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Marriott Reveals Downtown Bethesda Headquarters Site

New complex to include 22-story office building and flagship hotel

In a hotly anticipated announcement, Marriott International Inc. on Friday said the company is moving its headquarters near Woodmont Triangle at the corner of Wisconsin and Norfolk avenues in downtown Bethesda.

The world’s largest hotel company is partnering with Bernstein Companies and Boston Properties to develop its $600 million campus at 7750 Wisconsin Ave., according to a morning press release. The new complex will feature a 22-story office building for Marriott’s 3,500-employee headquarters and a flagship hotel with at least 230 rooms.

The new buildings are expected to open in 2022, the announcement stated. The site is now home to the Connor Building, Blackwell Building, Bethesda Court Hotel and a surface parking lot. Tastee Diner and Woodmont Grill lie outside of the development zone and won’t be displaced by the project, said Carolyn Handlon, executive vice president of finance and global treasurer of Marriott.

The company’s employees are expected to move to the new complex after Marriott’s lease expires on its suburban Fernwood Road headquarters, also in 2022.

“We’re just thrilled to continue to be in Montgomery County,” Handlon said. “I think first and foremost, we take great pride in being a good neighbor and having strong relationships with the community.”

Marriott envisions its new corporate home as a flexible work space flooded with natural light and boasting state-of-the-art technology and green building standards. The complex will also include a cafeteria, gym and child care center. A landscaped plaza will run between the high-rise office building and the hotel, according to Marriott's announcement.

The hotel will offer more than 8,000 square feet of ballroom space and meeting space, a ground-floor restaurant, a rooftop dining terrace and a specialty coffee shop.

The development plan unveiled Friday also calls for building 800 onsite, underground parking spaces for the hotel and office building. However, Marriott will also lease the Woodmont Corner Garage from the county for exclusive use by company employees and visitors during business hours. The public will have garage access on evenings, weekends and holidays, according to the press release.

Friday’s announcement ends months of speculation about possible downtown sites where the Fortune 500 company would relocate. Marriott revealed in October it would remain in Bethesda, but officials said the company wanted to move downtown to be closer to public transit and provide its employees with the amenities of an urban environment. The company has been headquartered in Bethesda for more than 60 years.

Marriott executives narrowed their search for a corporate home to three downtown Bethesda locations, Handlon said. The selected property rose to the top because of its closeness to the Bethesda Metro station and access to main arteries including Wisconsin and Woodmont avenues and Old Georgetown Road, she said.

“We were quite fortunate to have three very, very good sites in downtown Bethesda, all of which would meet our program requirements,” she said. “We just felt quite fortunate to have the choice.”

The new headquarters is expected to bring additional vibrancy to Bethesda and enhance the tax base for the county.

“It’s in Bethesda and last time I checked, Bethesda was in Montgomery County,” County Executive Ike Leggett beamed.

Leggett said his office was careful to provide support for all of the sites being considered in the county. He said he didn’t expect community opposition, even though some Bethesda residents have been vocal opponents of the Bethesda Downtown Plan that envisions new high-rises, like the Marriott headquarters.

“There are very few people who oppose the Marriott plan,” he said. “They might object to the overall mix and the level of density, but they do not have much problem with Marriott.”

Handlon said Bernstein Companies owns the project site and will collaborate with Boston Properties to develop it. Marriott will enter into a long-term lease with Bernstein to occupy the office building and will sign an agreement to manage the neighboring hotel, she said.

Work will now begin on project design and securing county planning approvals for the redevelopment. Leggett said the county would work with Marriott to speed up the process.

He took the loss of daytime public garage parking in stride.

“There may be some inconvenience to others, and we have to weigh that against the overall benefit to the county,” he said. “It’ll be a number of years before we get to that point anyway.”

In October, Leggett said Marriott generates about $90 million per year in net state and county income taxes. He also said construction of the new headquarters building is anticipated to create about 3,000 jobs.

The county is planning to provide the company with about $22 million to help pay for relocation expenses. The Montgomery County Council last month approved an $11 million supplemental appropriation to add the payments to the six-year capital budget—which are scheduled to be provided to the company in $5.5 million increments from 2019 to 2022.

Gov. Larry Hogan included $20 million for the company’s relocation in the $48.5 billion budget he’s proposing for fiscal 2018.

Local business leaders previously said Marriott’s move to downtown Bethesda will help invigorate the area’s economy—bringing thousands of new workers to the area who are likely to patronize restaurants and services downtown.

In 2016, Marriott finalized a merger with Starwood Hotels and Resorts that made it the largest hotel company in the world with approximately 1.1 million rooms and 5,700 hotels in more than 110 countries.


Author: Andrew Metcalf and Bethany Rodgers