Bethesda, Maryland is a thriving urban center with a diverse array of shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, and businesses. However, it wasn’t always like that. Bethesda struggled to compete with nearby cities like Rockville and Silver Spring in the early 1990s. However, the Bethesda Urban Partnership’s work has helped to transform the area into a thriving commercial and cultural center.
The City of Bethesda, Montgomery County, and local landowners and companies came together to form the Bethesda Urban Partnership (BUP) in 1994. Its goal is to advertise and improve downtown Bethesda as a vibrant, appealing, and pedestrian-friendly destination for locals, businesspeople, and tourists.
The management and upkeep of the public spaces in downtown Bethesda is one of the main ways BUP accomplishes this goal. This includes providing public art installations like the “Paint the Town” murals and the Sam Gilliam-designed bus stop shelters for the Bethesda Circulator as well as maintaining the landscaping and street furniture and keeping the streets and sidewalks clean.
Throughout the year, BUP also hosts a number of community events, such as the Taste of Bethesda food festival and the Winter Wonderland holiday market. Both locals and visitors flock to these events, bringing excitement and energy to downtown Bethesda. But BUP supports neighborhood businesses by publicizing their events and highlighting their goods and services; it’s not all fun and games.
The Bethesda Green initiative has been one of BUP’s most effective ones. Founded in 2008, Bethesda Green is a nonprofit group that encourages locals and business owners to adopt sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. A resource center with information and workshops on subjects like energy efficiency, composting, and green transportation is among the programs offered by Bethesda Green, which is supported by BUP in terms of funding and coordination.
The Bethesda Urban Trail is yet another significant undertaking that BUP has led. Both locals and tourists can enjoy the scenic 4-mile walking and biking trail that winds through downtown Bethesda as they explore the area. Public art displays, historical sites, and tourist hotspots like the Bethesda Metro station and the Capital Crescent Trail are all present on the trail.
The Bethesda Urban Partnership has experienced its fair share of difficulties over the course of its 27-year existence. Many businesses in downtown Bethesda were forced to close their doors or operate at reduced capacity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. BUP responded by implementing safety measures like hand sanitizing stations and social distance markers in public places, as well as by launching the “Support Bethesda” campaign to encourage locals to eat and shop locally.
Looking ahead, BUP is working on a number of fascinating projects. One is the construction of a brand-new public open space with landscaped gardens, seating areas, and public art at the intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues. The Bethesda Urban Trail’s extension northward towards the campus of the National Institutes of Health is another.
In general, the Bethesda Urban Partnership has been instrumental in transforming downtown Bethesda into a vibrant urban hub. Its dedication to public spaces, neighborhood gatherings, and environmentally friendly practices has made the area a desirable place to live, work, and play. BUP’s ongoing efforts will be essential to ensuring that downtown Bethesda stays a vibrant and thriving destination for years to come as we move past the difficulties of the previous year.