Sunday, January 22, 2017

Nursing home vandalized, assault in Randolph Hills + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on January 19, according to crime data:

Theft. 8100 block Woodmont Avenue.

Burglary. 6800 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Theft. 5500 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Theft. 3400 block Inverness Drive.

Theft. 4700 block Franklin Street.

Vandalism. Nursing home in 5500 block Tuckerman Lane.

Shoplifting. Georgetown Square Giant.

Forgery/counterfeit/identity theft. 5200 block Flanders Avenue.

Assault. 11400 block Schuylkill Road (Randolph Hills).

Latest Bethesda gear at Giant

Bethesda-branded merchandise has been sold for the last couple of years at Giant stores. Here's an assortment of the latest items on sale. Unfortunately, other than the word "Bethesda," these mass-produced products don't have any unique tie-in to our town such as photographs of prominent landmarks.

Rockville Pike lane closures Tuesday by NIH/Walter Reed in Bethesda

Expect single lane closures in both directions on Rockville Pike (MD 355) in Bethesda on Tuesday, January 24, between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. The closures will be in the block between Jones Bridge Road and Cedar Lane, in front of NIH and Walter Reed.

This is related to the project that will build a tunnel underneath the Pike, and high-speed elevators down to the Medical Center Metro station on the east side of the state highway.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Gang goes on $12,000 shoplifting rampage at True Religion in Bethesda, assaults employee (Video)

Shoplifter (left) shoves
True Religion employee
(lower right) as gang stuffs
trash bags with merchandise
A gang of shoplifters assembled inside the True Religion store at Westfield Montgomery Mall on January 5, around 7:00 PM. In a clearly-premeditated team effort, the five suspects whipped out garbage bags and stuffed approximately $12,000-worth of merchandise into them. They then fled the store, assaulting a True Religion employee on the way out for good measure, according to Montgomery County Police.

The three male and two female suspects then escaped the mall through a loading dock door. Police detectives have now posted surveillance video of the incident.

Anyone who recognizes these suspects or has information about this crime is asked to call the 2nd District Investigative Section at 240-773-6710.  Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).  Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to an arrest for this crime.

Elm St. to close Jan. 23 between Wisconsin and Woodmont Aves. - for 8 months

Even as the Purple Line light rail project hangs in legal limbo, the Maryland Transit Administration and Pepco are moving forward with preparations for construction of a south elevator entrance to the Bethesda Metro station at Elm Street and Wisconsin Avenue. Elm Street will close between Wisconsin and Woodmont Avenues for eight months starting "on or about" January 23, 2017. Part of Elm Street will remain closed throughout the Metro entrance construction (and during Purple Line construction, should the project survive its current court challenge).

During the closure, pedestrians will still be able to use the sidewalks along Elm, but there will be no through traffic. The MTA announcement does not indicate if the closure on the Woodmont side will be above the parking lot and businesses like Potbelly and Tropical Smoothie Cafe, or literally at Woodmont Avenue. If it's the latter, those businesses could be hurt during the closure.

Furthermore, there will be daily lane closures on Wisconsin and Bethesda Avenues during the Pepco project, and night work on Wisconsin. Normal daytime work will take place during business hours. Expect traffic delays and confusion around this block for the next several years.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Burglary on Sentinel Dr., drug busts on Old Georgetown Rd, Sinnott Dr. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on January 17, according to crime data:

Theft. 7800 block Old Georgetown Road.

Drug arrest. 8600 block Old Georgetown Road.

Burglary. 4900 block Sentinel Drive.

Drug arrest. 10000 block Sinnott Drive.

Theft. 10900 block Raleigh Avenue (Garrett Park).

Theft. 6400 block Rockledge Drive.

Forgery/counterfeit/identity theft. 9900 block Harrogate Road.

Burglary. 5100 block Parklawn Terrace.

Bethesda Marriott headquarters site revealed (Photos)

Marriott Corporation announced it has selected 7750 Wisconsin Avenue as the site of its future new headquarters and a 230-room Marriott hotel. The deal with the Bernstein Companies and Boston Properties means there won't be a Westin Bethesda hotel after all.

The $600 million project gives the already-Bethesda-based hotel giant the high-visibility site on Wisconsin Avenue it sought, as well as easy access to Metro. Both the 22-story headquarters and hotel are expected to deliver in 2022.

While the hotel will have 8000 SF of meeting and event ballroom space, as well as ground floor and rooftop dining options, there is no word yet as to whether Marriott will offer any of its Hot Shoppes favorites such as the Mighty Mo. The Marriott Burger will be a sure bet, however.

Eight-hundred garage parking spaces will be augmented by leased spaces in the nearby Woodmont Corner Garage 11. The chosen location is currently home to the Connor Building and Bethesda Court Hotel.

“Montgomery County has been Marriott International’s home for more than 60 years, and we take great pride in the strong relationships we’ve developed and the contributions we have made as a committed community partner,” Carolyn Handlon, Executive Vice President Finance & Global Treasurer for Marriott International. said in a statement this morning “That’s a tradition—and promise to the community—that started with Marriott’s founders 90 years ago. We look forward to continuing that legacy as we create our new, 21st century home in downtown Bethesda and continue our work as the world’s largest hotel company.”

Renderings courtesy Marriott Corporation

Glen Echo Heights sewer project goes $900,000 over budget

A project to install storm drains, pipes, curbs and gutters on Wapakoneta Road in Glen Echo Heights has gone $900,000 over budget. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's recommended FY-2018 capital budget includes the cost overrun.

The budget document states that the project cost increased nearly a million dollars "due to higher-than-anticipated construction bids." This would suggest the way the County is bidding these projects needs to be reviewed. Bids should be coming in at the amount set by the County, or below. If the firms that bid couldn't meet that amount, the bidding process should be widened, not ended.

MoCo Councilman plotting new way to overcrowd roads, classrooms

Montgomery County's public schools and roads are already filled to overcapacity. The promise that unfettered residential growth would generate massive tax revenues has given way to the reality of a massive structural County budget deficit. Despite all that, County Councilman Hans Riemer wants to pack in as many more new residents as possible.

During a recent Twitter discussion, Riemer said he wanted to pursue a zoning change that would allow single-family home properties in the county to be subdivided into two residences, in the form of duplexes. Given that today's smaller families would easily fit into a duplex unit, Riemer's plan would massively increase the student generation rate in existing neighborhoods. Not to mention the impact on MoCo's traffic congestion, already rated the worst in America.

Riemer's exchange with pro-urbanization blogger Dan Reed requires some background to fully appreciate. Reed was at one time a staff member in Councilmember George Leventhal's office. Leventhal infamously called the suburbs "a mistake," and in a 2010 television appearance, displayed a rendering showing a single-family home being replaced by an apartment building. This dystopian vision for urbanization of existing SFH neighborhoods is one of the worst-kept secrets of the Montgomery County political cartel.

The bulldozing of single-family homes at the edges of current and future urban centers in the county will begin in areas where real estate values are lower - Aspen Hill, Twinbrook, Glenmont, Wheaton, and White Oak, for example. But what about places like Chevy Chase, East Bethesda and "Westbard," where teardowns get replaced with two-million-dollar homes? It's unlikely a development firm could afford to buy blocks worth of such homes in the 20814 and 20816 zip codes.

Reed memorably lamented this obstacle to bringing urban density to the suburbs a few years ago, and proposed a solution of converting large luxury homes (often derided by critics as "McMansions") into what would essentially be boarding houses with multiple units inside (however, it was not clear what sort of nuclear armageddon, Maoist cultural revolution, or similar catastrophe would have displaced the wealthy families who currently reside inside these homes).

So as Reed contemplated the million-dollar home obstacle in Chevy Chase again in late December, Riemer had a bright idea - what about duplexes? Twice the strain on schools and roads, and twice the drain on County revenues. What's not to like, right?

Remember, he's not talking about greenfield development. Riemer explicitly tweeted, "this is specifically single lot redevelopment."

For a guy who voted to urbanize the established, low-density "Westbard" area of Bethesda, while falsely claiming it was a "mile from two Metros," such zeal for overcrowding doesn't surprise.

But the exchange showed again how little California carpetbagger Riemer understands Montgomery County. 

Duplexes are considered lower-class, not desirable. And Riemer asked if there are "market examples" of duplexes in Montgomery County. He's obviously never made it to Aquarius in Aspen Hill, or Berry Street near Glenmont, to name just two. Not surprising for a guy who needs a GPS to find his way around the county. But those were new developments - Riemer is proposing retrofitting the whole county for duplexes. Good luck with that.

"I am going to look into this further," Riemer vowed. Given his disastrous record on liquor reform, food trucks, the "nighttime economy," and cybersecurity, those words are your cue to either chuckle...or run for the hills.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Car stolen in Friendship Heights, armed robbers working just over D.C. line + more - Bethesda crime update

If you live close to the D.C. line, be alert that three violent crimes took place on Monday in Friendship Heights, Spring Valley and the Palisades, and gun-toting suspects remain at large. See full details at the bottom of this report.

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on January 16, according to crime data:

Theft. 4600 block Rosedale Avenue.

Drug arrest. Connecticut Avenue at W. Melrose Street.

Stolen car. 4600 block N. Park Avenue.

Theft. 11300 block Rockville Pike.

Just across the D.C. line:

Assault with deadly weapon (knife). 5300 block Wisconsin Avenue N.W.  at 12:57 P.M.

Armed robbery (gun). 4600 block of Tilden Street N.W. (Spring Valley).

Armed robbery (gun). 2700-5300 block Arizona Avenue N.W. (Palisades).

Metropolitan Police Department says they believe the robberies were committed by the same suspects, who remain at large. Stay alert out there.

15 local governments & organizations call on MoCo Council to revise Bethesda Downtown sector plan

Fifteen Bethesda-area governments and organizations have delivered a joint letter to Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner, asking for major changes to the draft Bethesda Downtown sector plan. Chief among the requests sought are staging of the development permitted in the plan, heights and building designs more compatible with the communities surrounding the downtown, adding more parks and amenities, retaining fire and rescue stations as single-use public safety sites, improving transitions between new downtown development and adjacent neighborhoods, and the use of better and more-accurate data in formulating the plan.

The letter is also calling for not only the return of citizen advisory boards for master plans, but also a Design Review Advisory Panel with citizen representation, which would weigh in on building designs. Many residents have complained that their input no longer matters since those advisory bodies were replaced with week-long charettes.

Several elected officials signed the letter, including Scott Fosler, a former County Councilman and current Mayor of Chevy Chase; Jeffrey Slavin, Mayor of Somerset; Michael Denger, Chair of the Board of Managers of Chevy Chase Village; and William Brownlee, Chair of Section 3 of the Village of Chevy Chase.

Also signing were many civic associations, including the East Bethesda Citizens Association, Chevy Chase West Neighborhood Association, the Edgemoor Citizens Association, the Sacks Neighborhood Association, the Battery Park Citizens Association, the West Fernwood Citizens Association, the Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights, residents of Middleton Lane, the 7420 Chevy Chase Drive condominium association, and the Bradley House condo association.

Rounding out the signatories was Mary Flynn, head of the Coalition of Bethesda Area Residents, the citizen group that has spearheaded the efforts to scale back the plan.

One notable detail that jumps out - 25 life members and former members of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad submitted a separate letter in which they endorse the Squad property and the Bethesda Fire Station 6 remaining as public safety facilities only. Rather than have new stations built by a developer who would also add residential units, they say station renovations and replacements should instead be co-funded by the County. Both stations are owned by their respective organizations, not the County.

Flynn said those signing the letter are optimistic that the high level of detail in their recommendations will lead the Council to take their concerns and proposals seriously. All told, the letter represents over 10,000 Bethesda households.

To read the full text of the letter, recommendations and attachments, click here.

Faryab to reopen in Bethesda (Menu+photos)

Faryab Afghan Cuisine, the restaurant at 4930 Cordell Avenue that closed in August 2015, is planning a comeback. The owner says the restaurant should reopen the first week of February. Expect the same menu with a few tweaks. Speaking of which, here it is:

During its initial run, Faryab was well-reviewed, and a perennial resident on Washingtonian magazine's Top 100 Restaurants list. They are currently hiring waitstaff for the reopening.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Assault at Walter Reed, 2 domestic violence assaults + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on January 15, according to crime data:

Assault. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Drug arrest. Capital Beltway interchange at Pooks Hill.

Domestic violence assault. 7400 block Bradley Boulevard.

Theft. 2200 block Washington Avenue.

Domestic violence assault. 11200 block Academy Way.

Theft. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Bethesda's legendary Tommy "The Matchmaker" Curtis discusses his past, future in new podcast

Tommy "The Matchmaker" Curtis (left)
with Congressman Jamie Raskin, who
won after receiving Curtis' endorsement
One of the most legendary figures in Bethesda history, Tommy "The Matchmaker" Curtis, has still got it. His iconic Yacht Club of Bethesda remains arguably the most-missed nightspot in town, and his film production ventures continue full steam ahead. But even in Beverly Hills, like Clark Kent hearing a scream for help, Curtis can't help but turn into Tommy the Matchmaker sometimes. Just ask actor Vince Vaughn.

To hear more about that episode, and many more topics that will be of interest to Bethesda residents, don't miss Curtis' interview on WMAL legend Andy Ockershausen's new podcast, Our Town. Curtis talks about his career from radio to screen, other DC-area notables he's worked with, and - of course - his days as the captain of Bethesda's Yacht Club.

Listen (or read the transcript) and find out about the Hollywood royalty Tommy Curtis is descended from, how he invented the phrase "meetin' and greetin'," his new movie project that will "be the biggest news in cinema for the last year or two if it works," and why you should never eat Thai food before hitting a singles bar.

Never underestimate Curtis, the man who endorsed Congressman Jamie Raskin - - and Raskin went on to beat an opponent who waged the most expensive congressional campaign in history. If you're nostalgic for Bethesda's past, or want to know what Curtis is planning for the future, this podcast is worth a listen.

File photo courtesy Jamie Raskin for Congress campaign

Just when you thought MoCo Council couldn't get any more anti-business...$15 min. wage

The Montgomery County Council burnished the county's reputation as the most-hostile-to-business jurisdiction in the region yesterday, voting to raise the minimum wage to $15. That's the highest minimum wage in the D.C. Metro area, putting the already-moribund county in an even more disadvantageous job creation position.

In a county that is the only one in the region to experience a net loss in private sector jobs (3885, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)  - including the loss of 2141 retail jobs - since 2000,  local Dunkin' Donuts franchise operator Boris Lander has been a one-man job creation machine. In just the last few years, he has opened up so many locations in Montgomery County that I've lost count. The jobs these stores create are opportunities for those at the entry level of the job market, exactly the type of person the Council purports to care so deeply about.

Lander has become the point man for the business community's concern over the latest wage hike. He has put real numbers on the table, to quantify just what the negative impact a $15 wage will be on jobs. The Council ignored the data, and actually even boldly stated it was doing so.

One thing that really jumped out in the wage discussion, was that the Council is not conducting any legitimate research on the fiscal impacts of the laws it passes. It's left up to private business owners like Lander to take their time to produce such data - and then the Council simply dismisses the evidence.

Montgomery County started behind the 8 ball even before this Council passed two minimum wage increases. The high-tax jurisdiction hasn't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in two decades. Its wealthiest residents are fleeing in numbers so significant, their exit has cratered county revenues, and shuttered the vaunted "Rodeo Drive" retail strip in Chevy Chase.

But the impact of the previous wage hike has been explosive - and not in the way the Council promised. Many fast food restaurants I patronize all across Montgomery County - all of them except one - have radically slashed the number of employees. You'll often find one cook in the kitchen, and one or two cashiers out front (depending if there is a drive-thru) - and that's it. Some restaurants have even installed touch screen ordering systems.

It turns out the touted "success of Fight for $15" was a complete failure. And this is in a Montgomery County where restaurant growth has "slowed since 2012, and remains flat," according to Melvin Thompson of the Restaurant Association of Maryland (by comparison, Frederick's grew 5.4% and Fairfax's by 6% in 2015 alone).

The impact on us, the residents who patronize businesses here, has been even greater. Prices of Big Macs and fries have significantly increased. There's essentially no such thing as a Dollar Menu anymore at McDonald's. Not only have workers lost jobs, but those at the bottom have lost the ability to get a substantial amount of food for a low price (and if you feel the urge to make a snarky comment about those who get by on fast food, you're probably a paid Guy Friday for the $130K-salaried Whole Foods elites on the Council).

CEOs - and the relocation firms they contract with - are getting the latest headlines from Montgomery County, and the news is not good. Even though the new $15 wage doesn't target the kind of high-wage firms we should be convincing to move here, it is a strong indicator of MoCo's hostility to business. The Council's willingness to recklessly jump off the $15 cliff by itself in the region for purely-self-serving political reasons sends a clear message to businesses here and around the world - Montgomery County is closed for business.

First look: Long & Foster/Christie's office in Bethesda (Photos)

Here's a look inside the new Long & Foster's/Christie's International Real Estate offices in the ground floor of The Darcy condominium, along Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Assault on Park Lane, burglary on Sentinel Dr. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on January 14, accordiing to crime data:

Drug arrest. Woodmont Avenue at Rugby Avenue.

Pedestrian struck. 8100 block Woodmont Avenue.

Drug arrest. Battery Lane at Keystone Avenue.

Assault. 8000 block Park Lane.

Theft. 4400 block Willard Avenue.

Burglary. 4900 block Sentinel Drive.

Burglary. 10200 block Grosvenor Place.

Theft. Balducci's.

Theft. 10400 block Old Georgetown Road.

Drug arrest. Rockviille Pike at Bangor Drive.

Bethesda construction update: Cheval Bethesda ultra-luxury condos (Photos)

The Cheval Bethesda ultra-luxury condo tower's skeletal facade is beginning to take on the distinctive shape seen in the renderings of the project. Located at 4960 Fairmont Avenue, the building will be 17 stories when completed later this year.

There will be only 72 condo units, and 7000 SF of non-residential space. Prices will be in the ultra-luxury tier: From the $900,000s to over $2.5 million. Delivery is expected next year. Duball, LLC is the developer.

McDonald's Grand Mac arrives in Bethesda (Video+photo)

A bigger Big Mac is expected to make its debut in Bethesda today. The McDonald's at 5214 River Road will begin serving the Grand Mac today, according to an employee.

Grand Mac features all of the standard Big Mac ingredients, but in greater size and quantity. McDonald's is using the classic, thin burger patty, not Quarter Pounder or thicker patties, as some early reports claimed. The burger is simply wider, rather than thicker, as are the buns and cheese slice.

I managed to locate a Grand Mac early, at the McDonald's in Derwood yesterday. Here is my review of the super-sized Grand Mac.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Assault reported at Suburban Hospital, drug bust on the Beltway + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on January 13, according to crime data:

Theft. Bethesda Metro Center.

Drug arrest. 7900 block Norfolk Avenue.

Burglary. 6900 block Ridgewood Avenue.

Assault. Suburban Hospital.

Drug arrest. Capital Beltway Inner Loop between MD 355 and Connecticut Avenue.

Theft. 9200 block Kensington Parkway.

Theft. 4900 block Sentinel Drive.

Theft. 10800 block Antigua Terrace.

Theft. Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Bethesda construction update: 2nd District police station (Photos)

You can get a sense of what the future Montgomery County 2nd District police station will look like with glass installed, as construction lights on each floor shine through plastic tarps on the building facades. This is located at 4823 Rugby Avenue, where it meets Del Ray Avenue. The developer is StonebridgeCarras.