westbard Shopping Center 

Wednesday, January 29 7:00 to 9:00 pm 
Saturday, February 1, 10:00 to noon

The Ballroom 
Landy Lane, Bethesda.

According to the developer's website  these meetings are intended as workshops that will allow the developer to “share our thinking to date and solicit comments from the community,”  
It is important to know that the area is much larger than the Westbard Shopping Center.  It includes the nursing home, the bowling alley, the gas station, the building where Domino's Pizza is and more - a total  22 acres.   Specifically, the property to be redeveloped consists of 7 parcels improved with 467,000 square feet of retail, office, multi-family and assisted living space.
Westwood Complex
Information about the meetings and development are HERE
Information about the Westwood Complex parcel are HERE
As the Westbard Shopping Center is very near the Little Falls and Willett Branches, the development of the center has the potential to greatly impact the creeks and watershed.  It is important that the site be developed in accordance with the strictest environmental guidelines.  Little Falls Watershed Alliance will be there advocating for the creek.  Please join us as developers need to know that the public is concerned about the environment.
An article about Equity One and the proposed extent of the project can be found HERE