My Two Cents: Downtown Bethesda Wish List

My Two Cents is a weekly opinion column from Bethesda resident Joseph Hawkins. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Joseph HawkinsDear Montgomery County Planning Department,

I understand you’re looking for ideas to improve Bethesda’s downtown.

I hate working in groups so I will not be attending any of your workshops (although, I’m happy that you are seeking input). I realize the County Planning Department has no real authority in causing private businesses to do specific things. They cannot lease a building to a new restaurant, bring a new movie house to town or surround the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market with food trucks.

Nonetheless, here are 10 ideas — in no particular order — that are on my wish list, some that could be achieved through planning:

1. Please, pretty please maintain a multiplex theater complex in downtown Bethesda. If the Apex Building (7272 Wisconsin Ave.) comes down to accommodate the Purple Line, and the current multiplex theater its houses closes, Bethesda would be a sad place without a replacement.

2. Do whatever is necessary to maintain existing mom-and-pop small businesses. Bethesda also would be a sad place without this type of diversity.

3. Open an Ethiopian restaurant.

4. Run those free Bethesda Urban Partnership buses pass my house. Yes, that means rolling farther into many Bethesda subdivisions, but that county goal of reducing greenhouse gas by 80 percent will never be reached until more people living in the close-in subdivisions have such services.

Flickr photo by ehpien5. If you cannot roll Bethesda Circulator buses pass my house, get Ride On to roll pass and to roll pass more frequently (every 10 minutes would be heaven) even on weekend days and nights. Without frequent such services, those of who live more than a mile from downtown always will drive our cars to get to downtown.

6. Close more downtown streets permanently to cars. We need and want more Bethesda Lanes.

7. With streets closed, gives us better and wider sidewalks to play on.

8. Renovate (jazz up) the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market. I’m thinking along the lines of what D.C. did for the Eastern Market after it caught fire years ago.

9. Encourage more food trucks to come to downtown Bethesda. Surround the Women’s Market with them.

10. Downtown Bethesda needs a formal “town square” or center. Frequently, the fountain in front of Barnes and Noble “feels” like that missing town square. I could see that location becoming way more than what it is now. Back to idea No. 6: With the right street closures, and a little abracadabra — town square it is!

Joseph Hawkins is a longtime Bethesda resident who remembers when there was no Capital Crescent Trail. He works full-time for an employee-owned social science research firm located Montgomery County. He is a D.C. native and for nearly 10 years, he wrote a regular column for the Montgomery Journal. He also has essays and editorials published in Education Week, the Washington Post, and Teaching Tolerance Magazine. He is a serious live music fan and is committed to checking out some live act at least once a month.

Flickr photo by ehpien

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