Wednesday, August 20, 2014

HAMPDEN ROW CONDO AMENITIES REVEALED

Toll Brothers City Living is constructing a 7-story, 55-unit luxury condominium building called Hampden Row on Hampden Lane at Arlington Road. For the first time, I have a list of amenities that the future building will offer to residents.

A rooftop terrace will have a trendy feature found on most new Bethesda rooftops today - grilling stations. There will also be a fitness center, resident lounge, private underground parking and a 24-hour front desk.

They are currently demolishing the existing structures on the site.

NEW LUNCH SPECIAL AT SOUTH STREET STEAKS



There's a new lunch special at South Street Steaks on Cordell Avenue. From 11-3 PM Monday-Friday, you can get a Buffalo Chicken hoagie for $7.99 with housemade potato chips (or with fries for an extra $1). The sandwich was voted one of the DC area's Best Cheap Eats by Washingtonian Magazine.

South Street Steaks
4856 Cordell Avenue

FIRST TRUCKS CONFIRMED FOR WESTWOOD SHOPPING CENTER FOOD TRUCK RALLY IN BETHESDA

Several local food trucks have signed on for the September 20 Food Truck Rally at Westwood Shopping Center, on Westbard Avenue in Bethesda. The GoFish! Truck, CapMac, Reggae Vibes Jamaican Q*zine, The Mighty Dog and Acai (hot dogs and Acai berry shakes), and Holy Crepes! are the first 6 on board for the event.

There will also be a Sidewalk Sale, Housing Opportunities Commission school supplies drive, and a live DJ.

Donors to the school supplies drive will have a chance to win a $500 Westwood Shopping Center shopping spree, with gift cards and merchandise.

The event will run from 12:00-6:00 PM on Saturday, September 20, 2014.

Westwood Shopping Center
5400 Westbard Avenue

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

BLAZE PIZZA OPENING THURSDAY IN BETHESDA

The anticipated opening of artisanal pizza parlor Blaze Pizza, at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, is happening this Thursday, August 21. At Blaze Pizza, you will be able to build your own personal-size pizza, with artisanal crust and toppings, for under $8. And it will be ready in under 180 seconds, using the restaurant's "Fast-Fire'd" open-flame pizza oven.

Blaze Pizza's Bethesda restaurant, its first in the DC area, will seat just over 75 diners in its 1900 square foot space. As I reported previously, they will also have an outdoor patio for open-air dining.

Check out the menu as we await the grand opening of Bethesda's latest pizza option, one of two new pizzerias opening at Westfield Montgomery Mall this year (Naples 45 is the second).

Blaze Pizza
7101 Democracy Boulevard

DRUG ARREST ON CORDELL AVE., ROBBERY ON JONES BRIDGE RD. + MORE - BETHESDA CRIME UPDATE

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

Drug arrest. 4800 block Cordell Avenue.

Theft. 4400 block East-West Highway.

Vehicle burglary. 3900 block Blackthorn Street.

Drug arrest. Wisconsin Avenue at Cumberland Avenue.

Theft. 5900 block Bradley Boulevard.

Vehicle burglary. 7200 block Delfield Street (Martin's Additions).

Robbery. Jones Bridge Road at Manor Road.

Theft. 9600 block Parkwood Drive.

Vehicle burglary. 7100 block Whittier Boulevard.

Vehicle burglary. 5300 block Pooks Hill Road.

Theft. 10300 block Strathmore Hall Street.

Burglary. 6000 block Roseland Drive.

Vehicle burglary. Unit block of Sedgwick Lane.

Drug arrest. Hoya Street at Montrose Parkway.

NEW STREETLAMPS ON ST. ELMO AVENUE IN BETHESDA (PHOTOS)

I was hoping these might be lit up after dark, but these new streetlamps along St. Elmo Avenue in downtown Bethesda aren't operational yet. You might recall that the sidewalk along this side of St. Elmo was completely redone in June, and brought up to the current Bethesda Streetscape standards. Initially, this type of streetlamp was installed in front of the new Bainbridge Bethesda luxury apartment tower. Now the rest of the block on this side is getting the upgraded lighting.


Monday, August 18, 2014

BETHESDA CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: 4825 MONTGOMERY LANE LUXURY CONDOS (PHOTOS)

Let's return to the site of one of Bethesda's more exclusive, ultra-luxury condo projects at 4825 Montgomery Lane. Since my last update, you can really start to see the bones of the building facade taking shape. 

While the amenity list is not yet public, what gives this building a greater exclusivity than rival The Lauren, is that there will be only 4 owners in the whole building. Each level of the top four stories will be one condo unit in and of itself. 

Private garages will be on the ground level, and private elevators will whisk you directly up to your unit. Meaning that, if you want to ask your neighbor if he or she has any Grey Poupon, you'd better catch 'em before their Rolls disappears into their garage.
This used to be a
single-family home

What was that street
number again?

Can't you just imagine
easing your Bentley into
one of these?

A closer look

This shows what the facade design
will be based on structurally
OK, neighbors, let's all
squeeze into the shot
 together

Photobombed by a classic
Ford Taurus station wagon

HERR'S OLD BAY CHEESE PUFFS REVIEW (VIDEO)

Old Bay Seasoning is an essential for Maryland natives, as well as newcomers. The only question today, is what food can you not find it being added to around our great state? Herr's Foods of Pennsylvania has been one of the most prolific creators of Old Bay-licensed snacks in recent times. If you're a cheese puff fan like me, you'll probably want to start with their Herr's Old Bay Seasoned Cheese Curls. Herr's and Bachman have arguably the best cheese curls on the market, so expectations are high for this product.

How does the flavor combination turn out? Watch my review and find out!

ARCLIGHT CINEMAS HIRING IN BETHESDA

We're getting closer to the grand opening of ArcLight Cinemas at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The company has posted Help Wanted adds for virtually every position at the much-anticipated 16-screen cineplex. Construction continues at the site.

Positions offered include Hourly Managers, and a variety of crew members, all requiring "a passion for film."

It will be interesting to see if the theater will have a more active staff than the typical cineplex of today, where ushers rarely monitor what's going on in the theaters anymore. Which is a pretty dangerous situation for patrons, especially in this day and age.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

TUTTI FRUITTI PIKE AND ROSE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE (PHOTO)

Here is how the future Tutti Fruitti frozen yogurt shop looks now at the Pike and Rose development. It is located in the pad site area near the corner of Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road.

BETHESDA CRIME UPDATE

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

Assault. West Drive at Locust Avenue.

Theft. 5300 block Western Avenue.

"Other sexual offense." 4400 block Cambria Avenue (Garrett Park).

Theft. 10400 block Old Georgetown Road.

Vehicle burglary. 11300 block Empire Lane.

Assault/rape. 8000 block Inverness Ridge Road.

FREE MICHAEL GODARD GICLEE WITH QUALIFYING PURCHASE AT WENTWORTH GALLERY IN BETHESDA

Through this Friday, August 22, you can get a $600 Michael Godard giclée free when you buy any Godard piece of $1495 or more at Wentworth Gallery. The gallery is located on the upper level of Westfield Montgomery Mall, outside of Nordstrom. Michael Godard will appear in-person at the gallery this Saturday, August 23, from 1:00-4:00 PM.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

BETHESDA CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: 7770 NORFOLK LUXURY APARTMENTS (PHOTOS)

The JBG Companies' 7770 Norfolk luxury apartment tower project has reached street level from its original, deep excavation. A 17-story building, 7770 Norfolk will feature a rooftop deck and pool. You can see in some of the pictures where cars will enter the ramp into the underground garage from Fairmont Avenue. Click to enlarge any photo for greater detail:






ASSAULT & DRUG ARREST ON MASSACHUSETTS AVE., 2 BURGLARIES ON SINGLETON DR. - BETHESDA CRIME UPDATE

An unusual day on normally-quiet Massachusetts Avenue in Bethesda witnessed an assault, and a drug arrest, on Wednesday. On the same day, just off of Old Georgetown Road, two burglaries were reported on Singleton Drive.

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

Theft from vehicle. Bethesda Metro Center.

Vehicle burglary. 4300 block Rosedale Avenue.

Theft. Whole Foods Friendship Heights.

Theft. 100 block Summerfield Road.

Assault. 5500 block Massachusetts Avenue.

Theft. Bloomingdales (Friendship Heights).

Theft. 7600 block Holiday Terrace.

Vehicle burglary. 8900 block Clifford Avenue (North Chevy Chase).

Drug arrest. 5400 block Massachusetts Avenue.

Burglary. 9600 block Singleton Drive.

Burglary. 9800 block Singleton Drive.

Theft. 6200 block Walhonding Road.

Theft. Gold's Gym, 5520 Randolph Road.

WOODMONT AVENUE REOPENING PUSHED BACK A WEEK IN BETHESDA

Woodmont Avenue south of Bethesda Avenue will now reopen a week later than expected, Montgomery County Department of Transportation Community Relations Manager Tom Pogue said in MyMCMedia report Friday. Pogue said August 22 is the new target date, but gave the standard "on or about" qualification. The street will be only 2 lanes. Lane striping was added Friday, but no bike lanes are yet designated. 

Pogue also confirmed that this segment of Woodmont will remain closed to pedestrians, despite a county law requiring sidewalks to remain open along construction sites.

Friday, August 15, 2014

OFFENSIVE COMMENTS, ORWELLIAN DOUBLESPEAK ON BETHESDA PLANNING RADIO

Yesterday there was an interesting discussion of the Bethesda Downtown Plan on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, and you can read an entire transcript here.

But I wanted to respond to a couple of misleading statements made during the broadcast by Washington Post columnist Roger Lewis, and Montgomery County Planning Director Gwen Wright.

I found Roger Lewis' comments offensive and troubling. Regarding "urbanization" (which is nonsensical, because downtown Bethesda is thoroughly urban already! We're not "urbanizing" Bethesda - we already did that), Lewis made the following statement:

Roger Lewis: "I think loading the dice against urbanism is usually motivated by either resistance to change, as we talk about all the time, or concern that I'm not going to find a parking space and I'm going to sit through four cycles of this signal at this intersection.

"I mean, I think traffic congestion -- I think a lot of what we hear are essentially code words, if you will, for what people directly experience and perceive and worry about urbanism, which is both -- well, it's traffic congestion. It's also the arrival of people who maybe are different. I mean there's a sociological dimension to this. I mean, that's my interpretation. Whenever I hear, if you will, the nimbi (sic) argument, it's almost always based on that."

This is complete hogwash. Along with Planning Director Gwen Wright's assertions that affordable housing will be magically-increased in the Bethesda Downtown Plan, and that millennials will be able to afford Bethesda, this was a truly 1984-esque moment in yesterday's broadcast. What is happening now, and unless there is a policy change that accompanies the passage of the new downtown plan, is the exact opposite.

We just witnessed - especially readers of this blog - the demolition of The Hampden apartments on Hampden Lane. Those are being replaced by The Lauren, an ultra-luxury condo building with units "from the several millions." The end result is a net loss of affordable units on that site (not to mention several mature trees).

Battery Lane will soon have several demolitions, again with a net loss of affordable units. The same is coming for a building on MacArthur Boulevard, and - potentially - along Bradley Boulevard.

All of those threatened buildings had, or have, something in common. They were, and are, among the last buildings that an actual millennial could afford to rent in.

Much as in similar demolitions across the county, such as in Wheaton, Glenmont and at Halpine View, they will be replaced with luxury housing, not equal or greater racial and economic diversity. The "arrival of people" resulting from this will be a group very much like the one that dominates Bethesda today - rich, white people. Roger Lewis himself admitted long ago that the DC area building boom is not going to generate the adequate amount of affordable housing it promised. Instead, we are getting luxury buildings, with a handful of MPDUs in each. At the same time, we are demolishing more affordable units than we are building.

Res ipsa loquitur. But don't come on the radio and mislead people about affordable housing. And absolutely don't come on and accuse the people trying to maintain diversity and affordable housing in Montgomery County of using "code words," or having a fear of people who are "different." That is Orwellian doublespeak at its worst (or, best?). Mr. Lewis should be embarrassed about that, given his previous admission that the building boom indeed will not provide the affordable housing he claims Bethesda fears.

ZIPCARS ON SITE AT PIKE AND ROSE (PHOTO)

The first residents of the PerSei luxury apartments at Pike and Rose have another way to get around. Zipcar now has vehicles on-site, even as much of the Phase 1 development there hasn't opened yet. Developer Federal Realty also has had prominently-placed Zipcars at its Bethesda Row property, here in downtown Bethesda, for several years now.

4 THINGS THAT NEED TO BE PART OF ANY APEX BUILDING DEMOLITION AGREEMENT IN BETHESDA

Not surprisingly, negotiations continue behind-the-scenes to achieve Montgomery County's goal of demolishing the Apex Building at Wisconsin Avenue and Elm Street. Removing the building will allow for a better-designed Purple Line station beneath the site. The building is barely 25 years old, and has a nice architectural design. It also offers ample public space on the building's street level plaza. I would prefer not to lose it, but would not oppose the demolition if the public's best interests are truly realized in the end product.

Clearly, there are interests on both sides. It was never in the best interests of the Apex owners to agree immediately. It was never in their best interests to not get a taxpayer subsidy. Developers want to make money, and the county and state want a better Purple Line station.

But residents and businesses in Bethesda have interests as well, and there are many concerns that have been squelched so far in the public debate.

If this unusual teardown is to occur, and be in the public's best interest, here are some of the conditions we should have in the agreement:

1. A new movie theater must be part of the agreement.

No ifs, ands, or buts. The most dangerous part of demolishing the Apex Building would be the loss of the Regal Cinemas, a major downtown economic engine for nearby restaurants and retail stores. A new multiplex in Towson, Maryland, is promising to draw 20,000 additional people to that town every weekend. That gives you some sense of the importance of a downtown theater anchor.

As I've said before, many restaurants offer a dinner-and-a-movie promotion. Furthermore, with new theaters (with significantly higher ticket prices than the Regal, it should be noted) opening in North Bethesda and White Flint, downtown Bethesda businesses would lose patrons to those, and the AMC Mazza Gallerie theater in Friendship Heights. For the first time yesterday, a county official, Planning Director Gwen Wright, acknowledged that Bethesda will indeed be in competition with White Flint.

There are really only two options. One is to stipulate that the new development include a multi-screen, mainstream cineplex. Alternatively, a new downtown site should be identified, and the agreement worked out between all property owners involved. The potential redevelopment of the square block defined by Wisconsin, Fairmont, Woodmont and Norfolk Avenues is just one possible location. Putting it in the Woodmont Triangle would certainly align with the current transformation underway there. Wherever it is, it would have to be a sizable site to hold a cineplex, and it should be in walking distance of Metro.

But it has to be done. We should all be alarmed that no one in position of power seems to be alarmed about the potential loss of the Regal Cinemas. No viable downtown in America lacks a movie theater showing mainstream, current releases. Knocking Bethesda down below Silver Spring, White Flint, Rockville, and Germantown is unacceptable. This is indeed a big deal.

2. Any county subsidy must be contingent on the theater and significant affordable housing being included.

If taxpayer money is going to be used, the new development had better deliver on affordable housing beyond the level current projects are required to. The building, which will eventually sit above 2 Metro stations, should be the maximum height allowed, and offer at least 20% affordable units.

3. Solve the Bethesda Row plaza problem.

The open space across from Mon Ami Gabi and the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema has an uncertain future. This agreement should use whatever leverage the county has to start putting some definition to that future, as Councilmember Roger Berliner (D - District 1) has mentioned several times recently.

4. Prevent de facto privatization of public space.

Along with the public space on the Woodmont Avenue plaza, the new development should incorporate a similar gathering space to the one that currently exists, at the front corner of the Apex Building. While there could be room to negotiate on this if the new project will include the theater - obviously the top priority - we don't want the "new" Apex structure to be a sealed-off block for wealthy residents only. It would also seem that the transit station entrance facilities would call for such public space, anyway.

This is all only my opinion (with the exception of the economic importance of the theater, which seems beyond dispute on a factual basis), and I don't claim to speak for anyone else other than myself. I encourage any serious discussion or suggestions for additions/subtractions from this list in the Comments section below. Any agreement also needs to address the concerns of nearby residents and property owners, as well. I would just like to have a bit more added to the public discussion than what I'm hearing so far.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WOODMONT WATCH: T-MINUS 24 HOURS (PHOTOS)

We are now 24 hours from the promised reopening date of Woodmont Avenue east of Bethesda Avenue (although the electronic signs around town have been saying "on or about August 15" in recent days). It's pretty clear that when it reopens, it will not be a fully finished road with sidewalks. Whether it will have bike lanes, or a pedestrian passage of some kind are still unknown.

One other interesting addition to The Flats at the Lot 31 construction site is the start of the rooftop structure.

Here's how Woodmont Avenue looks now:







2 BURGLARIES E OF WISCONSIN AVE. IN DOWNTOWN BETHESDA + MORE - BETHESDA CRIME UPDATE

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on August 11, according to crime data:

Burglary. 4500 block Highland Avenue.

Burglary. 4400 block Rosedale Avenue.

Liquor arrest. Aspen Street at Connecticut Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 6800 block Connecticut Avenue.

Burglary. 5200 block River Road.

Vehicle burglary. 8700 block Brierly Court.

Theft. 11400 block Rockville Pike.

Drug arrest. 5000 block Nicholson Court.

Theft. Westfield Montgomery Mall.

DAVE AND BUSTER'S CLOSES AT WHITE FLINT MALL (PHOTOS)

The Dark Side of White Flint, Part 30

Welcome to The Dark Side of White Flint, an ongoing series about the not-so-wonnerful, wonnerful, wonnerful side of urbanizing the suburbs of Montgomery County.

Welcome to 
The Dark Side of White Flint: 
Millenial Edition.

"Hot, young millennials" are ostensibly the target audience for the new, urbanized "more muscular" White Flint. Last night, the only business currently drawing millennials to White Flint was packing up and moving out of town. Ordered out first by the owners of White Flint Mall, and then by a court ruling, Dave and Buster's has complied, closing its doors for good after 18 years.

The rotating D&B sign was stilled, then removed. Arcade machines like Gone Fishing, and Whac-a-Mole were being boxed up for shipping. Teddy bears lay on a brick wall inside the restaurant. In the corridors last night, the only sound was the hum of the escalator leading up to Dave and Buster's. A security guard informed a young, millennial couple approaching the arcade-restaurant that the business had closed. With a dramatic flourish, he flipped a switch, and the escalator stopped moving. Silence. Dave and Buster's was no more.

For those with scorecards in hand, here's the latest update on the urbanization of suburban White Flint: Zero chef-driven restaurants coming on board. Zero Fortune 500 corporate headquarters signed on. And zero 30-story, Class A office towers with Intelsat or the CEB headquarters, as Fairfax and Arlington counties recently celebrated.

The only thing remotely like Dave and Buster's on the boards right now for White Flint is Pinstripes, a bowling alley, bocce court and bistro all-in-one. A sign posted at the shuttered Dave and Buster's just about says it all. "Want to have fun, kids? Hit the interstate for Arundel Mills Mall!" A highly-successful indoor mall, to boot! Drive, drive, drive!

Gone fishing, indeed.
No more fun and games!

Click to enlarge to spot
the teddy bears on the wall

A final look inside
Dave and Buster's

Hasta la vista, millenials!

The sign no longer turns,
the escalator no longer hums
Close-up of the dismantled,
formerly-rotating sign at
Dave and Buster's

Don't worry, there'll be plenty
of barista and jeans-folding
jobs available for millenials
in the new White Flint!

Time to cut bait

The moles won! Whac-A-Mole
is shipping out in search of
hipper vibes

Game over
Turbo Theater now just a
walk-in closet

Hey, millenials, we don't have Dave
and Buster's anymore, but we do
have a repainted Metrobus.
We call it, "Rapid Transit." How
'bout it, kids? Hello? Hello?!
They hung up on us!

And then there were two
Go back to where it all started! The first episode of The Dark Side of White Flint.