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Day 54: Bethesda Lane is in my ears . . .

Bethesda Lane

In 1992 my father and my oldest brother Matthew decided to move Stuart & Maury, Realtors Inc., the real estate company my father co-founded in 1956, from DC to Bethesda, Md.  They wisely chose their new digs in a relatively new office building managed by Federal Realty at 4833 Bethesda Avenue.  Across the street was a long defunct cement mixer factory (now the site of Uncle Julio’s and the Apple Store).  My father had an office on the corner of the second floor and from his office we had an unobstructed view of Bethesda Avenue and the rooftop of a sad-looking Giant Food store and large parking lot located on the corner at Arlington Road.  In 2008 all this changed and today this location is the site nearly two dozen retail establishments, restaurants, Upstairs at Bethesda Row, the chic downtown Bethesda apartments, and today’s blog Bethesda Lane.

In the last 20 years Federal Realty has helped transform Bethesda Avenue into the unofficial “Main Street” of Bethesda and Bethesda Lane is a beautiful compliment to the ongoing process of urbanizing Bethesda.  Walkability is the hallmark of sustainable urban design and Bethesda Lane exemplifies the concept.  Bethesda Lane is a wide walkway linking Bethesda Avenue to Elm Street and is completely closed to automobile traffic.  Each side of the lane features restaurants and specialty retail establishments as well as access to the 180 luxury residential apartments above the ground floor retail.  One of my favorite spots to eat outdoors in Bethesda is on Bethesda Lane at Le Pain Quotidien (see blog Feb. 16) or at Redwood Restaurant (see blog Jan. 27).  I haven’t tried the Italian gelato at Dolcezza Gelato but my daughter says it’s divine.  I’ve also enjoyed the treats, cheese, and assorted farm goods available at the outdoor Farmer’s market that is held on the Lane periodically as well.  But most of all I’ve just enjoyed walking down the Lane or having a cup of coffee and watching the people stroll by.  My boys love to race back and forth from one end of the Lane to the other (that’s gonna have to stop pretty soon as I’m certain my youngest is destined to be a linebacker!).

Bethesda Lane

Beneath Bethesda Lane is one of Bethesda’s best kept public parking secrets!  You can actually find a place to park in the area in this underground garage, featuring 244 spaces, which is easily accessible from Elm Street.  Once parked underneath you can exit using the elevator which conveniently deposits you in the middle of Bethesda Lane or you can use the stairs which lead you to a walkway connecting the public parking garage next door to Bethesda Lane.  Either way, when you leave you can pay using a credit card at the no-hassle pay stations located near the exits.  One tip.  Be careful exiting the garage as the exit crosses the busy pedestrian sidewalk on Elm Street.  Vehicular manslaughter will really kill a relaxing evening in Bethesda every time!  Parking is difficult in this area and Federal Realty has tried to respond by offering valet parking services.  For a brief time Federal Realty used Bethesda Lane for this purpose but the term “walkable” and the resulting image of rows of parked cars and scrambling parking attendants, reminiscent of a night at the Playboy Mansion, just wasn’t working.  Wisely, Federal Realty has quickly discontinued the practice of parking cars on Bethesda Lane but will have valet service at this location with the cars being parked off-site.  Like the Beatles song Penny Lane, Bethesda Lane is in my ears and in my eyes…..There beneath the blue suburban skies…. I sit.  Bethesda Lane.      ~Brian

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