Constructing underground parking beneath the current lots would be
expensive. At an estimated $70,000 per
space, according to Al Roshdieh, director
of the Montgomery County Department
of Transportation, replacing the current
amount of parking with an underground
garage could cost in excess of $20 million. ;at is on top of the $151 million
for acquiring and developing the land for
parks identified in the downtown plan.
Late last year, after an extended discussion at a council committee session, Berliner and Riemer thought they reached
an understanding with transportation
department o;cials that lots 10 and 24
could be turned into parks and still leave
su;cient parking to avoid the need for an
expensive underground garage. But Roshdieh contended in a recent interview that
giving up those lots without a replacement would be risky—at least until more
people coming into downtown Bethesda
rely on mass transit. ;e opening of the
Purple Line could help speed this process.
“If the next county executive asked
me, ‘Do you think we can close those lots
tomorrow and turn them into a park?’ I
would say, ‘No, I would not recommend
that,’ ” Roshdieh says. But he remains
open to the precedent-setting move of
giving up county-owned parking lots for
park space. “It may not happen in the
next 12 months or let’s say two or three
years, but I am hoping in the next five
years we will be able to do this,” he says.
Amid the wrangling over the amount
of parking, some advocates for present-day downtown Bethesda wonder
privately whether the Town of Chevy
Chase’s desire to create the park is a
return to the past—where the downtown
was to be separated from residential
neighborhoods by passive green bu;ers.
“Those days are over,” Flynn says.
“;e idea of bu;er parks is something
that happened in the ’80s. We’re talking
about 40 years later, with a very di;erent
area. …;is is going to have to be a park
for everybody.” ■
Louis Peck has covered politics extensively for four decades. He can be reached
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