Saturday, July 22, 2017

Montgomery County locks residents out of "open data" on crime

For the last 3 days, any attempt to review crime data on the Montgomery County Open Data website has resulted in a password screen popping up instead of the data. The screen demands the user log-in, which is not supposed to be required to use the "open data" site. I've noticed that other crime websites which use the data feeds from the County have not been able to display MoCo crime data from those days, either. Fail number two? A search for the term, "crime," on the site gets zero results. Another "open data" debacle for County Councilmember Hans Riemer.

Urban Country Designs expands at Bethesda Row

Urban Country Designs, as expected, has expanded into the former City Sports space next door to them at 7121 Arlington Road at Bethesda Row. The furniture retailer and interior design studio put the extra space to use this week for a pop-up warehouse sale.

The Fix posts Coming Soon message at Westfield Montgomery Mall

Device repair business The Fix has posted a Coming Soon message at its future space inside Westfield Montgomery Mall. They will be on Level 2 right near the entrance to the food court.

Friday, July 21, 2017

MoCo Council bodyslammed by regional leaders on new Potomac crossing

Regional leaders delivered a stinging rebuke to the Montgomery County Council this week, approving a new Potomac River crossing study over MoCo councilmembers' objections. The County Council had unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday opposing a new bridge, or even a study of a new bridge. On Wednesday, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) met to consider the crossing and 9 other items for study.

In addition to delivering the resolution to the board, Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich participated in the meeting, expending political capital to try and stop a bridge that would provide an economic boon to Montgomery County. The politically-suicidal move left many on the Board scratching their heads. It also again proved that the Council is impotent, even among their Democratic colleagues at the state level, and across the region. Elected officials on the TPB from the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg, including Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton (who chairs the TPB) all backed studying the bridge.

Even one of the Council's war-on-cars fellow travelers, Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, was perplexed as to why MoCo councilmembers would oppose objective study of a new bridge. Fisette said he too opposed the bridge, but thought it should be studied like the other projects. COG's own 2012 study showed that 25% of traffic on the American Legion Bridge during rush hour is traveling to, or from, the Dulles area. In addition, 27% of Virginia drivers crossing into Maryland are heading to I-270.

During discussion of the Council resolution earlier this week, Elrich had stated a new crossing was "not in the County's economic interest." This is simply not true, as many CEOs whose firms chose Virginia over Montgomery County have cited our county's lack of direct access to Dulles Airport as one of the deciding factors. Elrich said he wanted to prevent competition with BWI Airport, but BWI - like National Airport - doesn't offer the frequency and scope of international business flights that Dulles does. The largest and most-luxurious aircraft can't even land at BWI and National, but can be accommodated by runways at Dulles.

Councilmember Craig Rice said there was "not any benefit for the upcounty" in building a new bridge. Damascus, Clarksburg and Germantown residents who work in the Dulles area, and parts of Fairfax County, would vehemently disagree. Not to mention that offloading a quarter of the traffic on the American Legion Bridge benefits everyone using I-495 and I-270 during rush hour.

Another false impression was given by Councilmember Sid Katz, who declared, "the reality is, there's no money for this." With a private firm building the highway and bridge as a toll facility, the beauty of it is, very little taxpayer money would be needed. Since the road would most likely be an extension of the ICC/Sam Eig Highway, the private operator could also take control of the ICC, and lower tolls along the length of the route within Maryland.

Of the ten projects approved for study by the TPB, the Potomac River crossing would move the most people in the shortest time, for the least dollar amount per-person. In opposing it, the Council not only again declared war on their own constituents, but are actively trying to prevent congestion relief and job creation within Montgomery County, at the behest of their developer masters who want to use office zones for residential development. Protecting BWI, which can't compete on business flights with Dulles, at their constituents' expense? It sounds like Berliner, George Leventhal and Elrich are running for Baltimore mayor, not Montgomery County Executive.

TacoArepa to pay homage to owners' childhood in Venezuela

TacoArepa, the new fast-casual concept from restaurateurs Alonso and Alvaro Roche, will lean heavily on nostalgia from the brothers' childhood in Venezuela. Expected to open by October, the restaurant will serve a fusion of Caribbean and Latin American tacos, arepas, bowls and salads.

Alonso Roche, the chef and co-owner of the operation, will draw from memories of his Cuban grandfather, and of West Indies curry dishes, to create the flavors for the 50-seat space. An industrial interior design will also pay tribute to the kind of Caribbean street vendors who inspired the brothers' first venture, Bold Bite, and outdoor dining will be available on a 16-seat patio.

As I reported yesterday, the restaurant will also serve beer, with a list combining local and Latin choices. TacoArepa will be located at 4905 Fairmont Avenue.

Planning Board thumbs nose at residents, approves Ourisman Honda encroachment on CCT in Bethesda

The fix already appeared to be in on the question of whether or not Ourisman Honda's Bethesda Avenue dealership would be allowed to encroach on the Capital Crescent Trail right-of-way, including a new garage that is right up against the paved trail itself. Montgomery County officials had gone to bat for Ourisman's plan to trade a small new plaza at the front corner of its property for the right to keep its garage encroachment into several rights-of-way, including that of the trail. Last night, the Planning Board thumbed its collective nose at outraged residents and trail users, officially endorsing the Ourisman deal.

The board unanimously approved the Ourisman plan.

Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the evening was watching "bicycle advocate" Chairman Casey Anderson vote to shrink the County's premier bicycle facility, singing the praises of Ourisman Honda all the while. He said his major concern was the appearance of the garage wall, suggesting a mural be painted on it. Given the murals recently painted around Bethesda, that's hardly something to be optimistic about, unless the image is related to the Georgetown Branch Railroad that the CCT replaced.

Earlier in the meeting, planner David Anspacher stated that Planning staff will propose widening the Capital Crescent Trail to 23' this fall.This would now require moving the actual trail out of its own right-of-way, simply to accommodate a private business that broke the rules.

In a gaffe late in the discussion, commissioner Natali Fani-Gonzalez told Ourisman's attorney she wanted to "make sure they (Ourisman Honda) have the space that they need." By officially codifying Ourisman's encroachment beyond its own property lines, Fani-Gonzalez certainly ensured there will be no problem in that area. With a straight face, commissioner Marye Wells-Hartley spun booting the trail out of its own right-of-way as a chance to "enhance the trail." The Board ignored a staff recommendation that the size of the new plaza be increased, a suggestion Ourisman opposed.

Residents expressed anger on social media at the Board's decision, mulling what their options are to protest the decision at this point.

Read Wall to open at Bethesda Row

Another shop targeting men is coming to Bethesda Row. Read Wall is opening in the former Kit + Ace space on Bethesda Avenue, but is promising an atmosphere more like a "clubhouse" than a store. They are also promising to have bourbon on-tap and beers on-ice when you arrive.

Read Wall is a local company named after its founder, who grew up in Spring Valley, D.C. Wall is laying claim to "American tailoring" in his suit design, which is described as a more-natural shoulder, a higher armhole, a nipped waist, a slightly-tailored leg, and "never skinny." Read Wall suits are made with cloth from Italy, Scotland and England's "best mills," and their suits and shirts can be custom made in American factories.

There is an existing Read Wall bricks-and-mortar store in the District, in Shaw.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bethesda construction update: The Rugby (Photos)

The Donohoe Companies' mixed-use project, The Rugby, is reaching street level in many spots. But you can still see quite a bit down into the future parking garage. The Rugby will share a plaza with sister building Gallery Bethesda, located at 4800 Auburn Avenue.

TACOAREPA to open in old Fresh Grill spot in Bethesda

After a renovation and repair of the building, the vacant former Fresh Grill space has a new restaurant tenant. TACOAREPA is moving into the storefront at 4905 Fairmont Avenue. 

Expectations should be high, as this is yet another venture from the growing restaurant empire of brothers Alonso and Alvaro Roche. They already operate several successful restaurants in the Woodmont Triangle: Bold Bite, 202 Donuts and Coffee and Tapabar, with the latter two only steps away from TACOAREPA on Fairmont Avenue.

TACOAREPA will be a fast-casual restaurant, and will also serve beer and wine. As natives of Venezuela, the Roche brothers certainly have the qualifications to produce authentic arepas, an increasingly popular menu item in the D.C. area.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Robbery on Westlake Terrace, car stolen on Englishman Dr. + more - Bethesda crime update

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

Identity theft. 4600 block Chevy Chase Boulevard.

Missing person. 8600 block Old Georgetown Road.

Theft. 6300 block River Road.

Stolen car. 10400 block Englishman Drive.

Robbery with "other weapon." 7300 block Westlake Terrace.

Shoplifting over $200. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Theft from vehicle. 10800 block Antigua Terrace.

Theft from vehicle. 11800 block Old Georgetown Road.

EuroMotorcars to redevelop their Bethesda dealership property

Update - July 20: A EuroMotorcars spokesperson said today there will be retail space in the new development at the corner of Arlington Road and Bethesda Avenue, but also confirmed the plan does not currently include any residential space.

EuroMotorcars has announced it intends to redevelop its 4-acre dealership property, located at 7020 Arlington Road in downtown Bethesda. A public meeting is being held to unveil their plans on Tuesday, August 1, at 7:00 PM, at 7020 Arlington Road.

A EuroMotorcars spokesperson confirmed this morning that the dealership and its service facility will remain at its current location. The new dealership will be designed to be more in line with the current vision for downtown Bethesda. They acknowledge that building the new facility while operating the dealership "will be challenging."

Many real estate observers have speculated about the potential to assemble the EuroMotorcars site with the adjacent Bradley Shopping Center for a major, Bethesda Row-style mixed-use development. The move by EuroMotorcars to invest in new facilities means such a deal is now far off in the future, at best.

EuroMotorcars had already given indications it was going to stay in Bethesda, upgrading its showroom last year, and investing in a nearby service facility and garage on River Road.

Addie's sets opening date at Park Potomac

The return of Jeff Black's popular restaurant, Addie's, at Park Potomac is now scheduled for August 1, according to the Black Restaurant Group. Interviews for staff members will take place today through Friday at Black's Bar + Kitchen, located at 7750 Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda, between 1:00 and 5:00 PM. Addie's is located at 12435 Park Potomac Avenue, accessible from the Montrose Road exit of I-270.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Underage drinking party on Oakmont Ave., Parkside resident missing + more - Bethesda crime update

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

Underage drinking party. 5500 block Oakmont Avenue.

Sudden death. 9200 block Cedar Way.

Missing person. 10400 block Montrose Avenue.

Bainbridge cleans up Bethesda lot after being issued violation (Photos)

Montgomery County drug its feet for a couple of years, but its much-belated June 5 code violation notice at the future Bainbridge Wisconsin site has gotten some results. Residents had been complaining for two years about the dilapidated conditions on the property, which was formerly a gas station, located at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Hampden Lane.

The site first had to undergo an environmental cleanup, as with any gas station property being repurposed as residential. More recently, unmowed grass, weeds, trash and debris made for a conspicuous embarrassment in a prime location in the town's Central Business District.

It took a couple of weeks, but as of yesterday, the site had been cleared and straightened up. Some oil drums are neatly stacked in front of the old gas station building. Redevelopment of the property has been delayed as Bainbridge awaited upzoning of the site in the new Bethesda Downtown sector plan, which finally occurred in May.

Banana Leaves Asian Cafe sets opening date in Bethesda

Banana Leaves Asian Cafe, the new restaurant located at 7816 Old Georgetown Road, will have its grand opening next Wednesday, July 26. The venture is related to the existing Banana Leaves cafe in Rockviile, and will feature Malaysian, Thai and Chinese cuisine. Gluten-free dishes will be available. Banana Leaves replaces the venerable North China Cafe, which closed in June.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Disorder on Cordell Ave., burglary on Democracy Blvd. + more - Bethesda crime update

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

Lost property. 6800 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Disorderly conduct. 4900 block Cordell Avenue.

Disorderly conduct. 4900 block St. Elmo Avenue.

Theft. 7600 block Clarendon Road.

Forgery - credit cards. 7000 block MacArthur Boulevard.

Theft over $200. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Burglary - forced entry. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Snack bar reopens at Bethesda Pool

I have an update on the snack bar situation at the Bethesda Pool on Little Falls Parkway. On Friday, I reported that a new vendor was being brought in, after the most recent one quit due to lack of profits.

As of Friday, the new vendor was in the process of getting the necessary permits and inspections to open the snack bar, and hoped to open before the season was over.

Good news: This morning, Montgomery County Department of Recreation Director Gabriel Albornoz reports that the new vendor began serving food and beverages over the weekend.

Bethesda Ave. resurfacing could begin as soon as tonight

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation Division of Highway Services is scheduled to begin resurfacing of Bethesda Avenue between Woodmont Avenue and Arlington Road as soon as tonight. Nighttime work hours will be from 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM, and the project is expected to take a week to complete.

Work will include milling, patching, resurfacing, and modifications to curbs, gutters, sidewalks, ADA ramps and storm drain inlets. Residents of the Flats at Bethesda Avenue and Upstairs at Bethesda Row may want to pick up earplugs or fire up the white noise machine.

The County is tremendously late in addressing the poor surface conditions of Bethesda Avenue. Especially as a main route through the high-end shopping area of Bethesda Row, the state of the roadway has been an embarrassment. But it's a predictable embarrassment, when you remember that none of the current County Council members lives in Bethesda.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Construction site vandalized on Iron Gate Ct., missing person in Randolph Hills + more - Bethesda crime update

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

Mental transport. 2600 block Colston Drive.

Mental transport. 5300 block Allandale Road.

Missing person. 4800 block Randolph Road (Randolph Hills).

Theft over $200. 12100 block Rockville Pike.

Construction site vandalized. 8900 block Iron Gate Court.

Demolition update: 7900 Wisconsin site (Photos)

Additional preparations for demolition are underway at the site of The JBG Companies' future 7900 Wisconsin mixed-use project. The future residential building will include public space, a cross-block cut-through between Woodmont and Wisconsin Avenues, and a Trader Joe's grocery store.

Bethesda outdoor movies 2017 this week in the Woodmont Triangle

Bethesda Urban Partnership's annual summer outdoor movies return for 2017 on Tuesday, at the corner of Norfolk and Auburn Avenues. Through Saturday night, movies will begin at 9:00 PM. Bring a chair, and food from one of the many nearby restaurants in the Woodmont Triangle. A limited number of chairs will be provided. All movies are free.

This year's lineup includes:

Tuesday, July 18: The Wizard of Oz

Wednesday, July 19: Field of Dreams

Thursday, July 20: Dead Poets Society

Friday, July 21: Hidden Figures

Saturday, July 22: La La Land