Tuesday, August 04, 2015

2 assaults, 2 drug busts in downtown Bethesda + more - Crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on August 1, according to crime data:

Drug arrest. Woodmont Avenue at Fairmont Avenue.

Assault. Woodmont Avenue at Cordell Avenue at 3:01 AM.

Assault. 4700 block Bradley Boulevard at 4:57 AM.

Theft. Valerian Court (Timberlawn).

Drug offense. 4800 block Cordell Avenue at 12:40 AM.

Fairmont Avenue sidewalk update (Photos)

Here's the status of the new sidewalk segment on the south side of Fairmont Avenue, between Norfolk Avenue and Old Georgetown Road. It's been upgraded to Bethesda Streetscape standards, as part of the JBG 7770 Norfolk luxury condo project down the block. Businesses along the block are in much better shape with the sidewalk reopened in front of their facades (you may recall their clients had to use wooden ramps to reach their doors while the major work was being done).

BlackFinn Bethesda demolition update (Photos)

Demolition and reconfiguration of the interior of 4901-A Fairmont Avenue, the former home of BlackFinn Bethesda, continues. Under a redesign of Greenhill Capital's larger Lot 667 property by the architecture firm of Steven J. Karr, AIA, Inc., the large structure's interior is being redivided to allow for multiple new retail storefronts.

The structural changes, additions and renovations also include the nearby former Fresh Grill and Dansez! Dansez! spaces on Fairmont Avenue, and the BCC Automotive and Red Tomato Cafe buildings on St. Elmo Avenue.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Robbery on Bradley Blvd., cars stolen from Westmoreland Hills & Brite Dr. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on July 31, according to crime data:

Robbery. 4700 block Bradley Boulevard at 4:05 AM.

Theft from vehicle. 7900 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Theft from vehicle. 4900 block Elm Street.

Disorderly conduct. 4700 block Bethesda Avenue.

Stolen car. 5500 block Brite Drive at 9:09 AM (Bradley Hills).

Theft. Giant (Westwood Shopping Center).

Theft from vehicle. 5200 block Tuckerman Lane.

Stolen car. 5200 block Westwood Drive at 11:38 AM (Westmoreland Hills).

Theft. 7400 block Arrowood Road (Burning Tree Estates).

Assault. 4700 block Coachway Drive (Randolph Hills).

Death. 4700 block Chevy Chase Drive at 11:34 PM.

Death. 4700 block Bethesda Avenue at 2:27 AM.

Caroline County Sheriff's office: "attempt to locate". 6800 block Whitley Road at 9:23 AM (Whitley Park).

Disorderly conduct. Wyaconda Road at Schuylkill Road at 5:40 PM (Randolph Hills).

Tara Thai posts Coming Soon signage at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda (Photos)

Tara Thai, which closed at Bethesda Row earlier this year and is moving to Westfield Montgomery Mall, has posted Coming Soon signage at its future space. That large restaurant space was formerly occupied by Legal Sea Foods.

Construction fencing has been placed around the exterior walls of the restaurant, where you can expect outdoor seating will be added, in line with the current trend at the mall. Tara Thai will open in late fall.

Summer camp store closes in downtown Bethesda (Photos)

Sorry, kids, but next to school supply ads, here's the best sign that summer is ending: The summer camp supply pop-up shop at 4823 St. Elmo Avenue has closed.

Bee Bee Designs took over the former Annie's Bistro space this spring. The closure is not unexpected, given the seasonal nature of the business.

New renderings of Silver restaurant in Bethesda + menus (Photos)

You can get the first look at the interior of Silver, a new concept from the local, upscale Silver Diner chain opening in the Flats at Bethesda Avenue in September, in a new image gallery on their website. The design hints at the lines of a classic diner interior here and there, but mostly presents a higher-end atmosphere in line with its luxury apartment building home.
Host stand inside Silver
The first details on the various menus that will be available throughout the day are also online. Check out what you'll be able to order for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They've also got special brunch and late-night menus, as well as a kids menu.
Exterior as it will
appear along Woodmont Avenue
Trying to decide between quiche at Paul Bakery, or Bison Huevos Rancheros at Silver, for breakfast will indeed be a First World problem of the highest order. Silver will also bring another much-needed breakfast and late-night dining option to downtown Bethesda. Their Rockville location stays open until 3:00 AM on weekend nights.

Silver is now hiring for those job seekers with culinary or hospitality aspirations.

Renderings courtesy Silver
All rights reserved

New Bethesda Metro escalator opening today (Photo)

You got a sneak preview of the newly-installed escalator at the Bethesda Metro station the other day. But today, you get to actually ride it. WMATA says the new escalator will open to the public this morning.

“We are excited to mark this milestone with the replacement of the first of the three long escalators at Bethesda,” prominent Bethesda realtor Jane Fairweather said in a statement Sunday. Fairweather, who also serves as chair of The Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce’s Metro Improvement Task Force, added that "We look forward to the improved reliability that local residents, employees, visitors, tourists and all users of the Bethesda Metro station will experience as they enter and exit the station."

Contractor KONE has two more escalators to go before the $8.4 million project is complete at the station. "This is a significant improvement for our customers at Bethesda Station," said Metro Interim General Manager and CEO Jack Requa. "This first new entrance escalator will provide more reliable service for the thousands of passengers who travel through the station each day."

A chance to ride a working escalator at the Bethesda Metro station - an exciting day indeed.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Bethesda construction update: The Lauren ultra-luxury condos (Photos)

There's been tremendous progress at the construction site of The Lauren ultra-luxury condos on Hampden Lane since my last update.

The building, which is angling to be downtown Bethesda's most exclusive address, will hold 29 units. Amenities will include a wine lounge and screening room (complete with sommelier), rooftop terrace, fitness center, and concierge service.

The Lauren is scheduled to deliver in 2016.

Robbery on Hampden La., assault on Westlake Dr., burglary on River Rd. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on July 30, according to crime data:

Robbery. 4900 block Hampden Lane at 5:22 PM.

Burglary. 5200 block River Road at 7:49 AM.

Theft. Whole Foods Market (Friendship Heights).

Theft. 5300 block Friendship Boulevard.

Theft. Valerian Court (Timberlawn).

Death. 4800 block Wellington Drive at 9:22 PM.

Assault. 10500 block Westlake Drive at 7:37 PM.

Death. 5700 block Grosvenor Lane at 8:10 PM.

Assault. 11500 block Rockville Pike at 2:53 PM (Pike District).

Theft. 1700 block E. Jefferson Street (Pike District).

Death. 4800 block Topping Road at 8:55 PM (Randolph Hills).

Chopt posts banner at future Bethesda Avenue location (Photos)

Fast casual salad chain Chopt has posted a Coming Soon banner at its future location on Bethesda Avenue. The restaurant will be located in the ground floor of the Flats at Bethesda Avenue apartment building. It will also be very accessible from the Capital Crescent Trail.

Chopt has an existing Bethesda location, in the Wildwood Shopping Center north of downtown Bethesda.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Car stolen from Pike District, assault on Sangamore Rd. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on July 29, according to crime data:

Theft. 7300 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Theft from vehicle. 5000 block Bradley Boulevard.

Burglary. 5500 block Lambeth Road.

Vehicle burglary. 8500 block Connecticut Avenue.

Assault. 5000 block Sangamore Road at 9:30 PM.

Vehicle burglary. 5000 block Aurora Drive (Garrett Park Estates).

Theft. 6200 block Mazwood Road (Windermere).

Stolen car. 5800 block Nicholson Lane at 8:41 AM (Pike District).

Theft. 6000 block Executive Boulevard (Pike District).

Morley opening today at Bethesda Row (Photos)

Morley, the latest fashion boutique arrival at Bethesda Row, is opening today on Bethesda Lane. Yesterday, they installed some additional signage on the exterior. But the paper window coverings meant that we'll only find out today what the interior looks like.

Amethyst closes at Bethesda Row

Amethyst, a jewelry boutique, closed yesterday at Bethesda Row. The independent shop (which briefly had a second location at the new Mosaic District in Fairfax) was founded by Amy Hugo, who also is a jewelry designer.

The shop closes not long after an international name in jewelry, Kendra Scott, opened a store diagonally across Bethesda Avenue. As more and more small/independent businesses struggle or close, even longtime ones, one has to question the recent assertion that Bethesda is the 8th best place in America to start a small business.

There's a lot of disposable income here, for sure. But the closures and moves of established restaurants and stores suggest the picture is not quite as rosy as Entrepreneur and "Nerd Wallet" have concluded from faraway offices. 

The 2.7% unemployment rate cited in their data is quite misleading, as well. Unemployment rates tell you what percentage are unemployed, but don't correspond to the location of those jobs. With the exception of major government employment sites like NIH and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, most jobs - most especially the high-paying ones - are located outside of Montgomery County in the District and Northern Virginia. Don't expect your elected officials to admit that publicly, however.

And if you rely on "Nerd Wallet" to decide to move here to start a business, you'll be shocked when you get your first tax and utility bills, as well as the cost of your rent. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Armed robbery on Western Ave., assault on Crown St. + much more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on July 28, according to crime data:

Assault. 3800 block Shepherd Street at 12:27 AM (Chevy Chase).

Assault. 9000 block Rockville Pike at 1:39 AM (Walter Reed vicinity).

Theft. 7800 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Theft from vehicle. 4900 block Elm Street.

Vehicle burglary. 7500 block Lynn Drive (Chevy Chase).

Theft from vehicle. 5100 block Bradley Boulevard.

Vehicle burglary. 7400 block Ridgewood Avenue (Chevy Chase).

Vehicle burglary. 7200 block Ridgewood Avenue (Chevy Chase).

Vehicle burglary. Maple Avenue at Stanford Street (Chevy Chase).

Disorderly conduct. N. Wood Road at Rockville Pike (Walter Reed vicinity).

Armed robbery. Western Avenue at Quesada Avenue N.W. (DC line).

Assault. 5300 block Crown Street at 10:15 AM (off Westbard Avenue).

Vehicle burglary. 5500 block Christy Drive (Springfield).

Vehicle burglary. 5800 block Ipswich Road (Alta Vista Gardens).

Burglary. 9200 block Levelle Drive (Parkcrest).

Vehicle burglary. 5000 block Aurora Drive (Garrett Park Estates).

Vehicle burglary. 5800 block Inman Park Circle (Gables of Tuckerman condos).

Westbard Sector Plan public hearing set for September 24, 2015

The public, 18 months into the process, will finally get its first chance to actually address the Montgomery County Planning Board regarding the draft Westbard Sector Plan. The board will hold a public hearing on the draft on Thursday, September 24, 2015, from 6:30-9:30 PM. 

You will have a whopping 3 minutes to testify. Interestingly, the hearing will be at the Silver Spring planning headquarters, in contrast to the remote location hearings of the Bethesda Downtown Plan recently.

So far, the Westbard plan has been panned by residents, who object to the urban character, height and density proposed.

The plan also offers no substantive public amenities or facilities beyond the daylighting of Willett Branch stream, of which there is no guarantee it will ever actually happen. Moreover, the concepts for the daylighting are using river images, while the stream itself is currently a stormwater channel.

But those aren't the only deceptive aspects of the plan. Read my in-depth analysis first to understand how the 75' maximum heights aren't actually maximums, when you factor in the density bonuses developers will receive. The plan proposes to drop thousands of new people and cars into a two-block area, but suggests not a single proposal to increase vehicle capacity on either of the main commuting corridors in the plan area, River Road and Massachusetts Avenue.

On the positive side, the historical background in the plan has been well-developed, and some excellent recommendations for bike facilities and connectivity have been made.

As of press time, there was no mechanism to actually sign up for the public hearing on the planning website.

18/8 Fine Men's Salon opening in Bethesda (Photos)

"Men shouldn't be going to a women's salon," was the thought that drove entrepreneur Scott Griffiths to launch his own salon chain targeting a male audience. The result is 18/8 Fine Men's Salon, which is coming to 7550 Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda.

"There are two things a man should never do," 18/8's website opines: 

"Go through a woman’s purse.
Go to her hair salon."

Enter 18/8, named for the process by which stainless steel is created. 18/8 will offer stylish haircuts; face, scalp and nail treatments; shaves; waxing; hair coloring; and grooming party packages.

"You're the man," is the mantra the business says will sum up your feeling as you exit 18/8 after your appointment. 18/8 will join Roosters at Bethesda Row in the growing category of upscale men's salons in downtown Bethesda.

Sign installed at Paisano's Pizza in Bethesda (Photos)

The sign is up on the storefront of the future Paisano's Pizza in downtown Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle. You may recall I broke the story in May that Paisano's is taking over the former Naked Pizza space at 4914 Del Ray Avenue.

The front windows were still wrapped Thursday, as work continues inside. Paisano's already has two Montgomery County locations in Rockville and Gaithersburg.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Car stolen on Chevy Chase Blvd., burglary on MacArthur Blvd. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on July 27, according to crime data:

Stolen car. 4700 block Chevy Chase Boulevard at 10:18 PM.

Drug arrest. Connecticut Avenue at Manor Road (Chevy Chase Lake).

Vehicle burglary. 4800 block Broad Brook Drive (Locust Hill Estates).

Burglary. 7100 block MacArthur Boulevard at 3:34 PM.

Theft. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Stolen car. 11800 block Old Georgetown Road at 9:42 AM (Pike District).

Nighttime noise driving Bethesda condo residents crazy (Photos)

Residents of the Crescent Plaza condominiums in downtown Bethesda have been between the hammer and the anvil over the last week. Not only is the Solaire Bethesda being constructed adjacent to their building on Wisconsin Avenue, but now nighttime road work has begun without any warning at the intersection of Wisconsin and Leland Street.

I had noticed this Sunday night, when the crew pictured above was working in the northbound lanes of Wisconsin at Leland. I've since heard from residents in Crescent Plaza that they were never notified of this nighttime work, which has run some nights between 10:00 PM to after 4:00 AM.

That led me to get in touch with Steve Martin, who handles noise issues for the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. Martin confirmed that the mystery road crew had not filed for a nighttime noise waiver with the county. In fact, it was unclear just who these folks were.

Further investigation by Martin determined that the contractors are doing unspecified work for Pepco. He also provided a work schedule for the project, which is expected to be completed next week.
Pepco crew working
late last night on
Wisconsin Avenue
Pepco's crew was back again last night, this time in a new spot on Wisconsin directly in front of the Solaire Bethesda site (formerly Eastham's Exxon for those following from out-of-state). They were supposed to do some drilling and rebar work, which undoubtedly thrilled Crescent Plaza residents. They'll be back tonight to pour concrete, weather permitting. Then they'll take Friday and Saturday nights off - but return Sunday night. Finally, they will patch the road (which has been resurfaced twice at taxpayer expense in the last year) next week.

The problem for residents in this case, is that our DEP doesn't have authority over the Maryland State Highway Administration, according to Martin - although he said he is working to improve communication between the agencies regarding nighttime work. He also hopes to confirm Pepco's possession of an SHA Lane Closure Permit by today.

"While we don’t have the authority to stop this nighttime work," Martin said, "prior notification to nearby residences goes a long way towards minimizing complaints."

Art of Athletics coming to Bethesda (Photos)

Art of Athletics will take over the space vacated by Gallery St. Elmo when it moved to Cordell Avenue this past February. The business was started by massage therapist Zoe Arp in Frederick in 2008, but she has been seeking a space in Bethesda to accommodate clients from this area.

Art of Athletics will offer fascial stretch therapy, physical therapy, sports massage, and tailored stretching, strengthening and nutrition programs. There is a website address, but it was not activated as of press time.

Art of Athletics
4938 St. Elmo Avenue