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This fresh look at Downtown Bethesda serves as a twenty year checkup, to assess with the community what is great about Downtown Bethesda and what could be better. This is an opportunity for the community, property owners and business owners to refine the vision for a successful Downtown Bethesda. This also involves revisiting the current Plan’s recommendations. Plans address land use and density; urban design and character, open space, mobility, as well as environmental quality. The work on the Plan will be organized around three themes: social sustainability, economic sustainabiliy and environmental sustainability. We ask you all to join us in a shared commitment to: collaboration, creativity and integrity as we move forward together in our work. The forthcoming Bethesda Downtown Plan will update the 1994 Bethesda Central Business District Sector Plan and the 2006 Woodmont Triangle Amendment to that Sector Plan.

Are You a Property Owner Considering Changes?

You are Invited to Participate in October's Online Forum

The following invitation is being extended to all property owners in the Bethesda Downtown:

Dear Property Owner:

You are invited to participate in an online “forum” for the Bethesda Downtown Plan. Many of you have attended face-to-face meetings and events about the Bethesda Downtown Plan and we are grateful for your feedback and involvement. Please take this opportunity to share your most current ideas for your property. The online forum follows in the tradition of what was once called a “property owners’ forum”. As you know, we had earlier considered hosting an open house/exhibit style event rather than a “forum”. However, we believe that by using an online platform instead, we will be able to engage more people.

The information you provide will be made available via the Bethesda Downtown Plan website ( on a new interactive map we are creating. You will be able to click on a property to find out more about that property owner’s interests relative to the ongoing planning process. The launch is scheduled for mid-October.

We hope that this new approach will better enable you and others to confer and collaborate to find common ground as we move forward with work on the Sector Plan. We encourage everyone to continue communicating via e-mail, phone conversations and face to face meet-ups.

Please provide the following information and send it as a pdf to We welcome your images that help to tell the story of your property and where it is located.

Please provide the following:

  • Name and address of property
  • Brief description: What changes if any, would you like to be able to make to your property?
  • What else would you like people to know?
  • For more information please contact:
    • name
    • e-mail
    • phone office
    • phone cell
    • website


More on the October Online Forum

We are holding this exhibit style open house online instead of in the conventional face to face format at a specific venue and time: you can then participate via your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop...from home, office or waiting to pick up your child at karate. We beleive that this will make it easier for more of you to participate. It is tentatively scheduled for mid to late October. Watch here for details and dates. As previously described, this is envisioned as an opportunity for property owners who have been working on ideas for their sites to share them with the community and other property owners. We encourage you to discuss these ideas with one another and look for synergies, possible collaborations and ways to address issues.


Happy Hour To Be Hosted By Local Firm SK&I in November

This is the next in the series where we have been guests. This is tentatively scheduled for November or December. It follows on the three Happy Hours held earlier in the year that were hosted in Downtown Bethesda by the Greater Greater Washington blog, the Congress for New Urbanism DC Chapter, Young Innovation Professional Planning Superstars (YIPPS) in DC, Young Leaders in Affordable Housing (network within the National Housing Conference), and most recently, Streetsense, JBG and Clarke Construction. SK&I will be hosting. More to come on this.


Presentation of Preliminary Recommendations in December

These will be presented to the community at a meeting and online and then to the Planning Board in a briefing where the Planning Board can provide guidance in anticipation of the completion of the Staff Draft plan.



Be Part of the Online Feedback Loop for Preliminary Recommendations

Quick and Easy! This is scheduled for December to coincide, of course, with the Presentation of Preliminary Recommendations. A series of short questions, relating to the preliminary recommendations, will be sent to you via the e-mail list. They will also be accessible from this website. The purpose is for us to get a very general sense of the level of agreement in the community with the direction of the work on the plan. Our goal is to make it simple and easy for all of you to participate at your own convenience: from your laptop, desktop or smartphone. We aim to set this up so you can focus on what matters most to you and answer a few questions or many, depending on your preferences. This is an informal way for us to hear from you as we move forward on the Staff Draft Plan.

Watch for the Staff Draft in Early 2015

Presentation of the Staff Draft Plan to the Planning Board scheduled for early 2015.

The Planning Board holds a public hearing and worksessions on the Plan before.....

Transmittal of the Planning Board Draft Plan to the Montgomery County Council scheduled for Spring 2015.

Bethesda Downtown Plan on Montgomery Plans

Find out the latest with the Bethesda Downtown Plan hear from Area 1 Supervisor Marc DeOcampo about how you can get involved with the future of Downtown Bethesda. This segment is airing on CCM (County Cable Montgomery):

Listen to WAMU: 'Reimagining Bethesda'

Kojo Nnambi on the air

The following text is from the WAMU website:

"Kojo and architect and urban planner Roger Lewis chat with Montgomery County planning director Gwen Wright.

The changes that have been sweeping through neighborhoods throughout the District for the past two decades are also affecting life in the suburbs surrounding the city. Montgomery County is in the midst of updating its plan for Bethesda's central business district, a pocket of Maryland that's evolved into a dense, urban center. Kojo and architect and urban planner Roger Lewis chat with Gwen Wright, the county's planning director, about the effort to re-imagine Bethesda - and her vision for the rest of the county.


Gwen Wright, Planning Director, Montgomery County (Md.)

Roger Lewis - Architect; Columnist, "Shaping the City," Washington Post; and Professor Emeritus of Architecture, University of Maryland College Park"

Listen to the interview here.

What Are We Working On Now?

Tasks that are underway right now include the preparation of:

  • Concepts for each district showing what each could be like as change occurs. These take into consideration ideas and comments from the community, including owners of specfic properties, as well as the vision for the entire downtown.
  • Development Scenarios for transportation analysis to determine effects on walkers, transit users, bicyclists and drivers.
  • A Retail Study to get a sense of what type and amount of retail is likely to be competitive in various locations in the future.
  • A Property Owners' Forum Online in October
  • An online "Feedback Loop" for us to hear your responses to draft recommendations (coming in late Fall.)

Results Are In !!!!!! What did you say your ideal Bethesda should look like? Visual Preference Survey

New - Results - Round 1

New - Results for Round 2

About the survey - For each neighborhood in downtown Bethesda, questions about street character, gathering space, and the types of landscaping for those spaces were presented. While it is not an actual scientific survey, it does provide images that will inform our future discussions about scale and height. The responses will provide us with insights and help guide the look and feel of Bethesda for the next twenty years and beyond. - The survey is now closed

map of bethesda districts

Downtown Bethesda as an EcoDistrict?

First Hill Streetcar Media ©Rendering by Mithun

This illustration of a design concept for First Hill Streetcar Line in Seattle shows a variety of features consistent with sustainable development objectives. This image is being used courtesy of Mithun which holds the copyright.

What is an EcoDistrict? - slides - (These are slides from a presentation originally scheduled for May 17, 2014 that will be rescheduled for a future time)

In short, an ecodistrict aims to integrate objectives of sustainable development and reduce an area's ecological footprint by setting ambitious levels of requirements. Each ecodistrict sets its own performance area goals, objectives, and strategies for maximizing sustainability. Most often, goals exceed local regulation and standards.

The Bethesda Downtown Plan Needs You!

Check out how you can get involved with the Planning Department's Bethesda Downtown Plan and help shape the future of the heart of Bethesda for the next 20 years!

Help Engage The Missing Millennials !

We had wonderful participation at the March 1 Workshop which was attended by approximately 130 people. The Baby Boomers came out in force and are to be applauded. The six Millennials and twenty-one Gen-X'ers who came get special kudos as well.

However, did you know that:

  • 40 percent of the residents of Downtown Bethesda are Millennials (age 20-34)? >
  • 20 percent are Gen-X'ers?
  • 26 percent of the workers in Downtown Bethesda are under the age of 30?
  • 30 percent consider themselves to be of a "non-white" race?

So, we thank you for being involved and hope that you will help us engage the missing. We welcome your:

  • Insights and ideas;
  • Offers to host an activity;
  • Willingness to encourage others to sign up for the E-Mail List or come to a future event.

Letters and More

Letters: Your Thoughts and Concerns
Ideas and Images

How You Can Participate and Stay Connected...

  • Join our e-mail list
  • Follow us on Twitter: @bethesdaplanner #bethesdadowntownplan
  • Write to us at
  • Meet with us in our offices in Silver Spring, or in Bethesda, or at your own group's meeting. Contact us to schedule.
  • Come to public meetings, workshops and other outreach events


Let us know what you think


  • Leslye Howerton, Assoc. AIA, LEED-GA, Planner Coordinator, Area 1 301-495-4551
    Questions and to arrange a meeting with us
  • Marc DeOcampo, AIA, LEED-AP, Master Planner-Supervisor 301-495-4556
  • Margaret K. Rifkin, AICP, RLA, Outreach 301-495-4583
    Public Meetings, Website & Social Media Content
  • Matt Folden, Transportation 301-495-4538
  • Tina Schneider, Environment 301-495-2101
  • Laura Shipman, Urban Design 301-495-4558
  • John Marcolin, RLA, LEED-AP, Urban Design 301-495-4547
  • Rachel Newhouse, Coordinator, Parks Department 301-650-4388

Last updated: October 10, 2014