The prospective developer of the Westbard section of Bethesda is hoping to enliven the area’s flagship shopping center with a series of community events over the next two months.
Equity One bought Westwood Towers, Springhouse by Manor Care, Bowlmor Lanes and two Citgo stations last year and finalized the acquisition of Westwood Shopping Center and Westwood Center II early this year. The company almost immediately began a series of open-to-public meetings with residents in the area to explain the broad strokes of their redevelopment plans, which will require new zoning through an updated area master plan.
On Saturday, Equity One will hold a summer sidewalk sale at Westwood Shopping Center, now anchored by a Giant grocery store and a mix of national and local retailers.
The event, from noon to 4 p.m., will be run in partnership with the Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center and include a DJ, face painter, ice cream truck, games and raffle prizes. On Saturday, Sept. 20, Equity One has set up a Food Truck Rally for the shopping center, then an E-Recycling Day on Saturday, Sept. 27.
Equity One hired a Rockville-based public relations firm to help it create a website and foster communication with residents, many who are wary of increased commercial and residential density in the area of strip shopping centers just west of River Road.
Equity One successfully lobbied the County Council to move the Westbard Sector Plan Update to this year.
At a public meeting on March 18, Equity One presented its idea for a a “signature” main street on Westbard Avenue with pedestrian crossings and upscale retailers to replace loading docks and driveways. It plans to tab developer EYA to design the residential component of the project.
It would mean big changes for the Westwood Shopping Center, though it’s unknown at this point what precise changes are might be in store.
Michael Berfield, executive vice president of development for Equity One, said in March that the company held a breakfast meeting with about 50 of the existing businesses and promised to “make it economically reasonable for them to stay,” through any redevelopment.