1788, Lantian Change Plans For Shady Grove Mini-City

Oct 27, 2016 Jon Banister, DC – After buying a 31-acre site along Shady Grove Road in Rockville last year for $50M, 1788 Holdings and Chinese-backed Lantian Development had discussed plans to build a 2M SF “mini-city.” 

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A taste of Manhattan in Bethesda

When arriving home from a vacation means tossing your keys to the valet parking attendant who greets you by name, chatting with the concierge about your theater tickets and walking into a freshly cleaned home with a restocked refrigerator, you may feel as if you’re a chic New Yorker living on Manhattan’s East Side.

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How Much More Development Can Montgomery County Stand?

Feb 05, 2016 David Hubler, Bisnow, DC – via Bisnow

Bethesda Lane

Bethesda Lane

Montgomery County is sometimes viewed, even by its residents, as a fully developed suburban community with little opportunity, or need, for more growth. Bisnow last week reported plans to form a coalition of Bethesda-area residents who want to retain the county’s large stock of single-family homes and are opposed to increased density from new housing construction. That will certainly come up on Feb. 17 at 12435 Park Potomac Ave for Bisnow’s Montgomery County State of the Market event.

Residents, of course, don’t see the county through the eyes of professional developers like Doug Firstenberg (snapped above at another Bisnow event), principal at StonebridgeCarras, who has more than two decades of development experience in the county.   “It’s a place where people want to live,” Doug says, with outstanding schools, retail and excellent infrastructure. “It has been an urban infill, transit-oriented development area before all those terms were coined.” In Bethesda, StonebridgeCarras recently completed the Flats, a seven-story, 162-unit apartment building, and the Darcy across the street, nine floors of condos that range from 835 SF one-bedroom units to a 2,935 SF penthouse. Next up for delivery is 8300 Wisconsin Ave with 359 residential units and a Harris Teeter. Doug is bullish also on White Flint, once a prime shopping area that’s beginning to undergo a major redevelopment. Once Lerner Enterprises, Tower Cos and Lord & Taylor resolve their multimillion-dollar legal dispute, other redevelopment will follow, he predicts. “You’re starting to see these other areas really start to transform and become dynamic,” Doug says. Commercially, however, one wonders about the future of the office parks along I-270 and elsewhere that aren’t Metro accessible and have never been viewed as dynamic.


1788 Holdings principal Larry Goodwin says the volume of planned, intense mixed-use development in the White Flint area will create a more robust live/work/play environment, and that will be good for the county. That said, he concurs that the office market overall hasn’t been vibrant in recent years. “When I see only two new buildings being delivered in this cycle in downtown Bethesda,” Larry says, “and they have been slow to lease up despite being the only new product recently built, that would suggest the county’s office market is not a robust environment.” Perhaps to show its faith in MoCo’s viability—and to get a close-up perspective of the lay of the land—1788 recently moved its HQ to downtown Bethesda from downtown DC. Last summer, 1788 and Lantian Development purchased the Shady Grove Office Park, in the heart of North Rockville, with plans to entitle and redevelop the park into a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use town center over the next five to 10 years. “We felt like we could create a compelling environment in that area and not be competing” with so many other people looking to develop elsewhere, Larry explains.

Foulger-Pratt president of development Brigg Bunker likes the county precisely because of its multi-tenant residential development. “There’s new product in different price points like we haven’t seen in Montgomery County for quite some time,” he says. The demand is across the board, stoked in part by Baby Boomers moving out of their single-family homes and into smaller apartment units with less maintenance. Given the demographics of the area, Brigg says, expect to see more such downsizing in the future. In December 2015, Foulger-Pratt and partner Willco broke ground on Core, a 16-story, 292-unit apartment building at 8621 Georgia Ave, in Silver Spring’s business district. The building will include 52 affordable units and about 1,500 SF of ground-floor retail space.   But even with Montgomery’s strong professional job base, Brigg is not as enthusiastic about the county’s commercial market, especially when it comes to “elephant hunting”—finding tenants to pre-lease large spaces. “There’s not a lot of 30-plus-thousand SF tenants looking to locate in Montgomery County,” he says. “And if they are [looking], they’re staying in the county, moving from one building to another. We’re not getting a large base of tenants moving into the county.”  Brigg and Foulger-Pratt will have to hunt smaller game at their new 12435 Park Potomac Ave office building—the firm’s new HQ and the location of Bisnow’s Montgomery County State of the Market on Feb. 17 at 7:30am. 

The Lauren Condo Project Targets March 2016 Opening

Developer says nine units are under contract

BY AARON KRAUT • Published: 2015.11.11 05:25

Nine of the 26 residences at the lavish The Lauren condominium building are under contract and construction is set to be completed by March 2016.

“At this point, we’re sort of where we wanted to be,” said Larry Goodwin, founder of Bethesda-based developer 1788 Holdings. “What we have done is we’ve engineered this project way past what the standards are in the market. There’s a lot of talk about our prices. For us, it’s not about the prices. It’s the value we’re delivering for those prices.”

The prices—the $10.5 million penthouse could end up as the most expensive condo unit ever sold in the Washington, D.C., area—have generated much of the buzz surrounding the project.

Pre-construction signs announcing “Homes from the several millions” turned plenty of heads.

One-bedroom units at the project start at $1.5 million and a roughly 3,400-square-foot three-bedroom unit will be priced at about $4.5 million.

Goodwin and Michael Snyder, vice president of project partner Persimmon Capital Partners, said they’re confident the remaining units will sell because The Lauren’s building finishes, private elevators and amenities will surpass what’s offered by other condo projects in the region.

“Frankly, if [the concierges] don’t have your Black Card and they’re not taking care of things for you every day, that isn’t what we intended and they would be changed out,” Goodwin said. “Our view is we want these people to be an extension of your home office, someone who’s going to take care of the details for you.”

Renderings of the penthouse kitchen and basement Wine Lounge at The Lauren, via Akseizer Design Group

Goodwin compared the project to the high-end Somerset House condos in Chevy Chase, where he said most new residents are paying more than the sales price because they’re doing major renovations of older units after closing.

“Most people don’t want to go through renovations,” Snyder said.

Goodwin said the target residents for the building are “working wealthy people,” who are likely to travel frequently, who might own their own business and who have nine-digit bank accounts.

Those under contract before construction of the building is finished are from the Washington region, with a few future residents looking to downsize from bigger single-family homes in Potomac.

In addition to the 29 residences, there are five guest suites and six moderately-priced dwelling units (MPDUs), as required of all new major residential development in Montgomery County.

At The Lauren, those six MPDUs will average about 1,400 square feet and cost about $170,000.

The units will be sold through the county to qualified buyers closer to the project’s delivery date. Owners of the MPDUs will have the option to join a separate condominium association with nominal monthly fees.

Goodwin said one or two qualified buyers are expressing interest every week.

As for the $10.5 million penthouse, the 5,700-square-foot, three-bedroom unit with its own maid’s suite and a private 1,300-square-foot outdoor terrace, Goodwin predicted it will sell shortly after the building opens, like many of the other units.

“With where we’re at now, if [a potential buyer] isn’t pushing to have a meeting with us, we want to deliver and put the wrap on it,” Goodwin said. “We really feel this is a product that people really need to see.”

In the Washington suburbs, the march of the mini cities

The Washington Post • By Jonathan O'Connell

The Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s B Side restaurant, in the Fairfax’s Mosaic District, is adjacent to offices, apartments, condos and shopping. (Kate Patterson for The Washington Post)

The Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s B Side restaurant, in the Fairfax’s Mosaic District, is adjacent to offices, apartments, condos and shopping. (Kate Patterson for The Washington Post)

Last year, managers of Merrill Lynch’s Rockville location had to make a decision about whether to move their offices as the end of the company’s lease approached.

Vacancy in the area was on the rise, creating a renter’s market. Owners of outer Montgomery County office parks like theirs were struggling to retain tenants and dramatically dropping prices. They could probably negotiate a favorable lease to stay put.

But Merrill Lynch had another option that wouldn’t have been available a few years prior: new offices being built nearby at the Pike & Rose development. Unlike Merrill Lynch’s location at the time, Pike & Rose offered a slice of urbanity, featuring an emerging grid of streets lined with restaurants, shops and apartments, all withing walking distance of a Metro station and near Rockville Pike.

Merrill Lynch went with Pike & Rose, despite paying what some experts said was 40 percent more per square foot than it would have if it had stayed put.

The premium that companies and apartment renters have begun paying to move to walkable places with restaurants and public transit has developers and investors from as far away as China scouring the Washington landscape for spots to build their own mini cities akin to Pike & Rose or the Mosaic District in Fairfax County.

A rendering of plans for the Pike & Rose development in White Flint. (Jenna Billingsley/Rendering courtesy of Federal Realty Investment Trust/Neoscape)

A rendering of plans for the Pike & Rose development in White Flint. (Jenna Billingsley/Rendering courtesy of Federal Realty Investment Trust/Neoscape)

The next one may be in Shady Grove. On Thursday last week a small Bethesda firm partnered with Chinese investors on the $50 million purchase of seven older office buildings along Shady Grove Road in Rockville that the companies envision as the next mini city in suburban Washington.

Larry Goodwin, managing principal of 1788 Holdings, founded the company after working at Goldman Sachs and says he “likes to be associated with differentiated product” — meaning high-end work. The holding company has built some of Montgomery County’s priciest new condos, including the Estate Condominiums at Quarry Springs and the Lauren Residences in Bethesda.

In Shady Grove, 1788 is acquiring property that at the moment is far less exclusive. Along with Chinese-backed Lantian Development, which has local offices in Bethesda, the two companies are acquiring the type of lower-grade office buildings that have not fared well in recent years as the vacancy rate in North Bethesda  and Rockville soared.

The portfolio they are buying consists of nearly 450,000 square feet of space in seven buildings along Choke Cherry Road, Gaither Road and Shady Grove Road.

For decades as Interstate 270 expanded, the buildings performed just fine with occupancy well above 90 percent, said Goodwin.

But that’s no longer the path to success around the Capital Beltway. Like much that has been developed in Shady Grove, the properties represent something that companies like Merrill Lynch are fleeing: an isolated suburban location surrounded by traffic. The offices are bunched together with nothing to do around them. Shops are sprawled along major roads. Homes are off cloistered in other areas altogether.

“You really don’t have any live-work-play projects in that area,” Goodwin said. “There’s just not a lot of mix of uses.”
In Shady Grove, Goodwin said there was an opportunity to create a neighborhood so much more attractive than its surroundings that it can suck up all the nearby companies, apartment renters and condo buyers.

He took particular note of Merrill Lynch’s decision. In announcing the company’s move, Carol Nevins, director of the Maryland region for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management issued, a statement saying the company was “thrilled to consolidate and relocate our regional offices to the vibrant mixed-use environment of Pike & Rose.”

“Located just steps from the White Flint Metro, Pike & Rose will offer our clients and employees an exciting, convenient and amenity-rich environment that sets a new standard for Montgomery County,” she said.

The plans still require approval by the City of Rockville but Goodwin is already talking about trying to attract a high-end grocer and smaller foodie spots akin to those in the District’s Union Market.

His idea calls for initially tearing down the two buildings at 2 and 4 Choke Cherry Lane, which have nearly emptied, and building 900,000 square feet of new offices mixed with shopping, apartments and probably condos as well.

“You win every tie no matter what the use is when you’ve got a mixed-use environment,” he said.

When the project is completed, according to Brian McLaughlin, chief executive of Lantian Development, in a press release, "it will be pedestrian-friendly, encourage audience interaction and engagement, and establish a sense of place for the local community."

That’s a lot of real estate buzzwords, but 1788 and Lantian are following a path that has so far proven lucrative. Federal Realty Investment Trust, the Rockville-based company behind Pike & Rose, owns 90 shopping centers around the country but has made that project one of a handful aimed at becoming a mini city.

South Carolina-based Edens, which built both the Mosaic District and Union Market, landed $1.5 billion from investors in 2013, including $718 million from private equity giant Blackstone Group. About a quarter of the property it owns is in the Washington area and it has just begun its latest mini city venture in Alexandria, where it is trying to overhaul a shopping center that had been anchored by a dated Giant grocery store.

As the march of the mini cities continues, not all of the grandiose visions are likely to succeed. There is considerable risk, time and cost associated with demolishing existing buildings and re-working them as something completely different.

Goodwin thinks the jury is still out on a lot of the mixed-use plans in Tysons Corner, particularly given how successful Reston Town Center has been in creating a lively urban environment.

“My hunch is that after all of this Reston will continue to outperform Tysons in many ways,” he said.

Taking luxury condos to another level

WASHINGTON POST by Michele Lerner (freelance writer)

The clubhouse also will have a gathering room and a full bar.   (  Benjamin C. Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

The clubhouse also will have a gathering room and a full bar. (Benjamin C. Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

Kenneth Greenberg eagerly anticipates moving late this year into his condominium unit at Quarry Springs, a gated community in Bethesda, Md., that will feature large homes, terraced rock retaining walls, extensive gardens and a level of luxury well beyond the norm for the Washington area.

Greenberg, whose family has been in the construction and development business since the 1930s, says he studied the plans for Quarry Springs and was impressed by what he saw. “I think Bill Rickman is a genius to have put together this project,” says Greenberg, one of the first people to place a deposit on a home there.

William Rickman, a commercial builder and racetrack owner who died in 2005, came up with the idea for an upscale condo community on the site of the former Stoneyhurst Quarry. He hired architect Robert M. Swedroe to design the 13-acre development.

Swedroe, known for high-end condos in Miami, designed Quarry Springs with a direct-access elevator for each unit, leading from the garage into the unit’s private foyer. In addition, the units feature sightlines that will allow residents and guests to see from the foyer to the opposite end of the unit for sunrise and sunset views.

“The construction of these condos is excellent, with cinder-block walls and 10-foot-high ceilings so you won’t ever hear the neighbors,” Greenberg says. “I also like the pie-shaped design of my home so it isn’t just a boring box.”

Waterfall sounds: Greenberg’s home-to-be has a terrace overlooking River Road and the trees across the road. A second terrace, on the opposite side, will overlook a garden, a waterfall and a swimming pool.

The waterfall will provide a gentle sound of rushing water audible in every unit in the community, says Christine Basso, a real estate agent with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty.

The kitchens include a Wolf gas range, a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a wine preservation unit. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

The kitchens include a Wolf gas range, a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a wine preservation unit. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

John Fitzgerald, managing director for development with 1788 Holdings, the company that bought the property from William Rickman’s son, says some elements of the design were changed.

Fitzgerald says the redesign added 50 percent more closet space to each home, including walk-in closets in every bedroom and large linen closets.

Jeff Akseizer, owner of Akseizer Design Group, consulted on the interior design of the units, each of which has a grand vestibule to separate the master wing from guest bedroom suites and to provide gallery space for displaying art.

Akseizer picked the light fixtures, the Waterworks plumbing fixtures in the kitchen and baths, the Carrera marble counters and the transitional-style white kitchen cabinets. The kitchens include a Wolf gas range, a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a wine preservation unit. All the bathrooms have Carrera marble sinks, tub and shower surrounds and floors.

“We expected our buyers to come mostly from people in Potomac who wanted to downsize, and while most of our buyers are empty nesters so far, we’ve found some of them coming from downtown D.C. and Bethesda looking for more living space than the usual condo,” Fitzgerald says.

The units have from 2,235 to 4,455 square feet and come with 200 to 2,172 square feet of outdoor living space.

Plenty of closet space: The Georgetown model, which has three bedrooms, three bathrooms and 3,249 square feet, is priced from $2,899,000 to $3,299,000, with a monthly condo fee of $2,310. This type of unit comes with 637 to 1,906 square feet of outdoor living space, depending on location.

All the bathrooms have Carrera marble sinks, tub and shower surrounds and floors. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

All the bathrooms have Carrera marble sinks, tub and shower surrounds and floors. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

The living room has a gas fireplace and walls with oversize windows and oversize sliding glass doors leading to one of the unit’s two terraces. On the opposite side of the foyer is the open kitchen and the family room, which has space that can be used for casual dining. A wall of sliding glass doors leads to a second terrace.

The master suite has a vestibule entrance, where there are closets and a door to the master bathroom, which has a double-sink vanity, a soaking tub and a shower with three shower heads and a marble seat. The bedroom has a sliding glass door to a terrace.

Swimming, yoga studio and library: A swimming pool will be the centerpiece of the grounds, whose design includes gardens, lawns and trails. The clubhouse will have a library, a gathering room, a full bar, a game room and a catering kitchen. The fitness center will have a yoga studio, steam showers and saunas. Valet parking is available for residents and guests, and the gated community will have 24-hour security.

What’s nearby: Greenberg says one of the many features that attracted him to Quarry Springs is the location. It feels as if it’s in the country, but it is only about 10 minutes from downtown Bethesda and Tysons Corner and about 20 minutes from downtown Washington. Quarry Springs is also near the Congressional, Bethesda and Burning Tree country clubs, the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the Cabin John Trail.

Schools: Seven Locks Elementary, Cabin John Middle and Winston Churchill High.

Transit: Residents can use Ride-On bus service to reach Bethesda, Rockville and Friendship Heights, all of which have stations on Metrorail’s Red Line.

Luxury Condos At Old Stoneyhurst – Quarry Head Toward Move-In Date

BETHESDA BEAT – May 14, 2015

First phase of Quarry Springs project features units from $1.5 million to $4 million 

A little more than a quarter of the condominiums have sold in the first phase of the Quarry Springs project on River Road in Bethesda.

Add in the reserved units for which negotiations have started and more than half of the almost 50 units could be sold soon, according to developer Larry Goodwin.

With first move-ins set for late September and with condos ranging from $1.5 million to $4 million, Goodwin said that’s a good sign for the ultra-luxury market his 1788 Holdings development company hopes to capture in Bethesda.

The company is also building The Lauren, the 29-unit building going up at Hampden Lane and Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda.

It features a $10.5 million penthouse unit that could be the most expensive condo ever to sell in the Washington, D.C., area. The project turned heads in 2013 before construction even started with signs boasting of “Residences from the several millions.”

“Both of them will be iconic in their own way,” Goodwin said of the two projects.

Quarry Springs, which is being built at the old Stoneyhurst Quarry just west of the Capital Beltway, will feature a clubhouse with a library, grand salon, pool, yoga studio, spa and fitness center.

TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, which is handling sales at the project, hosted a grand opening of the clubhouse Wednesday with celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio, who owns Range, Aggio and Lunch Box in Northwest Washington, D.C.

The 13-acre property will have four buildings near a 50-foot waterfall and a stream that flows past a gazebo and walking path.

“This one has one of a country club feel to it with a lot of land,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin said close to 90 percent of the Quarry Springs buyers so far are coming from Potomac addresses, a sign of older residents hoping to downsize out of their single-family homes.

While Quarry Springs is on the edge of Potomac, some have shown interest in the busier downtown Bethesda setting of The Lauren.

“What’s really surprised us is there have been a couple of Potomac people who have put in for units at The Lauren,” Goodwin said, “because there are whole social networks out here. That just feels like a long way, even though it’s not.”

Units at Quarry Springs range from 2,200 to 4500 square feet with standard 10-foot ceilings, crown molding and climate-controlled storage areas. Some units have large wrap-around balconies.

An underground garage will have “direct access” elevators that will open into each individual unit’s foyer. Residents will use key cards to operate the system. They’ll also be able to access the clubhouse through underground tunnels in case of bad weather.

The first phase includes two of the four five-story buildings, which will house a total of 97 units.

Goodwin said the two buildings on the other side of the site will start construction when the first phase is mostly sold. He predicted they’d be ready to open about two years after the first units open this fall.

Million-Dollar Bethesda Condos Add In-House Sommelier

Bethesda Magazine – May 7, 2015

The Lauren, under construction in downtown Bethesda, will have on-site wine tastings and workshops.

The Bethesda condo building set to include a $10.5 million penthouse has added yet another luxury amenity.

The Lauren, the 29-unit project at 4934 Hampden Lane, will have an in-house master sommelier to provide customized consultations, tastings and educational workshops for residents.

Jarad Slipp, a longtime restaurant director and one of five sommeliers to be inducted last year by the Court of Master Sommeliers, will run the program on a quarterly basis from The Lauren’s 1,500-square-foot wine lounge. The lounge will house private, climate-controlled wine storage units for each resident.

The first residents to move in to the building will get a one-year membership to RdV Vineyards, a winery in Virginia where Slipp serves as estate director.

1788 Holdings and Persimmon Capital Partners are developing The Lauren, which will include the $10.5 million penthouse unit that could be the most expensive condo unit ever to sell in Washington, D.C., area. Sale prices for the other condo units start at $1.5 million. 

 Slipp will be the sommelier in residence, according to a press release. The building will also feature private elevators to some units, a 24-hour concierge service and a fitness center.

The next Aspen is . . . Bethesda?

FORTUNE – January 14, 2015

The D.C. suburb is making its “quiet wealth” a little bit louder with new developments and retail downtown.

Not too long ago, luxury in the real estate world meant colossal extravagance--whether in the form of square footage, landscaping or ZIP Codes. In Washington, D.C., area, it often meant living in the suburbs in a 9,000-square-foot home with a staff to manage the estate’s grounds, pools and tennis courts.  

Today, luxury has far more to do with convenience than acreage or palatial pad.

People want to be in a place with a mass of activity,” says David DeSantis, partner and managing broker of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty. “I want all my shops, entertainment options and restaurants at my fingertips. That’s luxury.

DeSantis sees the trend of convenience as luxury--something New Yorkers have known for ages--unfolding across the country, from Miami to Los Angeles. Bethesda, Md., just eight miles from the White House, offers one of the best examples.

Baby Boomers who have lived in suburban Montgomery County—one of the wealthiest and best educated counties in the country—have been ready to transition out of the big house for years, but the economy didn’t allow them to move, DeSantis said. “Now, they’re moving back to the urban core.

The area called downtown Bethesda--a once modest community--now centers around Federal Realty’s Bethesda Row and boasts shops such as luxe beauty retailer Bluemercury and an Apple (AAPL  -0.24%) store, high-end movies at iPic Theaters and dining options such as Jeff Black’s Black’s Bar & Kitchen and Robert Wiedmaier’s Wildwood Kitchen.  SoulCycle, partially owned by Equinox Fitness (which already has a location in downtown Bethesda) opened nearby in December with $30 drop-in spinning classes. And celebrity chef Mike Isabella, runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars, recently announced he’ll open a new Greek restaurant called Kapnos Kouzina on the same block this summer.

With all the upscale shopping and entertainment options, it’s only natural that upscale housing join the mix. DeSantis is banking on the appeal of such residences.

Sotheby’s is overseeing sales for The Lauren, a boutique luxury condominium project that will open in 2016 with a $10.5 million penthouse that will make it among the most expensive condos ever to sell in the Washington area. The project is a venture between 1788 Holdings and Persimmon Capital Partners, both based in Washington.  DeSantis said the target demographic is empty nesters who want all the luxury but none of the maintenance--so they can travel three months a year and not worry about keeping up a mansion while they’re overseas.

The 7,300-square-foot, three-bedroom, four-and-a-half bedroom penthouse will sit atop the eight-level development in the heart of Bethesda.  It will have direct-access elevator with a private vestibule, a kitchen with Wolf and SubZero appliances (whether they will ever be used is another matter) and a 1,500-square-foot private terrace. The condo also has its own 100-bottle Thermador wine refrigerator.

All residents of the building’s 29 units will have access to 24-hour concierge service; valet parking; a wine lounge and screening room, which will house a private, climate controlled wine storage unit; and a shared rooftop terrace with a catering kitchen, flat screen television and dining area. The units will also feature smart systems, so residents can control appliances, shades, lighting and electronics from a central control panel or through a mobile app.

Jane Fairweather, a Coldwell Banker residential agent who sells nearly 200 homes per year in the area, said she has seen the single-family homes closest to the commercial district in Bethesda triple in value in the last seven or eight years.  But even so, The Lauren prices surprise her. “We don’t have anything like that yet,” she said.  “I can’t point to anything saying that people are willing to spend that much and not have a water view.  But I’m hoping they’ll be wilding successful.”

While plans for The Lauren have created plenty of buzz in the neighborhood, it is far from the only indicator of an uptick in luxury.

Last summer, Washington Post columnist Thomas Heath wrote about the “Aspenization” of south Bethesda, which he says “might be one of the most upscale suburban downtowns in the United States.”

Along with The Lauren, another residential development called The Flats is under construction adjacent to Bethesda Row, with high-end studios starting at $2,500 per month and two-bedroom units renting for up to $5,000 a month.  Its sister condo property, The Darcy, will offer 64 luxury units, with two-bedroom condos starting from $800,000, a full-time porter, espresso-maker in the lobby and fitness area with a private stretching room.  Both developments, rising from precious land most recently used for parking lots, will open this spring.

This complex, called Lot 31 and developed by StonebridgeCarras and PN Hoffman, also includes retail tenants such as Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, Passion Fish restaurant, Paul Bakery and a new farm-to-table concept from Silver Diner called Silver.

Local business owners are quick to note that Bethesda, despite signs that point otherwise, still caters to the everyman.  Indeed, one can still buy a modestly priced sandwich at Bethesda Bagels, and find school supplies or ribbon by the yard at Bradley Party & Variety.  But with the new high-end developments opening in the next year, it’s increasingly difficult to see the old Bethesda, or to believe it’s accessible to everyone.

“I’ve been here for 22 years,” said Gil Hofheimer, general manager of Euro Motorcars, a stone’s throw from Bethesda Row.  “When I got here, the corner of Bethesda Avenue and Arlington Road was Maloney Concrete,” he said, about one of the busiest intersections in the neighborhood.  Today, the dealership sells Volvos starting at $30,000 and Lotuses starting at $80,000.  Yet Hofheimer still said the affluence of local residents is understated.

“It’s not the ultra rich here,” he said.  “It’s a quiet wealth in many respects.  It’s not that showy.”