Navy officials at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday will unveil a new store for personnel and patients on the Bethesda base.
The Navy Exchange, the store that supplies brand name products to Navy bases and facilities worldwide, will open a 150,000-square-foot, two-story space near the soon to be reopened Gate 3 on Jones Bridge Road.
In September, Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) Commander Capt. Fritz Kass said the gate should help ease morning traffic flow on Jones Bridge Road.
The Navy Exchange underwent a $52.8 million, 22-month rebuild, according to a NSAB press release today. The old store was torn down and the new space was designed with wider aisles and other features to allow for easier access from veterans recovering at Walter Reed.
The grand opening event on Saturday will include appearances from Food network celebrity chef Robert Irvine, Subway spokesman Jared Fogle and UFC fighter Phil Davis. It also includes the introduction of new product lines that weren’t previously offered at the Bethesda Navy Exchange, including Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Brooks Brothers, Apple and Sony concept stores within the larger store.
The Navy Exchange now has a 175-seat food court with a Panda Express, taco shop and a Subway Cafe, the first of its kind at any Navy Exchange location.
Parking, of course, has been a major concern of NSAB officials and neighbors, who have complained that the addition of Walter Reed to the base has forced personnel to park on surrounding residential streets surrounding.
A two-level, 500-space parking garage accompanies the new Navy Exchange. NSAB last month reported a better than 3-to-1 ratio of base personnel and patients to parking spots, fulfilling a federal planning guideline.
The base is expected to see about one million visitors per year, an increase from 500,000 before walter Reed moved from Silver Spring in 2011.