Home Depot comes to town in two ways
Jan. 3, 2001
Myra Mensh Patner
Staff Writer

David S. Spence/The Gazette

Construction workers walk about the former Hechinger's site behind Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery Mall where Home Depot is building an Expo Design Center.

Home Depot is moving to town, with one store under construction in Bethesda and another coming to Rockville.

The county Planning Board Thursday will review plans by the Atlanta-based company for a two-story Home Depot near Rockville Pike and Bou Avenue behind Montrose Crossing Shopping Center.

Home Depot is already building an Expo Design Center on the former Hechinger's site behind Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery Mall.

The 85,000-square-foot Expo Design Center will feature a full-service interior design emporium with showrooms to display kitchens, baths, rugs, lighting, patios, tile, appliances and more.

The staff will include interior design professionals who can handle all facets of home furnishing and remodeling. The Expo Design Center will open in late spring.

The more standard Home Depot destined for Rockville Pike will go behind the old Levitz furniture store.

The site is next to the CSX railroad tracks and above a Metro tunnel, a particularly difficult place for construction, said attorney Harry Lerch of the Bethesda law firm of Lerch, Early & Brewer, which represents Home Depot.

"It's a challenge," Lerch said.

The proposed 130,000-square-foot building, with 551 parking spaces, will be among the first two-story Home Depots in the nation, Lerch said.

In exchange for a larger store, Home Depot officials have agreed to provide public amenities, including at least two high-tech bus shelters to serve Ride On buses. One shelter will likely go on Rockville Pike; the other shelter site has not been decided.

The Home Depot site is beyond walking distance to Metro, so bus shelters will serve employees and customers, Lerch said. The shelters will feature infrared heating, seating, and a fiber-optic connection to global positioning systems to accurately predict and communicate bus arrival times.

Home Depot officials have also agreed to construct part of an extension of Nebel Street that will connect to Bou Avenue, which connects to Rockville Pike, said Larry Ponsford, a planner for the Planning Board.

In a September letter to the Planning Board, residents of The Forum Condominium, which sits near the Home Depot site, raised concerns about traffic.

"The increased number of businesses in the Montrose Crossing Shopping Center has now resulted in growing traffic problems within the center," states the letter, signed by Jennifer Ramsay of the Forum's board. "It is essential that with regard to further development, this area be given consideration as a whole, rather than debate on and approval of single entities one at a time."

Lerch said Home Depot plans several ways to decrease traffic.

The company's policy is to have employees arrive before rush hour and change shifts mid-day, thus avoiding adding to traffic congestion, Lerch said. Home Depot officials have also agreed to share about 20 parking spaces if a new MARC train station is built at the north corner of the Home Depot site.