Friendship Heights BID? DC and Montgomery Co. are working on it

Northwest D.C.’s Friendship Heights neighborhood is quirky — technically in the District but spilling in many ways across the D.C.-Maryland line into Montgomery County’s Chevy Chase, Maryland neighborhood, with both communities connected at the hip in a business and residential sense.

One of the Friendship Heights Metro entrances is actually in Chevy Chase.

Montgomery County and D.C. are forging plans for a joint Business Improvement District that could support the aging neighborhoods’ revitalization.

That stretch of Wisconsin Avenue has certainly not fallen on hard times, but its reputation as the Rodeo Drive of D.C. has faded. The once-tony Mazza Gallerie is now vacant, its last tenant closing in December. Developer Tishman Speyer acquired the mall and is redeveloping it as residential and new retail, one of several redevelopment projects afoot in the area.

The Collection in Chevy Chase. (Courtesy The Chevy Chase Land Company)

Last week, the D.C. Zoning Commission approved developer Federal Realty’s redevelopment plan for 5333 Wisconsin Avenue as a residential and retail high rise.

D.C. Council member Matt Frumin last week introduced legislation to create D.C.’s 12th Business Improvement District in Friendship Heights. This week, Montgomery County Council member Andrew Friedson introduced similar legislation to create the county’s fourth Urban District.

Together, they would serve as two funding streams to support the nonprofit Friendship Heights Alliance, formed in 2021 to support revitalization of the neighborhood.

Creating a cross-jurisdictional organization as the one proposed is unusual and complicated. Only a handful of such organizations exist in cities in the U.S.

Landlords and developers are on board.

“Friendship Heights is on the cusp of significant change, and we know that ensuring the neighborhood thrives in today’s competitive environment is going to take cross-jurisdictional collaboration, careful planning, and extensive stakeholder engagement,” said Jad Donohoe of the Donohoe Companies, who also chairs the Friendship Heights Alliance board.

Property owners in the area, including Donohoe, are investing more than $1 billion in various projects to redevelop and re-tenant properties in the area.

In addition to promoting development, place management organizations, such as BIDs and Urban Districts, typically supplement services provided by local governments with business support and promotion, cleaning and maintenance of public areas and streetscape improvements. They are funded by local property owners.

“As a small business owner, this collective investment in marketing and revitalizing Friendship Heights makes business and community sense,” Nolan Rodman, an owner of Rodman’s Discount Gourmet, said. “Forming a BID will help ensure these efforts will be sustained as the neighborhood grows and changes.”

Chevy Chase Land Company, one of the largest landlords in the area, has signed several new tenants for its The Collection at Chevy Chase development recently, including restaurants The Hunter’s Hound, Junction and an outpost of Michelin-starred Latin American restaurant Imperfecto called Joy. An Amazon Fresh store opened there in 2021.

“Over the past year, this organization has proven its value in spades, showcasing the impact of collaboration; improving stakeholder coordination for the entire neighborhood, enhancing the public environment and promoting the existing businesses,” said John Ziegenhein, president and CEO of Chevy Chase Land Company, who also serves as the Alliance’s vice chairman.

Longtime tenants at The Collection include Clyde’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co.

Both Chevy Chase and Friendship Heights have a rich history, as chronicled in a 2010 Bethesda Magazine article.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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