Monday, May 04, 2015

EYA requests extension for Chevy Chase Lake projects #DC #Bethesda

Bethesda developer EYA is asking the Montgomery County Planning Board for an extension of the review period of two Chevy Chase Lake project site plans, and of a sketch plan amendment. The request states that more time is necessary to address unspecified issues brought up by the County's Development Review Committee, as well as feedback on its sketch plan.

Part of this stems from the number of agencies who are represented on the DRC, which has members from utilities like WSSC and Pepco, the Maryland State Highway Administration, and county departments like Public Works and Transportation, Permitting Services and Environmental Protection. Addressing concerns from all of those agencies at once can be a complicated task.

The requested extensions are all 2.5 months, pushing the deadline back to July 30, 2015. Planning staff are recommending approval of the request. That request will be taken up by the Planning Board at its May 14 meeting.
Renderings via EYA/Montgomery County
Planning Department, All rights reserved

Proposed downtown Bethesda BRT station is monkey wrench in apartment project (Photos)

The delay in the 8008 Wisconsin Avenue apartment building project, that was ascribed to the future possibility of a bus rapid transit line running down that street, turns out to be related to a BRT station planned nearby. A Montgomery County map (above) shows one of the MD 355 South BRT route stations will be around the intersection of Wisconsin and Cordell Avenue.

Douglas Development's accommodations to BRT right-of-way issues are contained in a letter from their attorney, Emily Vaias of Linowes and Blocher, LLP, to Montgomery County Planning Director Gwen Wright. In it, Douglas proposes to dedicate 13.5' of its property frontage on Wisconsin Avenue to allow the creation of the 122' right-of-way demanded by the BRT plan between Chestnut Street and Bethesda Avenue.

Douglas will also cede another 10' easement to the Maryland State Highway Administration on the Wisconsin side, to facilitate the Cordell Avenue BRT station, should it be built in the future. In exchange, the SHA would allow Douglas to extend its parking garage east underneath that SHA easement, and extend air rights over part of the easement at a 15' clearance. In other words, the underground garage would not have to shrink, and the building could bump out beyond its ground level footprint, accommodating pedestrians and BRT facilities underneath that overhang.

Also in exchange for these concessions, Douglas is asking to be exempted from a proposed truncation of its property at the corner of Cordell and Wisconsin, which Vaias says would prevent construction of the project's "vibrant" lobby and entrance that would "help to illuminate and activate the streetscape." She also notes that the easements being provided by Douglas would provide ample sight lines at the intersection, and that the full truncation would be inconsistent with the urban character of the location.

Another tradeoff on the Woodmont Avenue side of the property would give the county a 20' easement to accommodate a future bike path and other streetscape improvements, while giving Douglas a 5' reduction in the currently required truncation of the property at the intersection of Woodmont and Cordell. Vaias writes that this exemption can be justified by the applicant's generous donation of easements for the BRT considerations on the Wisconsin side.

Finally, the proposed agreement would also let Douglas out of additional development restrictions the previous property owner had agreed to with the Planning Board in the past.

Vaias is requesting that the Planning Board review the proposed plan, as well as the already-submitted Project Plan itself, at its June 18 meeting.

While it's commendable that Douglas is accommodating the County's plans, one has to wonder how the County believes a R.O.W. of this width between Chestnut and Bethesda Avenue is possible. It's true that many buildings along that stretch of Wisconsin are going to be torn down and redeveloped in the next decade. But what about those that aren't, and which jut out into the width of R.O.W. that will exist in front of 8008 (and potentially other properties, assuming those landowners come to similar terms with MoCo and the state - which isn't guaranteed)?

8200 Wisconsin, the Doubletree Hotel, Fairmont Plaza, Akridge's 7550 Wisconsin office building, Bethesda Place, the Apex Building, and several other properties aren't going anywhere for many decades. On the east side, Chevy Chase Cars, Bethesda Crescent, and the Air Rights Building aren't either. And the historic Bethesda Theatre cannot be moved, no matter what - it's on the National Register of Historic Places.
Draw a straight line from
the proposed 8008 Wisconsin
building footprint south...
...and you hit a lot of buildings
that aren't being demolished in
even the distant future. Whoops!
I get that a spot like 8008 Wisconsin might be adjusted to accommodate a station through redevelopment. But as far as a huge BRT R.O.W. all the way down to Bethesda Avenue, that's not likely to happen. And certainly not with 6 traffic lanes - all of which are needed, considering they're already jammed during rush hour now.

Perhaps I've simply miscalculated, and there's some New Math solution to the problem after all. That still won't make the $5 billion BRT boondoggle, and the $300-$1000+-per-year BRT tax (at the 10% property tax rate hike suggested by County Executive Ike Leggett's Rapid Transit Task Force) Bethesda condo and home owners would pay to fund BRT each year, any more appealing to most residents.

8008 Wisconsin is a 14-story mixed-use project combining several properties, including the venerable surplus store and "beer house" along Wisconsin, Cordell and Woodmont Avenues. It will feature up to 140 apartments, including 15% affordable units (more than the required 12.5%), up to 4500 SF of non-residential uses (most of which will go to a restaurant space at the corner of Cordell and Woodmont), an underground garage, and public space.

The restaurant, with outdoor dining, should - along with the redevelopment of the parking lot next to Bruce Variety, and of JBG's land adjacent to Fairmont Plaza - help activate a currently dead block of Woodmont Avenue. Douglas is promising its lobby entrance and a zen garden will do the same on the Wisconsin side. The project sounds promising, so let's hope the Planning Board can get this moving forward.

[Top] Montgomery County
[Easements] Montgomery County Planning Department
[Maps] Google Maps

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Westwood Shopping Center doubles number of public events for 2015

One of the positive developments since developer Equity One purchased the Westwood Shopping Center has been the introduction of property events. Last year, it was a big deal to have events for the first time at the shopping center in my lifetime. Previous owners Capital Properties and Dr. Laszlo Tauber did not program events, even as other firms like Federal Realty do this regularly at properties large and small. Such events are not only positive for retail patrons, but also for the businesses in the center.

Now that events are here, Equity One is roughly doubling the number being scheduled for this year compared to 2014. Here's the list of what's planned through October:

Mother's Day at Westbard
May 9, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM

June 13, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Westbard Sidewalk Sale
July 11, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Electronic Recycling Day
August 15, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM

School Supply Drive
August 15-21

Fitness Day
September 19, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Fall Festival
October 17, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Stay tuned for details on each event as they become available.

Westwood Shopping Center
5400 Westbard Avenue

Drug arrest at Walter Johnson HS, theft at Stone Ridge + more - Bethesda

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

Drug arrest. Woodmont Avenue at Old Georgetown Road.

Burglary. 5100 block Wessling Lane at 7:58 AM.

Vehicle burglary. 7000 block Glenbrook Road.

Vehicle burglary. 4700 block Morgan Drive.

Theft. Stone Ridge School.

Assault. 4400 block Willard Avenue.

Theft. 5400 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Theft. 5300 block Western Avenue.

Burglary. 7100 block Darby Road at 2:28 PM.

Drug arrest. Walter Johnson High School.

Palisades Eye Surgery Center moving in Bethesda (Photos)

Palisades Eye Surgery Center is moving, but fortunately for patients in Bethesda, they're not going far. The outpatient surgery center has been at 4818 Del Ray Avenue, but is now moving around the block to 4835 Cordell Avenue. They are making almost $60,000 in alterations to the new space to accommodate the facility, and extending the existing streetfront canopy.

Palisades Eye Surgery's
current home on Del Ray

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Bethesda construction update: New garage at Pike and Rose in North Bethesda

The often-cramped garage at Pike & Rose could get some relief when a second garage now under construction opens.

Assault on Elm St., drug bust on Bethesda Lane + more - Bethesda crime update

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

Theft. 7400 block Arlington Road.

Assault. 4700 block Elm Street at 1:52 AM.

Drug arrest. Bethesda Lane at Bethesda Avenue.

Theft. 4800 block Battery Lane.

Vehicle burglary. 4800 block Chevy Chase Boulevard (Chevy Chase West).

Theft. 9800 block Bristol Square Lane.

Burglary. 10300 block Dickens Avenue at 2:54 PM.

Shop for charity at Bloomingdale's May 7

Non-profit Lolly's Locks, which raises money to obtain wigs for economically-disadvantaged cancer victims, is hosting a special event next Thursday, May 7, at Bloomingdale's in Chevy Chase, from 6:00-8:00 PM.

Cancer survivor and beneficiary of Lolly's Locks Susan Morales will be the guest of honor, and will speak. Light refreshments and beverages will be served, and there will also be a Laura Mercier makeup station. Shop until 9:00 PM, and 10% of your total purchase will go to Lolly's Locks.

You can RSVP online now.

5300 Western Avenue

Friday, May 01, 2015

Urban Country launches Spring Sale today with new Peter Jacob for Wesley Hall furniture line - #Bethesda #DC

Peter Jacob for Wesley Hall
The annual Spring Sale is underway today at Urban Country at Bethesda Row. New to the home furnishings boutique is a furniture line by Peter Jacob for Wesley Hall. Drawing on the textural inspiration of fine menswear, Jacob's line is described as "well-dressed but not stuffy."

Also featured during the Spring Sale are Lee Industries, C.R. Laine, Chaddock Home, Bernhardt, Lorts, Vanguard Furniture, Roberta Schilling, American Leather’s annual recliner sale with $250 off all purchases, and many other furniture brands.

The sale offers 30-40% off all furniture and upholstery including special orders, 20% off Pine Cone Hill bedding and Dash & Albert rugs, and 10% off Brown Jordan luxury outdoor furniture.

Urban Country
7117 Arlington Rd
 (301) 654-0500

Assault in Chevy Chase West

An assault was reported at 11:07 PM Monday, in the 4600 block of Norwood Drive in Chevy Chase West, according to crime data. On the same day, a burglary occurred at 4:04 PM in the 6300 block of Winston Drive in Bethesda.

Lucky Brand opens at Pike & Rose (Photos)

Lucky Brand has opened its new store at Federal Realty's Pike & Rose development in the Pike District. What's interesting is that Lucky is going against the recent trend of opening two (or more) stores in the Bethesda area, which is what chains like lululemon athletica, GAP, and Francesca's have been doing.

In contrast, Lucky Brand's existing store at Westfield Montgomery Mall is now walled over. Apparently, they must have felt their target audience could not sustain two stores that close together.

Hillandale Road repairs continue in Bethesda (Photos)

Hillandale Road was forecast to have reopened by May, but work continues on the replacement of a culvert that failed under part of the road last fall. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation's Division of Highway Services sent these photos of the progress. From top to bottom, these are in chronological order.

A lack of suppliers for the pipe you see in the photos here was a major reason for the long repair timeframe. Hillandale Road remains closed between Little Falls Parkway and Willett Parkway until the job is completed.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Piazza Beer Garden opens with Beer Bash in Bethesda (Photos)

Piazza Beer Garden had a good turnout for its season-opening Beer Bash Tuesday night. Guests sampled the featured beer of the night, Dominion Candi, and tried some of Piazza's small plates like calamari, sliders and the new Torpedo meat pizza appetizer.

On May 7, Cesco Osteria - the Italian restaurant whose Woodmont Avenue patio hosts Piazza Beer Garden, will be celebrating its 18th anniversary. They'll be serving a complimentary glass of prosecco and birthday cake to diners that day.

Piazza Beer Garden partner Olivia Ricchi
with Cesco Osteria owner and chef
Francesco Ricchi

Photos by Vithaya Phongsavan

Help prevent cancer through special events this weekend at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Women in the DC area have one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the nation. Starting tonight, Westfield Montgomery Mall is launching its annual VIPink weekend to not only help educate women about cancer prevention, but to also raise money for that cause. That money will be raised through fitness and style events, and an advance screening of Avengers: Age of Ultron at ArcLight Cinemas.

Here's the schedule of events:

Tonight, Apr 30 6:30 p.m –8:30 p.m.:

VIPink Preview Party at ArcLight Cinemas catered by CRAVE American Kitchen & Sushi Bar, MET Bethesda, & LOBSTER ME followed by private showing of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

Saturday, May 2 at 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.:

Exclusive Zengo cycling classes hosted in partnership with lululemon athletica

Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3:

Hair blowouts and make-up consultations in partnership with Eric Alexander Salon and Nordstrom

Sunday, May 3 between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.:

A series of special yoga classes hosted by lululemon athletica

Tickets for all of the events can be purchased online now. Proceeds will go to Bright Pink, to fund programs designed to prevent breast and ovarian cancer.

Inside the demolition of Parker's and Tara Thai at Bethesda Row (Photos)

Parker's and Tara Thai are being demolished on Bethesda Avenue. The wall between them is being knocked out, so the restaurants can be combined into one larger retail space for Williams-Sonoma. Tara Thai will reopen this fall at Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Planners think Bethesda police station design could use some sprucing up

The design of the future 2nd District Montgomery County Police station was criticized by a number of readers a few months back, for what they felt was a plain and boxy design. Staff at the Montgomery County Planning Department have now made some suggestions for improving the exterior appearance of the building in a memo to the Planning Board.

They have asked the project designers to utilize brick or "local Bethesda stone" on the building facade, particularly on the Rugby Avenue side of the building. Currently, the facade is proposed as concrete and CMU block (concrete blocks).

Other recommendations include creating a new sidewalk from Rugby Avenue to the public parking garage adjacent to the station site, and providing 4 short-term bicycle parking spaces in racks in front of the station.

Staff is recommending approval of the project, with recommendations. The Planning Board is currently scheduled to take up the station project at its May 7 meeting.

The station will be located at 4823 Rugby Avenue, and is being developed by StonebridgeCarras. In exchange, the developer will be able to redevelop the prime real estate of the current, aging police station at 7359 Wisconsin Avenue. That site is very close to the Bethesda Metro station (and is virtually on top of the station platform deep under Wisconsin Avenue).

Rendering courtesy Montgomery County Planning Department

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2 downtown Bethesda assaults, car stolen in Spring Hill, Apple Store theft + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on April 26, according to crime data:

Assault. 7700 block Woodmont Avenue at 2:43 AM.

Assault. 4700 block Montgomery Lane at 1:13 AM.

Stolen car. 5300 block Falmouth Road at 10:24 AM (Spring Hill).

Theft. 7200 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Theft. Bethesda Row Apple Store at 5:02 PM.

Vehicle burglary. 5100 block Saratoga Avenue (Glen Cove).

Vehicle burglary. 4800 block Bayard Boulevard (Crestview).

Vehicle burglary. 4600 block Western Avenue (Crestview).

Theft. 10900 block Rockville Pike.

Assault. 11800 block Rockville Pike at 11:24 PM.

Pottery Barn set to move from Mazza Gallerie to Bethesda Avenue

Pottery Barn has announced its Mazza Gallerie location will close on May 25. The store is moving to the Flats at Bethesda Avenue apartment building across from Barnes and Noble, and the company says it will open in June.

The Mazza Gallerie store is having a closing sale with "incredible prices," Pottery Barn said in its announcement. Customers are being directed to the home decor chain's Clarendon and Tysons locations between May 25 and the June grand opening in Bethesda.

Bethesda Cinco de Mayo 2015 specials at Mexican restaurants

Where to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Bethesda is the question to be answered here. Not all Bethesda bars and restaurants have made their plans public yet, but I will update or add any details they email to me at robert1999 [at] hotmail [dot] com.


Guapo's has pulled out the stops for Cinco de Mayo for the last several years, and they have another great one planned for this year. Once again, they will have what I think is a must for a Mexican holiday - a live mariachi band. For those preferring a more modern sound, they will also have a DJ in the evening. In addition, they'll have a tiki bar, food and bar specials, and prizes.

8130 Wisconsin Avenue

Tía Queta

For those seeking the authentic, it doesn't get more authentic than a restaurant whose owners are actually Mexican. Tía Queta is tucked away on Del Ray Avenue, next to the Gallery Bethesda apartment tower. For this Cinco de Mayo, they'll be serving the new Budweiser craft beer aged in tequila barrels, Oculto. According to the official Oculto website, you cannot buy this brew at retail in Montgomery County. Looking forward to trying that one, despite the 65 rating average on Beer Advocate. Tía Queta will also have food and drink specials all day on Cinco de Mayo.

They've also got a rooftop deck, which is perfect for the spring weather.

4839 Del Ray Avenue

Gringos & Mariachis

Mexican restaurant and tequila bar.

4928 Cordell Avenue

Uncle Julio's

Mexican restaurant, and home of the famous Swirl frozen margarita.

4870 Bethesda Avenue.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Burglary on Roosevelt St., Grosvenor La. assault + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on April 25, according to crime data:

Disorderly conduct. Woodmont Avenue at Fairmont Avenue.

Liquor arrest. 4900 block Cordell Avenue.

Burglary. 5500 block Roosevelt Street at 12:11 PM.

Theft. 5300 block Western Avenue.

Assault. 5200 block Nicholson Lane at 9:47 PM (Pike District).

Vehicle burglary. 5100 block Nicholson Lane.

Theft. 5100 block Nicholson Lane.

Assault. 5700 block Grosvenor Lane at 11:17 AM.

Theft from vehicle. 5200 block Tuckerman Lane at 4:33 PM.

Elrich introduces landlord-tenant reform bill that would increase tenants' power

Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich (D - At-large) has introduced legislation that would implement several landlord-tenant policy changes for rental housing.

Bill 19-15 would ban month-to-month surcharges for tenants, require leases to contain "clear, understandable language," allow tenants to withdraw from a lease renewal within 2 days of signing it, require additional reporting of rent increase data, and create incentives for landlords to stay within the county's voluntary rent increase parameters.

In addition, the legislation would mandate annual inspection of 100% of rental apartments, rather than the 10% inspection requirement now. Buildings with a solid record of code compliance would be exempt from the increased inspections.

“I have long been interested in promoting strategies to preserve affordable housing and provide some security for renters,” Councilmember Elrich said in a press release. “These proposed reforms, annual inspections, standard lease, more flexible lease deadlines, better data collection and reporting, are first steps toward improving the quality of life for tenants, who now are about one-third of the county population.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Nancy Navarro (D - District 4) and Tom Hucker (D - District 5).

Photo via Montgomery County Council website

Kraze Burgers for sale at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

The first Kraze Burgers to open in America, in downtown Bethesda, went bankrupt and closed 15 months ago. A second Bethesda location opened in December 2013 in the Dining Terrace at Westfield Montgomery Mall. Now that Kraze Burgers business is for sale for $385,000.

According to a sale listing, the mall location takes in a gross income of $580,000, and generates a $100,000 cash flow per year. The prospective buyer will get all of the equipment and inventory, and two weeks of training. Under "reason for selling", the current owner says, "Retire."

The listing cites no competition for gourmet burgers at the mall, but doesn't mention that Bobby Flay's Bobby's Burger Palace is located there. Kraze Burgers' burgers are outstanding, in my opinion, and I was surprised that the Bethesda Row location failed.